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In California, Penal Code 647(a) makes it illegal to solicit or perform lewd conduct in public. 

Lewd conduct is defined as touching someone’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast (your own or someone else’s) either for sexual gratification or to offend or annoy others.

If the prosecution has charged you with lewd conduct, you need a strong legal defense. 

The criminal defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, are nationally renowned and have tried well over 100 jury trials.

We can help you protect your reputation and your rights.

What Are the Penalties for Lewd Conduct?

Lewd conduct in California is a misdemeanor. If you are convicted, the court could sentence you to:

  • Up to six months in county jail, or
  • A fine up to $1,000, or 
  • Both.

The judge can order probation instead of jail time. This means that you will be under court supervision for up to three years and required to comply with probation requirements like:

  • Counseling,
  • Community service, 
  • Paying restitution, or
  • Complying with a restraining order.

You do not have to register as a sex offender for a conviction under Penal Code 647(a). However, a lewd conduct conviction will go on your criminal record and may affect your ability to obtain housing or employment.

How Can I Defend Against a Lewd Conduct Charge in California?

The prosecutor has to prove several facts before the court can convict you of lewd conduct in California:

  1. You willfully touched your own or someone else’s genitals, buttocks, or female breast;
  2. You intended to gratify or arouse yourself or someone else OR to offend or annoy another person;
  3. You were in either a public place or a place open to public view;
  4. There was a third person who was likely to be offended by the conduct; and
  5. You knew or reasonably should have known that the third person was present.

If any of these facts are missing from your case, you cannot be convicted of lewd conduct under Penal Code 647(a). With that in mind, there are a number of defenses that might apply to your case.

You Didn’t Do It

If the touching didn’t happen, then you aren’t guilty of a crime. Perhaps a complaining witness didn’t see what they thought they saw or they misinterpreted it.

Touching Was Accidental

You can’t be held responsible for accidental touching. Accidentally bumping into someone or brushing against them is not willful touching.

Touching Was Not Intended to Gratify, Arouse, or Offend

If the touching did occur, but you did not intend to gratify, arouse, or offend someone, you can’t be guilty of lewd conduct.

For example, scratching yourself or rubbing a stain out of someone’s clothing would not satisfy the intent requirement.

The Area Was Not Open to Public View

If the conduct took place in an enclosed area not open to public view, it is not illegal.

You Did Not Know Someone Could See You

For the court to convict you of lewd conduct, someone has to see you. And even if someone did see you, you cannot be convicted of you if you had no reason to believe that you could be seen.

For example, if you took steps to seclude yourself but someone was peaking at you, you cannot be found guilty.

How Do I Fight My Lewd Conduct Charge?

If you have a lewd conduct charge in California, you need an experienced defense attorney to protect your rights. 

We have an excellent track record of exonerating our clients and getting charges dismissed.

We offer a free and confidential initial consultation so you can learn how we can help with your defense. 

Call or contact us online today.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys. In 2017, he was also selected for the Super Lawyers Top 50 in San Diego list. In 2014, he was selected as a Top Attorney by Los Angeles Magazine. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong was also named as a Top Attorney by the San Diego Business Journal in 2014.