In most cases, arrests and convictions happen without due regard to the actual circumstances and events that led to the crime. Sometimes, officers in charge of making arrests may misjudge an action completely, as is common in lewd conduct arrests. Regardless of whatever basis of arrest the officers offer, you as an accused person deserve to undergo a fair hearing and trial, following the due process of law. Therefore, you will require legal representation in court by the services of a lawyer. He or she raises defenses and brings the court’s attention to some mitigating factors that are otherwise missed.
We at The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm have a team of qualified lawyers who are passionate about criminal defense. We pride ourselves in finding legitimate arguments that counter what the prosecution accuses you of while sticking within the law guidelines. Additionally, we offer professional legal advice and take you through what to expect even as your trial for lewd conduct ensues.
What is Lewd Conduct?
The offense falls under sex crimes, that generally involve offensive sex acts. A person commits the crime of lewd conduct if he or she touches the private parts for sexual pleasure, or to trigger or offend another person. The act of lewd conduct must entail the exposure of either your genitals, female breasts, or the buttocks. If only one of these private body parts is exposed, you can still get arrested and convicted.
Moreover, you are also guilty of lewd conduct if you ask or force someone else to touch your private parts for sexual arousal. Similarly, forcing or making another person feel himself or herself, or accept being touched by other people as you watch can also land you in a conviction.
California Law Prohibiting Lewd Conduct
The California Penal Code creates provisions that prohibit lewd conduct or other related offenses expressly. Section 647(a) defines what may consist of lewd conduct by giving instances that will translate into lewd conduct. This part makes it a crime to:
Conduct Yourself in an Indecent Way in Front of Someone Who Could Get Offended
If you expose your private parts in front of strangers or people with whom you do not share an intimate relationship, they are highly likely to get offended. By your lewd conduct, you cause great nuisance and disturbance of such a person’s peace of mind, as well as aggravate their feelings. Moreover, lewd behavior in front of a person who had previously been a victim of sex crimes can be offensive and traumatic for the affected person.
Conduct Obscene Acts Within Public View
Some offenders make it a point to ensure that they are noticeable by the general public as they touch themselves sexually. The main intention, in this case, will be to offend random strangers. For example, young people or those who feel judged or neglected may want to show their rebellion against society, in general, may decide to engage in exposing sexual acts in public places. However, this is the general assumption made by most members of the public. It may be highly inaccurate and lead to the unlawful conviction of an innocent party.
In other cases, they conduct these sexual acts in public to try and solicit others to join them and touch their parts as well. The entire scheme of action often creates a lot of repellent behavior toward the defendant. However, as your criminal lawyer, we try to get to the cause of the problem and analyze the situation at hand to determine if you were acting innocently.
Touching Your Body or Asking Someone Else to Do It
Section 647(a) aims to clarify what elements of the crime they prohibit. Therefore, it exclusively states that a person must touch his or her own body sexually or solicit another person to contact him or her. Moreover, some accused persons have made the other third party engage in the lewd conduct, by touching themselves or touching others in a sexually gratifying way. All these actions are prohibited under the section.
Further, section 647(d) prohibits standing idly next to public toilets to try and solicit lewd behavior from other people or engaging in lewd conduct yourself. Most accused persons target areas like these because they know they can easily hide inside the washrooms and possibly participate in lewd conduct, by themselves or with a partner. For example, some people are prone to seeking a sexual escapade inside a public toilet, where other people are bound to walk in on them. If they expose private body parts while an unsuspecting third party walks in on the act, he or she may report a case of lewd behavior.
Elements of the Crime: What the Prosecution Must Prove
Once arrested for contravening the stipulated regulations under section 647, your trial will begin within a specific timeframe. Lewd conduct falls under the category of sex crimes. Thus, the prosecutor acts on behalf of the complaint and, therefore, instigates all the accusations made against you in court.
While he or she does this, the prosecutor must pay regard to the due process of law. The provisions of the process require that no accused person will get convicted if there is no proof of their actions beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, the prosecutor must work hard to prove certain factors did occur and will introduce several witnesses and other forms of evidence in court to try and convince the judge on the case. These are the essential elements of the crime that a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
Knowledge of the Presence of Another Person
The state of mind in an accused’s case is always vital for a prosecutor to prove. It forms the basis for all other actions that the defendant decided to take, on or before committing the crime. Therefore, in the case of lewd behavior, the prosecution’s side must prove that you were aware of another person’s presence within the vicinity where you decided to engage in the lewd conduct.
For example, if you and another person acted obscenely by touching and rubbing your private parts in an elevator, you can be held to know what you were doing at the time. This is because there is a high probability that other people joined you in the elevator. Therefore, you will have no claim that you were not aware of another person’s presence.
However, in a scenario where you engaged in lewd conduct in a reasonably private place like the inside of your car, the prosecutor can not easily prove your knowledge. Your seclusion inside the vehicle means that you did not expect any other person to be present or peep through the windows to see what you are doing. Therefore, if the prosecutor cannot show that you had proper knowledge of another person’s presence, the judge will not convict.
Having Deliberate Intention to Engage in Lewd Conduct
As long as the prosecutor cannot prove that you were engrossed in lewd conduct intentionally, you can quickly escape conviction. The intention is derived from the surrounding circumstances of your case. Besides that, your behavior on or before committing the crime also matters. For example, if you solicit another person to try and touch your private parts as you touch theirs, your requests portray your willingness and intention to engage in the crime. Moreover, where you are aware of the surrounding persons present as you make inappropriate sexual actions, you indicate a willingness to commit the crime. The voluntary intention arises because you are not bothered by the stares or glances you receive and are willing to continue with the questionable actions.
Touching Yourself Inappropriately or Asking Someone Else to do It
Sometimes, the prosecutor may be so engrossed in the literal words or actions you engaged in as you committed the crime of lewd conduct. However, he or she may miss important points that completely shift the blame from you. For example, if you had an allergic reaction that happened to affect areas near your private body parts, your first reflex action may have been to try and scratch the area. Therefore, in an instance where people in the male washroom witness you touching your genitals, they may misinterpret it for lewd conduct. The prosecutor must prove the context in which you felt yourself or requested someone else to do it.
Seeking Sexual Arousal
Here, a prosecutor may have an uphill task in showing that you acted in a lewd manner to find sexual gratification. Pleasure is a very personal and mentally conditioned state, which the prosecutor cannot merely prove by stating that you seemed to enjoy it. An accused person’s conduct must explicitly show that you were out to seek arousal and not acting for other reasons.
The prosecutor may try to prove that you were seeking arousal by using the results of your actions to justify the claim. Therefore, bodily responses like orgasms by ejaculation or an evident distant state of mind can be used against you, if the lewd conduct led to such conclusions. Additionally, the prosecution may order a background check to determine if you were a previous sexual offender. This way, he or she can then easily link your actions to an active search of new escapades. Despite this, your criminal lawyer has to disprove any false claims and ensure that no evidence by superficial inference leads to your conviction.
You Were in a Public Place or In the Presence of Someone Who May Take Offence of the Lewd Conduct
The action of lewd conduct in public places or in front of a person who may take offense is often tied to malice and willful intention. For a better understanding, a public place is defined as an area open to anybody’s access and view. Therefore, some locations can qualify to be public areas, while others are not. If you engaged in lewd sexual conduct alone or with a partner inside a public restroom, the prosecutor has the upper hand in proving this element of the crime.
However, if someone actively seeks to find you engaging in lewd conduct as is the case in someone peeking through your car windows, you are not liable for any charges of lewd conduct. Similarly, if you are inside a room where another person accidentally walks in on you, exposing your private parts, you cannot be liable for lewd conduct. Having established this, however, there are specific vicinities that are inevitably classified as public places. They are:
- Social amenities like pools
- Parking lots
- Public toilets
Engaging in lewd conduct in such locations will give the prosecutor an easy time proving your guilt. However, most circumstances are contextual because you cannot always jump into conclusions as to why the defendant acted the way he/she did. Therefore, your criminal defense lawyer must accurately refute any inaccurate claims.
Similarly, determining who can get offended and who cannot is often a subjective determination. Some people could care less about what you decide to do even in public, yet the prosecutor may force a narrative that such persons took offense to your actions. Thus, personal accounts and opinions of the alleged persons who took offense are required to prove that you indeed offended another party. If not, you could face somewhat lower penalties than you might have had to before. A person generally takes offense to lewd conduct because of the inappropriate behavior the offender decides to partake. Additionally, if you probe another person to engage in touching your sexual misconduct, he or she may get annoyed. However, as observed above, taking offense is highly subjective and depends on the person’s nature.
Penalties for the Crime of Lewd Conduct
The offense is charged as a misdemeanor offense in the state of California. If found guilty, you could face six months in county jail. Alternatively, the judge may issue a fine penalty amounting to $1000. Lastly, you could face a penalty demanding both serving time in prison and paying the fine.
Probation penalties are also available at the judge’s discretion. Most of the offenders who receive the penalty are involved in petty acts of lewd conduct. Moreover, a medical condition may warrant the granting of a probation term instead of a jail term.
The crime of lewd conduct does not affect your criminal record by warranting your registration as a sex offender. However, if it is charged concurrently with another sex crime like rape, you will inevitably have the title of a sex offender in your criminal record.
Defenses to the Crime of Lewd Conduct
Despite the numerous accusations you face regarding the crime of lewd conduct, your LA Criminal Defense Law Firm attorney has to ensure that he or she raises strong defenses in your favor. Your lawyer does this to introduce new evidence that the prosecutor may have overlooked. Such evidence often has a chance of changing the entire outlook of the case by raising significant views to justify your actions. Some of the available defenses are:
You Did Not Intend to Arouse Yourself by Touching Private Parts
Often, most of the accusations you face arise because of a one-sided account of events that immediately place you on the wrong side of the law. A prosecutor often relies on the called witnesses’ statements to prove that you were in the wrong. However, your lawyer can raise a valid claim of a lack of intention to please yourself sexually.
For example, if you are a female defendant who suffers a severe asthma attack, you may frantically respond by massaging your chest area, including the breast. Because of the frantic efforts, your blouse buttons may open up, exposing your private parts to a person who later reports a case of lewd conduct. In such a scenario, although you may appear to have all the requisite Actus Reus elements of touching and exposing your privates, a conviction will be unfairly imposed on you. A diligent criminal lawyer will, therefore, ensure that any valid account of actual events leading to what appears as lewd conduct is raised as a defense in court.
A defendant may be completely innocent of performing any indecent act amounting to depraved conduct. However, he or she could face accusations based on malice. Where you are sure that you did not act in a lewd way in public, the defense will suffice. Your lawyer will try to refute and disprove any subsequent actions that link you to the commission of the crime.
Commonly, the party making false accusations will fabricate evidence to try and corroborate their claim in court. Some prosecutors might be in on the deal or simply run in circles trying to put the pieces together themselves. The entire case, based on false accusations, frustrates the justice system because it becomes difficult to prove or disprove an action that did not happen in the first place. Therefore, your lawyer can even raise the concern in court, and if he or she is successful, you will be acquitted of all charges.
You Acted in a Private Location
Some of the people who raise the alarm on you are often invaders of private space. A person may follow you to your car, for example, only to peep at any private actions you make. If he or she sees you performing any lewd actions on yourself or other consenting adults, he/she may quickly report the matter to the police. However, as long as you are an adult having attained the age of 18 years, you can engage in any consenting sexual relations with a fellow adult. The other requirement for the defense to suffice is that you must not disrupt the peace of others around you. An example of nuisance and disruption of peace may be making overly loud obscene noises. If you have followed all expected levels of respect, your lawyer can successfully defend your matter in court.
You Faced Unlawful Arrest
If you are arrested based on suspicions of lewd conduct, you reserve the right to remain innocent until proven guilty under the law. Therefore, any arrest that subjects you to unfair prejudice and mistreatment from the officers before the judge determined your verdict is unlawful. Prejudiced actions include labeling you a criminal before any tabling of proof, withholding certain rights of an arrested person including the right to post bail or bond, as well as failure to grant you a phone call to contact loved ones and let them know where you are.
Although this defense may not absolve you of the charged offense, the judge will consider the hardships you faced before the trial and may be moved to reduce your penalties significantly.
You Suffer From Psychological Condition that Warrants Lewd Conduct
If you have been a previous victim of rape or other sex-related invasive expenses, the chances are that you suffer from a severe post-traumatic disorder. One of the prevalent symptoms of a person living with PTSD is forming coping mechanisms that appear off to those who are unfamiliar with sexual trauma. For example, an affected person may become addicted to sex and masturbation as a way of dealing with trauma. Therefore, if he or she gets an urge in public, his mind may not function well enough to control his/her actions. Consequently, the accused engages in lewd conduct, but under an involuntary medical condition.
Related Offenses to Lewd Conduct
As an accused person, you may have engaged in a series of crimes that ultimately link the charges to lewd conduct. If the judge sees it fit, he or she may charge you with other related offenses, resulting in concurrently served penalties. Some of the associated crimes are:
Lewd Conduct With a Minor
Section 288 of the California Penal Code makes it an offense to touch a minor to get him or her sexually aroused. In this case, a minor is considered to be a child under the age of 14 years or a child with the age gap of a minimum of 10 years with the offender. Whether or not the minor is aroused by the lewd conduct is not considered in court, since the offense would still be unlawful in either case. The penalty for the crime charged as a felony is 3 to 8 years in prison. Additionally, you could face a fine penalty amounting up to $10,000.
Trespass to Land
When an offender enters restricted premises to find an area to engage in lewd conduct, he or she may be charged with the offense of trespass under Section 602 of the California Penal Code. He or she must have entered the land without permission from the lawful owner or refused to move out when asked to do so.
As provided in Section 647(d) of the California Penal Code, standing outside public areas and especially toilets to solicit persons to engage in the sexual acts will attract penalties. You may face six months in prison or pay a fine amounting to $1,000.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Facing lewd conduct charges may be very difficult and embarrassing for you. Therefore, you require competent and professional legal advice, as well as partners who can represent you well in court without any judgment. The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm is well versed in defense services. Our team is made up of brilliant lawyers who work around the clock to ensure quality service delivery. Contact us today at 310-935-1675.