Is it Illegal to Have Sex in a Public Place?

November 24, 2021 by Seppi Esfandi in California  Special Report  
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Legality of Public Sex

“Get a room!” is a common retort when two people publicly display their affection. But getting frisky in public is not always a laughing matter. Beyond a certain point, such affectionate flirting can mean flirting with the criminal laws, and have a courtship with the criminal Court.

There are two main criminal code sections that are charged when it comes to sexual activity in a public place:

  1. Penal Code 647(a) PC – Lewd Conduct
  2. Penal Code 314 PC – Indecent Exposure

California Penal Code 647(a)

The main Law which people who are usually cited for is Penal Code 647(a) PC, also known as Lewd Conduct in Public. It is illegal in California to engage in conduct that is deemed “lewd” while in a public setting. This includes any public place and any conduct which can be deemed as lewd. The term “public place” has been interpreted broadly and can include a private movie booth at an adult bookstore, a parked car open to public view, a shared hallway in a condominium or apartment building, and private areas in shopping malls.

Sexual activity is not the act that is made illegal in this statute, even if done in public. Instead, conduct is considered lewd when you should know someone else is viewing the action and that viewer would be offended by it.

Lewd conduct in public is charged as a misdemeanor, and carries with it a penalty of up to six months in jail and up to a fine of $1,000. If charged, as is often the case, with indecent exposure, you will be required to register your name as a sex offender.

California Penal Code 314

As indicated above, the other charge that is commonly charged is Penal Code 314 PC – Indecent Exposure. Indecent exposure is a much more serious crime than Lewd Conduct. Unlike the charge of Lew Conduct in Public, 647(a) PC, Indecent exposure under 314 PC requires registration on the sexual offender’s list (aka Meagan’s law) for a minimum of 10 years. This is a very onerous requirement since it can stigmatize a person for years and even a lifetime.

In my over 20 years of experience, I’ve seen prosecutors charge both of these crimes together. Usually, the reason is so they can create bargaining leverage by forcing the defendant to plead to the lesser charge of 647 PC (Lewd Conduct) in exchange for a dismissal of the more serious charge of 314 PC (Indecent Exposure), which requires sexual registration.

Is Sex in a Car Illegal?

Sex in a car is not illegal if no one is there to view it. So if you are in your car, covered by tress, buildings, or a garage door- then by all means go for it. However, if someone is in a position to see you, and does so, and contacts the police then you may be facing criminal charges. This includes any area open to the public, such as neighborhood parks, beaches, rivers, public walkways and streets and parking lots. The law is their to protect viewers of the sexual act who could be offended so any place which there are strangers can be considered a public setting.

Contact Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you or someone you know is being investigated or charged with sexual conduct in a public place contact the Esfandi Law Group, and above all do not speak with the police. Anything you say to the police will be used against you in a court of law. We have decades of experience defending individuals accused of sex crimes. The attorneys understand how to give you the proper guidance to defend your case successfully. Call us to schedule a free consultation and learn how to fight back against these charges.

Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529

Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.

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How to Win Your Case

We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

  1. Don’t ever talk to the police
  2. Do not discuss your case with anyone
  3. Everything you tell your lawyer is confidential
  4. Tell police you need to contact your attorney
  5. Never consent to any search by the police
  6. If the police knock on your door, don't answer!
  7. Realize the consequences of a criminal conviction
  8. Your lawyer (not you) will contact any witnesses
  9. Information on your cell phone is evidence
  10. Early Intervention is the key

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