California Lewd Conduct Defense Lawyers

Our California criminal defense lawyers represent citizens accused of lewd conduct throughout the state, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Francisco, San Diego and Riverside counties. Because of the terrible penalties that can flow from a lewd conduct conviction, we fight each case vigorously. Below are links to our pages for the three most common lewd conduct charges:

If you or a loved one has been charged with lewd conduct, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with one of our lewd conduct defense lawyers. We will explain the law, the court process and outline a defense strategy. If we take your case, our primary goal will be to protect your record from a pernicious lewd conduct conviction.

Many of our clients facing lewd conduct charges feel deeply embarrassed. Many clients fear that their families, partners, employers or community will find out about the case.

To these clients we say, first, don't be ashamed. Everybody cruises in public. Your arrest stems from a homophobic law enforcement system, not from any deviant conduct on your part. Second, we will do everything in our power to respect your privacy and to give the case the lowest profile.

What is Lewd Conduct?

Three variants of lewd conduct arise out of California Penal Code Section 647:

  • Engaging in Lewd Conduct (Penal Code 647(a));
  • Solicitation to Engage in Lewd Conduct (Penal Code 647(a));
  • Loitering a Public Bathroom to Engage or Solicit Lewd Conduct (Penal Code 647 (d))
  • Indecent Exposure (Penal Code 314)

The law defines "lewd" as conduct which involves the touching of the genitals, buttocks or female breast for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, annoyance or offense, if the person doing it knows or should know of the presence of persons who may be offended by the conduct.

Before a person can be convicted of a lewd conduct charge, the prosecutor must prove each of the following facts (and s/he must prove each fact beyond a reasonable doubt):

  • The defendant [solicited another person to engage] [or] [engaged] in conduct that involved the touching of genitals, buttocks or female breast;
  • That defendant did so with the specific intent to sexually arouse, gratify, annoy, or offend;
  • That defendant knew or should have known that other persons [were] [or] [would be] present who may be offended by this conduct; and
  • The conduct [solicited was to occur] [or] [engaged in occurred] in a public place or a place open to the public or exposed to public viewing.
Defenses to Lewd Conduct:

Cases Involving Undercover Police

Most lewd conduct arrests involve an undercover officer who hangs out in a popular cruising location and pretends to be seeking to hook-up with gay men. He lures suspects to pull down their pants, or to touch their penis, or to propose a sexual encounter. The undercover then slaps on the handcuffs and arrests the poor unsuspecting man for lewd conduct.

In most cases, the person IS NOT GUILTY OF LEWD CONDUCT. Refer to fact #4 above in the list of facts the prosecutor must prove. Lewd conduct only occurs if the defendant knows or should know of the presence of others who would be offended by the conduct. Obviously, the suspects here reasonably believe the officer to be a gay man out cruising. Far from being offended by the conduct, he appears to be seeking it out!

So long as the encounter with the undercover occurs in a fairly discrete location, such as an empty bathroom or a remote area of the park, the conduct simply does not amount to lewd conduct.

Sex in Public Places

Another type of lewd conduct arrest we often see is when officers encounter two or more individuals having sex in a public place. Contrary to popular belief, it is not absolutely illegal to have sex in public. Rather, it only becomes illegal if the parties know or should know of the presence of others who would be offended by the conduct.

If the persons arrested chose a discrete location, such as some bushes in an empty part of the park where no one else is around, then they reasonable believed no one else to be present who would be offended by them having sex. Indeed, their whole point in choosing the discrete location was to avoid offending others! Therefore, the activity doesn't meet the definition of lewd conduct.

For further discussion of the politics behind lewd conduct prosecutions, we invite you read attorney Neil Shouse's article which appeared in the Winter 2005 edition of Pink Magazine. To discuss your particular case, contact our California criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.

[Neil Shouse's Lewd Conduct Article]

For information about Nevada lewd conduct law, go to our page on Nevada lewd conduct law.

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