Is Sex in Your Car Illegal?

July 24, 2023 by Madison Ferguson in California  
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Lover’s Lane

You can engage in sexual activity inside your vehicle, but knowing the relevant laws is essential. Engaging in intercourse in a public setting becomes unlawful if a reasonable individual anticipates being observed. Consequently, if you lack justifiable anticipation of privacy and opt to engage in sexual activity inside your vehicle, you may face legal consequences. They may be charged with offenses based on the applicable laws in that particular region.

Public Indecency or Lewd Conduct in Public – PC 647(a)

The prevailing offense among individuals engaging in car sex is typically public indecency, which is prosecuted under California Penal Code section 647(a). According to the law, this offense occurs when an individual tries to persuade or engages in inappropriate behavior in a public place or any area accessible or visible to the public. Anyone who encourages or participates in lewd conduct may be charged with a crime.

Lewd conduct is described in this law as the intentional touching of one’s or someone else’s genitals, buttocks, or breasts for sexual arousal, gratification, annoyance, or offense. Importantly, it is necessary to emphasize that any contact with genitals must be sexual or meant to annoy or offend others purposely. Hence, an unintentional brush against someone’s buttocks would not be considered lewd conduct.

The crime is a misdemeanor and could lead to a maximum of 180 days in jail. Sex registration is not necessary for this charge. Engaging in sexual activity in public is not a crime unless you knew or could have expected that someone might witness it.

Indecent exposure

Sexual activities in a car can also lead to the offense of indecent exposure, as stated in the California Penal Code section 314 (PC). Unless you aim to gain attention for engaging in sexual activities, you are not breaking this law. The law states that one must intentionally expose their genitals to seek sexual arousal or to irritate or offend others. If your goal is to completely hide your private parts from others, then you have not broken the law of indecent exposure.

You are more likely to be charged if you expose yourself or show your rear from a car window than engaging in discreet sexual activity in a parked car. Engaging in sexual activity in the backseat of a car on a busy street while being fully naked may result in charges of indecent exposure and lewd conduct in public. Committing a misdemeanor for the first time can lead to a maximum of one year imprisonment. Convictions after the initial one are considered felonies and can lead to a maximum of three years in prison. Those found guilty of Indecent Exposure must register as sex offenders.

Resisting and defending oneself against undercover operations

Police in California sometimes set up sting operations to catch people who engage in indecent behavior, such as exposing themselves, masturbating, or agreeing to engage in a sexual act in public.

This usually happens when undercover police officers pretend to be homosexual men looking for casual encounters. For instance, a disguised police officer may go where people often meet for casual encounters and try to persuade men to engage in sexual activities with him. If someone says yes, they could end up getting arrested.

Additionally, police sometimes monitor areas where people meet for sexual activities to catch and apprehend those involved.

Depending on what happened, there are several ways to defend yourself against police stings for inappropriate behavior. In the first example, if it was just the police officer and the man he asked, they might have thought it was private, and no one else could hear them. If that’s the situation, the accused person should not be found guilty of engaging in indecent behavior in public.

If the only witnesses to a public sexual act were the police, who were present for surveillance purposes, the accused should not be found guilty.

What to do if arrested for engaging in car-related sexual activities in California?

The state must prove your guilt without any reasonable doubt. You can engage a criminal defense lawyer to represent you in response to the accusations.

Before selecting the most suitable defense strategy, your defense lawyer will assess your case and the evidence presented against you. Legal defenses exist.

  • The police tricked you into a situation.
  • The police infringed upon your Constitutional rights to some extent.
  • You did not engage in sexual activities in a public setting or where others could witness it.
  • You were not involved in any sexual activities or behaving lewd or immorally.
  • You engaged in genital contact but without seeking arousal or pleasure.
  • You believed that your actions wouldn’t offend anyone in the room.

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Lara S.
December 3, 2019
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