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Lewd Conduct in Public (Disorderly Conduct)

California Penal Code section 647(a)

Information on the crime of disorderly conduct by lewd or dissolute conduct in public is found at California Penal Code section 647. There are many different crimes found under the general heading of disorderly conduct. For example, the crime of prostitution is considered disorderly conduct and is charged under PC 647(b), the crime of drunk in public is considered disorderly conduct and is charged under PC 647(f), and so on.

This article is dedicated to the crime of disorderly conduct as it pertains to lewd and dissolute conduct in public, which is found at PC 647(a).

The law of PC 647(a)

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 pubic or exposed to the public view is guilty of disorderly conduct (PC 647(a)).

What is lewd and dissoluteLewd means to be crude and offensive in a sexual way or manner. Dissolute means lax in morals or licentious.

According to the law of PC 647(a) to be guilty of the crime of lewd conduct in public the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant willfully engaged in the touching of his or her own genitals, buttocks or female breast, or the genitals, buttocks, or female breast of another person, and
  • The defendant did so with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify himself or herself or another person, or to annoy or offend another person, and
  • At the time the defendant engaged in a sexual behavior he or she was in a place open to the public, and
  • The defendant knew, or should have known, that another person, who might have been offended by the defendant's sexual behavior, was present.

Sentence & Punishment for PC 647(a)

Lewd conduct in public is classified as a misdemeanor in California. If found guilty of PC 647(a), the defendant may face up to 180 days in the county jail. Probation, without jail, is a more common sentence for first time offenders; however, every PC 647(a) case is different; there is no "lewd conduct in public" case. Therefore, a an actual jail sentence may be ordered upon any conviction. Whether or not probation without jail is available largely depends on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

In addition to any possible jail commitment, if found guilty of disorderly conduct by lewd or dissolute conduct in public under PC 647(a) the defendant may be ordered to pay restitution, lose his or her professional license, lose his or her immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), suffer harsh probation terms, and more. 

Note: Lewd conduct in public under is not usually a crime for which sex offender registration is required. However, under PC 290.006, if the judge finds that that the lewd conduct in public was motivated by a desire to sexually gratify the defendant then the judge may order sex offender registration.

Defenses to lewd conduct in public (PC 647(a))

It is a defense to a disorderly conduct charge of lewd or dissolute conduct in public if the defendant did not reasonably know that another person would be offended or that any person or persons were present in public.

Other defenses to PC 647(a) may include intoxication, insanity, coerced confession, mistake of fact, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, and more.

If you or a loved one has been charged with disorderly conduct by lewd or dissolute conduct in public under PC 647(a) contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultations. Our team of defense attorneys has successfully defended hundreds of sex crimes, including crimes of lewd conduct in public charged under PC 647(a). Call today!


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California Disorderly Conduct / Lewd or Dissolute Conduct in Public / Laws & Defense PC 647(a)

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