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Sex in Public (PC 647a) / Lewd Conduct Defense Attorney


Is it illegal to have sex in public?

Yes, California Penal Code Section 647(a) discusses the charge of sex in public (lewd conduct in public) as: 

"Except as provided in paragraph (5) of subdivision (b) and subdivision (k), every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:  (a) An individual who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or any place open to the public or exposed to public view."

What is considered a Public or Public Place for PC 647(a)?

A public place for the charge of having sex in public is anywhere accessible by or open to the public.  This includes hospitals, libraries, private businesses, banks, schools, and colleges.  

What are examples of places that I can get in trouble for having sex? 

You can get in trouble or charged with PC 647a if you have sex anywhere in public or public view.  This means that even if you were in your house, but people could see you from outside while you are having sex or exposing yourself, you could be breaking the law. Examples of having sex in public or public view are: 

  • Openly having sex by your unblocked window and being visible by the public from the outside 
  • Having sex at the park, beach, parking lots, school grounds, stores, airports, public restrooms, public transportations, college classes, university lecture halls, college campus, mall, street or roadway, highway, mountains, national parks or anywhere else which can be deemed a public place.

Can I get arrested for having sex in public if we were covered up with a blanket or clothes? 

This will depend on how much was visible and how obvious was the act. Sometimes people will have sex at the beach or park while inside a sleeping bag or covered up with a blanket.  What ultimately matters, is what exactly was seen and how it could be interpreted. Is it possible that you were cold and rubbing each other to warm-up and it was interpreted inaccurately? Was one of you merely scratching the other's back? Were you having sex? The most important thing is to see the police report and the evidence actually against you. That evidence usually is in the form of a statement (your statement and others') and sometimes pictures and/or videos. The best thing to do is say nothing and ask for a lawyer, immediately. Remember, you can always admit the truth through your lawyer, but it is hard to take back a statement you did not mean to make. 

What are the defenses to the charge of having sex in public or having sex in public view (P.C. 647a)?

The defenses to the charge of having sex in public, Penal Code 647(a) are:

  • Reasonable belief that no one else was present to be offended.
  • There was no touching of private parts.
  • Touching of private parts was not for sexual gratification, it could have been an itch.
  • It was not in a public place; the public could not have seen anything or was not in public view.
  • Police entrapment or embellishment.

What are the penalties for PC 647(a), having sex in public or having sex in public view? 

The charge of having sex in public or public view is a misdemeanor that carries the following penalties:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail, and/or…
  • Up to $1,000 fine.
  • If the victim was a minor, up to one year in jail and/up-to to $2,000 in fines.
  • If the victim was a minor and solicited for prostitution, no less than 2 days in jail but up to one year and up to $10,000 in fines.

Is having sex in public a crime of moral turpitude?  

Yes, PC 647(a) is a crime of moral turpitude that may have immigration consequences for those not yet a U.S. citizen. Please consult with our office or an immigration attorney if you are not yet a US citizen and facing such charges.  

Do I have to register as a sex offender in the sex offender registry for the crime of having sex in public, PC 647(a)? 

While a lot of sex crimes require lifetime registration with the sex offender registry, having sex in public (PC 647a) is not one of them as of yet (2019). Please call my office for updated information on this matter.  

Can I face more charges for having sex in public?  

Yes, many other crimes could also be charged: 

  • If the sex was for money, there could be the charge of solicitation for prostitution or prostitution.  
  • If one of the parties was a minor, there could be charges of sex with a minor or statutory rape.  
  • If minors were present to view the act, there could be child abuse charges.  

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