Lewd Acts in Public

What are Lewd Acts in Public?

It is an offense to engage in conduct that is considered sexually lewd or offensive in a public place such as a beach, park, public area, Movie Theater or other public area.

The lewd act must be witnessed by a third party who is offended by the act.

Elements of Lewd Act or Conduct in Public Under California Penal Code 647:

  • The defendant willfully engaged in the touching or his or another’s genitals, buttocks or female breast; and
  • The defendant did so with the intent to sexually arouse himself or another person or annoy or offend another person; and
  • The act(s) occurred in public or in a place open to public view; and
  • At the time the defendant engaged in the act(s) someone else might have been offended who was present; and
  • The defendant should have known that another person who might have been offended by his conduct was present (italics added).

Sexual Behavior Between Couples in Public:

Couples who engage in spontaneous sexual conduct in public places, such as in a car in a public parking lot, when viewed by a third party, may be charged with lewd acts in public.

Lewd Conduct Stings:

Many lewd conduct offenses result from police sting operations, particularly in public restrooms, beaches, parks, private enclosures close to the public area, and more.

Defenses to Lewd Acts in Public

  • Whether the defendant actually had the specific intent to engage in sexually arousing conduct involving himself or another;
  • Therefore, specific intent must be proven.
  • Whether the environment where the lewd conduct occurred was actually a public place.
  • There was not another person present.
  • The defendant did not know that another person was present.

Penalties for Lewd Conduct

  • Penalties vary according to state laws.
  • In California, lewd acts in public is a misdemeanor, punishable by the following:
  • Jail
  • Probation
  • Counseling
  • Permanent criminal record
  • Other court mandates
  • NOTE: in California, and in some jurisdictions, conviction for lewd conduct in public will not mandate sexual offender registration, but in other jurisdictions, it may – be sure to consult with your attorney.

Alternative Charges in Lieu of Lewdness Offense:

  • In New Jersey, if the state does not prove the lewd act in public charge, it may consider whether the following statute has been violated:
  • “A person commits a disorderly persons offense if he does any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.”
  • In many states it is common to consider a lesser offense, such as disorderly conduct, if the lewd act in public offense cannot be proven.

No Frequently Asked Questions Yet

More Felonies Information


Small photo
Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law