California Lewd Conduct Attorneys
Every person 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 is guilty of California Penal Code section 647(a).
This crime is often charged in conjunction with indecent exposure.
Elements of Lewd Conduct in Public
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant willfully engaged in the touching of his own or someone else’s genitalia, buttocks or a female breast;
2. The defendant did so with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify himself or another person, or to annoy or offend another person;
3. At the time the defendant engaged in the conduct, he was in a public place (or place open to the public);
4. At the time the defendant engaged in the conduct, someone else who might have been offended was present;
5. The defendant knew or reasonably should have known that another person who might have been offended by his conduct was present.
Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that a person intend to break the law.
Defenses to Lewd Conduct
There are several defenses to lewd conduct because there are so many elements the District Attorney’s office must prove in order to find someone guilty of this crime.
As in all sex offender cases, the People must show that the defendant had a specific intent to sexually arouse himself or another person, or to annoy another person. If the defense can establish that there was no specific intent to commit this crime, the defendant is not guilty of lewd conduct in public.
Lewd conduct in public requires a public place. What constitutes a public place is open to interpretation. For example, Fred Thiagarajah had a lewd conduct cases where the defendant engaged in lewd conduct while in a therapy situation with his psychologist. The therapy session took place in the psychologist’s private office, behind closed doors. The jury found that this area was not open to the public and acquitted the defendant of lewd conduct in public.
Lewd conduct in a public place requires the presence of another person who might have been annoyed and that the defendant knew of this person’s presence. If the defense can establish that the conduct did not take place in the presence of another person, or alternatively, that the defendant did not know the other person was there, then the defendant is not guilty of lewd conduct in public.
Lewd Conduct Punishment
Lewd conduct in public is a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of six months county jail. It is one of the few that sex offenses that is NOT punishable under California Penal Code section 290.
Not only can a lewd conduct conviction lead to criminal penalties, but it can also have drastic employment, licensing and immigration consequences. Having a lewd conduct conviction can prevent a person from finding a job or lead to a person being fired from their current job. Furthermore, many professions that require licensing from a state board, such as doctors, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, accountants, contractors, teachers, real estate agents and stock brokers, all require background checks. A professional who has a lewd conduct conviction on their record risks losing their professional license, or never acquiring it in the first place. Perhaps the most severe impact of a lewd conduct conviction involves immigration consequences. Non-citizens who are permanent residents, with a green card, or temporary visitors, with a student visa or work visa, can be denied admission or naturalization or even deported, with a lewd conduct conviction on their record.
The Right Lawyers
Choosing the right criminal defense lawyer will be the most important decision someone can make when facing criminal lewd conduct charges. Many people who face lewd conduct charges are good people who made a mistake or exercised poor judgment. There are also some people who have been wrongfully accused of lewd conduct, based on a misunderstanding or false evidence. You need an attorney who will listen to your side of the story carefully, who will evaluate the evidence thoroughly, who will negotiate with the judge and the District Attorney’s office skillfully, and who will fight in trial aggressively. You need attorney Fred Thiagarajah.
All of our attorneys have either worked at the District Attorney’s Office or the Public Defender’s Office. Whether it’s negotiation or trial, our attorneys have the training and experience to get the best results for our clients on their criminal cases and their immigration consequences. Our attorneys have worked in the Sexual Assault unit of the District Attorney’s Office and use their specialized knowledge of sex crimes to defend our clients, including those accused of lewd conduct. For an example of our work, please see our case results and read our client testimonials. With offices in Newport Beach, Long Beach, Murrieta, Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga, our team of attorneys have the right criminal defense experience in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
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