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California Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Explains If It Is Illegal to Have Sex in Public

Engaging in sex acts in public could be a crime in California. The answer to the question, Is having sex in public illegal? depends on the facts of the case.

You might find that the time you spent in the arms of your significant other could land you in serious legal trouble.

You will need an experienced and compassionate attorney who truly cares about their clients to defend against your charges aggressively.

A San Diego sex crimes defense attorney can give you sound legal advice designed to avoid a conviction for allegedly having car sex in public.

Answering the Question: Is It Illegal to Have Sex in Public?

The California Penal Code indicates that any person who solicits or engages in lewd or “dissolute” conduct either in public, any place open to the public, or any location exposed to public view is guilty of disorderly conduct.

As a result, the charge is a misdemeanor. That does not mean you can take the matter lightly if you were charged with having car sex in public or engining in sex acts in public.

The terms “lewd” and “dissolute” essentially mean the same thing. Lewd behavior refers to touching your private or others’ private parts to annoy or offend a third person. Intimate parts include male and female genitalia, the buttocks, and female breasts. 

An example of lewd conduct would be having sex with someone in a public park on a spring Saturday afternoon with children and parents nearby.

They would undoubtedly be annoyed or offended if they saw you. In that instance, police could charge you with disorderly conduct.

However, if you and your special someone met at 2:00am in the same park without anyone around (except the police officer conducting a patrol), then you have not annoyed or offended anyone.

The officer might not like it, but you might not face charges in that case.

Is Having Sex in a Car Against the Law?

Having car sex in public would be a crime if you willfully annoyed or offended a third party. Thus, having sex in your car on a secluded road would not be illegal because no one can be offended or annoyed.

Conversely, having car sex in public while in a busy parking lot during the day could be disorderly conduct.

Possible Punishment for Sex Acts in Public

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty is a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of no more than $1,000.

Even for committing a lewd or dissolute act, disorderly conduct does not require registration as a sex offender. You must be aware, however, that police often charge a person with indecent exposure together with disorderly conduct.

The crime of indecent exposure refers to intentionally exposing genitalia around a third person who will likely be offended. A conviction for indecent exposure requires the person to register as a sex offender for ten years. 

That is a severe consequence for committing a romantic act in public.

Call for Help Right Away If You Need an Answer to the Question, Is It Illegal to Have Sex in Public?

San Diego sex crimes defense lawyer Kerry L. Armstrong and his defense team at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, dedicate themselves to aggressive yet compassionate criminal defense.

Taking on the prosecution without a reputable defense lawyer capable of defending tough cases could result in disaster for you. Call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, to schedule a free consultation at 619-373-0185.

Author Photo

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.

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