A Guide to Penal Code 647 PC

Penal Code 647 PC comprises a series of California laws that define the crimes of lewd conduct, prostitution, panhandling, public intoxication, squatting, loitering and invasion of privacy. These sections are generally referred to as crimes of disorderly conduct.

Penal Code 647a PC applies to lewd conduct in public. It makes it a crime for a person to engage in, or solicit someone to engage in, a “lewd” act in public or a place exposed to public view.

Penal Code 647b PC applies to prostitution and solicitation. The statute says that it is a crime for a person to accept money for prostitution, offer an act of prostitution, or agree to engage in prostitution.

Penal Code 647c PC applies to panhandling. It says a person cannot accost people in public and ask for donations.

Penal Code 647e PC applies to illegal squatting. The code section makes it a crime when a person lodges anywhere without the permission of the property owner.

Penal Code 647f PC applies to public intoxication. The statute makes it an offense for a person to be drunk in public.

Penal Code 647h PC applies to loitering. It makes it a crime for a person to loiter on someone's property with the intent to commit a crime.

Penal Code 647i PC applies to peeking while loitering. The code section says it is an offense for a person to peek into an inhabited building while loitering on private property.

Penal Code 647j PC applies to criminal invasion of privacy. The statute makes it a crime for someone to:

  1. use a device (like binoculars) to view someone inside a private room,
  2. secretly photograph or record a person's body under the clothing for sexual arousal, or
  3. secretly record or photograph someone in a private room to view that person's body.

Penal Code 647j4 PC applies to revenge porn. It makes it an offense for a person to publish or distribute pornographic images of a person without her consent.

Examples

  • exposing your genitals to another person in public.
  • setting up a tent on the property of a business without its consent.
  • posting naked and sexually graphic pictures of an ex-girlfriend on social media.

Defenses

A defendant can raise a legal defense to contest a disorderly conduct charge. A few common defenses are:

647 PC Penalties

A violation of any of these statutes is charged as a misdemeanor. This is as opposed to a California felony or an infraction.

The crimes are punishable by:

  • custody in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

arrest for disorderly conduct
Penal Code Section 647 makes it a crime for a person to engage in disorderly conduct

1. Are there legal defenses?

A defendant can challenge a Penal Code 647 PC Charge with a legal defense.

Three common defenses are:

  1. not in public or no loitering,
  2. no probable cause, and/or
  3. falsely accused

1.1. Not in public or no loitering

Many of the PC 647 laws provide that a defendant is only guilty if he:

  1. committed an act while in public, or
  2. did something while loitering.

This means it is a valid defense for a defendant to say that he did not commit an act:

  • while in public, or
  • while loitering.

Example: Police come to Nia's home after a neighbor complains of loud music. The cops find her severely intoxicated and arrest her for being drunk in public, a crime under PC 647f.

Nia can fight this charge. The statute says that a person is only guilty of public intoxication if he is drunk in public. Here, Nia was in her own private home and not “in public.”

1.2. No probable cause

Prior to a lawful arrest:

  • police must have probable cause that a suspect committed a crime,
  • before they can arrest that person for the crime committed.

Probable cause means a “reasonable belief” that someone did, or try to, break the law. A defense, therefore, for these offenses is for the accused to say that the cops did not have probable cause to make an arrest.

1.3. Falsely accused

Many people wrongfully accuse a person of committing one of these crimes. Perhaps, for example, a guy lies and says that his ex-girlfriend engaged in prostitution out of anger or jealously. A valid defense, then, is for a defendant to say that he was unjustly blamed for the crime.

2. What are the 647 PC penalties?

A violation of any of the above statutes is charged as a misdemeanor.

The crimes are punishable by:

  • custody in the county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Note that a judge may award a defendant with:

3. Are there immigration consequences?

A conviction under these laws will not have negative immigration consequences.

Some California convictions may result in a non-citizen defendant being either:

A disorderly conduct conviction, though, will not produce these events.

4. Can a person get a conviction expunged?

A person convicted of an offense under PC 647 can get the crime expunged. This is true provided that he successfully completes:

  1. probation, or
  2. a jail term (whichever is relevant).

An expungement releases a person from many of the hardships that arise out of a conviction.2

man holding revolver
A violation of PC 647 will not affect a party’s gun rights.

5. Does a conviction affect a person's gun rights?

A violation of a disorderly conduct law will not affect a party's gun rights.

According to California law:

  • a defendant convicted of a certain crime (like a felony),
  • is then prohibited from buying or owning a gun.

Offenses under PC 647, however, are not these types of crimes.

6. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to disorderly conduct. These are:

  1. disturbing the peace – PC 415,
  2. trespass – PC 602, and
  3. indecent exposure – PC 314.

6.1. Disturbing the peace – PC 415

Penal Code 415 PC is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to “disturb the peace,” meaning to either:

  • fight, or challenge someone to a fight, in a public place,
  • purposefully disturb another person with loud and unreasonable noise, and
  • use offensive words in a public place that are likely to provoke a violent reaction.

Many of the same disorderly conduct defenses can be used to beat charges under this statute.

6.2. Trespass – PC 602

Penal Code 602 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of criminal trespass. A person commits trespassing when he:

  1. enters, or remains on, someone else's property, and
  2. does so without permission or a right to do so.

This statute describes over thirty activities that are considered criminal trespass.

6.3. Indecent exposure – PC 314

California Penal Code 314 PC prohibits the sex crime of "indecent exposure." A person commits this offense when he:

  1. willfully exposes his genitals to someone else, and
  2. does so to sexually gratify himself or offend another person.

Depending on the facts of the case, an indecent exposure charge could also be charged as lewd conduct in public.

For additional help...

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For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group.

For information on disorderly conduct laws in Nevada and Colorado, please see our articles on:


Legal References:

  1. See INA 237 (a) (2) (A).

  2. California Penal Code 1203.4 PC.

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