Is It Illegal to Have Sex in a Car in California?

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Having sex in a car is not explicitly illegal in any jurisdiction in the U.S. However, engaging in sexual activity in a vehicle can lead to legal repercussions if it involves acts considered indecent or violates public decency laws.

However, it depends on where you parked your car and who could see you.

Are you facing disorderly conduct charges for having sex in a car in the San Diego area? The California sex crime lawyers at The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC are ready to fight for you.

To speak with an experienced San Diego sex crimes attorney, please contact us online or call 619-234-2300 today.

California Car Sex Laws

As an initial matter, there is no statute that prohibits someone from having sex in a car, truck, or any other vehicle for that matter.

However, having any type of sexual relations in a vehicle can result in a violation of California’s laws against disorderly conduct.

California Penal Code section 647(a) explains this type of disorderly conduct as “an individual who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.”

A disorderly conduct conviction under this subsection is a misdemeanor offense.

The Definition of “Public Sex”

While the language of Penal Code section 647(a) is hardly clear, it essentially means you cannot have sex in your car if the car is parked in a public place where members of the public might see you.

It is also against the law to have sex in a car parked on private property if members of the public can see you.

For example, if you have sex in your car while parked in an open garage, you may face disorderly conduct charges.

When it comes to defining what a public place is, common sense is your best guide. For example, parks, beaches, and roads are all public places. Most parking lots are also considered public places.

While some parking lots are privately owned, this doesn’t necessarily mean you can have sex in them because you may still be visible to the general public.

What Counts as “Lewd and Dissolute” Conduct?

While Penal Code section 647(a) does not provide an exact definition for prohibited conduct under the statute, it essentially covers any conduct in which a person’s breasts or genitals are exposed.

It can also include grabbing a woman’s breasts or a man’s penis over the clothes. Of course, depending on the situation, having sex in a car can fall within this definition.

Along those lines, masturbating in your car is also against the law, regardless of whether you remain fully clothed.

Call or fill out the form to arrange a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced San Diego sex crimes lawyer.

Defenses to California’s Car Sex Laws

While it may seem as though all hope is lost if police officers arrest you for having car sex, that isn’t necessarily the case.

In fact, there are a few defenses to these crimes which may result in a judge or jury acquitting you or the withdrawal of charges.

  • You were not having sex or engaging in lewd or dissolute conduct;
  • You incidentally touched another’s genitals for purposes other than sexual gratification;
  • Your vehicle was not in a public place;
  • You had a reasonable belief that no one would be offended by your actions; or
  • Police violated your rights by discovering you having sex in your car.

Aside from these defenses, there may also be insufficient evidence to convict. Say someone reports that you were having sex in public.

The prosecution needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were guilty of the crime, and the alleged witness’s word alone may not be enough.

For example, depending on their view, it may have been impossible to tell whether you were having sex or engaging in some other behavior.

While the prosecution does not need to prove you were actually having sex, it could still be difficult to establish that the conduct rose to the level of lewd or dissolute conduct.

Punishments for Having Sex in Your Car in California

If you face disorderly conduct charges for having sex in your car, it is a misdemeanor offense. If convicted, you could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Perhaps more importantly, this offense will stay on your record for life (unless you later qualify for a dismissal pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4).

Needless to say, even if your criminal sentence is light, it may lead to an awkward conversation at your next job interview.

Contact a San Diego, California Sex Crimes Lawyer Today

If you face disorderly conduct charges in California for having sex in your car, reach out to the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, for immediate assistance.

Our dedicated sex crimes lawyers in San Diego have extensive experience representing clients in all types of sex crimes.

Our three attorneys have a successful track record, having tried well over 100 jury trials to verdict.

To learn more, and to schedule, a free case evaluation, give the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, a call at 619-234-2300. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.