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Los Angeles Lewd Conduct Attorney

California law (PC 647(a))  states that it a misdemeanor to engage in “lewd or dissolute conduct” in a public place, or in any place open to public view, or to solicit someone else to do so. While the Penal Code describes some examples of what might be considered lewd conduct, the statute falls short of telling the reader exactly what is and what is not considered conduct that is prohibited.

When an experienced criminal defense lawyer looks at the charge or charges against a client, it is essential that the attorney understand the specifics of the particular charge or charges which that client is facing. Accordingly, the first order of business is to define the specific illegal acts of which the client is accused.

What is “Lewd Conduct” under PC 647?

The statute does provide some guidance in this regard, and other legal materials (particularly the official jury instructions for criminal cases (CALCRIM 1161)), give a number of examples that collectively help to define the essence of the crime, and what the prosecution needs to prove in order to obtain a conviction. The following are some guidelines that will assist in explaining the law. Specifically, lewd or dissolute conduct in public consists of the following:

  • The defendant intentionally touched his/her or another individual’s private parts (the buttocks, the genitals, or the female breast).
  • The touching was intended to lead to sexual arousal or gratification for the defendant or for another person.
  • The act(s) occurred in a place open to the public or open to public view.
  • At the time that act(s) took place, another person who might be offended by the act was present.
  • The defendant either knew that a person who might be offended was present, or should have been aware of that fact. It is not necessary to prove that the person was in fact offended.

Each of these elements must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order to sustain a conviction for lewd conduct in public. On the other hand, the law does not require proof that the person present who “might be offended,” actually took offense at the actions.

Note that the case law has been interpreted to apply to cases involving sexual arousal. Conduct intended to simply annoy or harass another person will not satisfy the requirements of the statute. Moreover, if there is no other person present, even if the acts took place in a “public place,” the requirements of the statute have not been met.

Finally, the statute also provides that it is illegal to solicit another person to engage in, or engaging in, an act of prostitution. “Prostitution,” in this statute, is defined as any lewd or dissolution conduct. Finally, the fact that the defendant and the alleged victim were business partners, employer/employee, or lived together, is not a defense to a prosecution under the statute.

Classification of “Lewd or Dissolute Conduct”

Under PC 647(a), lewd conduct is classified as disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. The penalty, if you are convicted, can be as much as 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. While a conviction under the statute does not mean that you must register as a sex offender, you could also face related charges that include a registration requirement. Obviously, it is essential that your attorney takes steps to ensure that you are not required to register.

Defending Lewdness Charges Under PC 647(a)

Many of the charges for lewd or dissolute conduct come about as the result of police sting operations. Typically, this will involve an officer “cruising” a public bathroom, a park, a book store (often an adult book store), or even a side street or an alley. If the police basically trick you into taking the actions you are now being prosecuted for, or threaten you if you do not act, entrapment could be a valid defense. Other defenses include mistaken identity, the fact that you had no reason to believe another person could view your acts, or that the acts were part of an artistic/stage presentation, among others.

If you are facing a charge under PC 647(a), understand that there are defenses that exist and that may well apply in your case. Contact Chris Bou Saeed, an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, for a free consultation. Call CBS Law at (213) 800-8005

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