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Engage in Public Lewd Conduct
Penal Code 647(a)
Law, Punishment, & Defense

Information on the crime of disorderly conduct by lewd or dissolute conduct in public, also known as engaging in public lewd acts, is found at California Penal Code section 647(a). This article is a brief overview of the law and punishment related PC 647(a). For more information, contact our sex crimes criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.


PC 647(a) Law

PC 647(a): Every person who solicits anyone to engage in, or who engages in, lewd 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) Abbrev.).


Lewd Conduct: Lewd conduct means to act in a sexual manner, which is intended to sexually arouse oneself or another person. Examples of lewd conduct in public include sex in public, oral copulation in public, under-garment touching of genitals in public, and more.

To prove a violation of PC 647(a), the district attorney must prove that:

  • 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 for PC 647(a)

Jail Sentence: 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: Probation, with or without a work release or house arrest sentence, is a period of supervision, as opposed to a jail sentence. A probation sentence is more common than a jail sentence for a first time PC 647(a) violation; however, every PC 647(a) case is different, and probation is not guaranteed, and a probation sentence after a conviction of lewd conduct in public is not guaranteed.

Note: The crime of engaging in lewd acts in public is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. Crimes involving moral turpitude are crimes that involve deceit or are otherwise considered to be morally wrong. As such, PC 647(a) convictions can lead to severe collateral professional licensure consequences for defendants who possess a professional or occupational license (doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc.). Additionally, a non-U.S. citizen defendant convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, including a violation of PC 647(a), may suffer severe immigration consequences, including deportation and denial of reentry into the United States.

Additional Penalties: In addition to any possible jail sentence, 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, suffer harsh probation terms, suffer military service consequences, and more.

Sex Offender Registration: Engaging in lewd conduct in public is not usually a crime for which sex offender registration is required. However, according to PC 290.006, if the judge finds that the defendant’s lewd conduct in public was motivated by unnatural desire to sexually gratify himself or herself, then the judge may order sex offender registration. This is especially true if the defendant has previously suffered a criminal conviction for a sex crime.


Defenses to PC 647(a)

Defenses to PC 647(a) will usually include one or more of the following: intoxication defense, insanity defense, coerced confession, mistake of fact, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, jury nullification, and more.


For more information on common defenses to a criminal violation of lewd conduct in public, including a discussion of the statute of limitations related to PC 647(a), see Defense Strategies in CA Sex Crimes.

If you have been charged with lewd acts in public (disorderly conduct), or penal code 647(a), contact our sex crimes criminal defense lawyers today for a free and discreet consultation. Our sex crimes defense lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of sex crimes charges in San Bernardino and Riverside County. Our criminal defense lawyers are highly experienced, award-winning, trial attorney and our success rate is second to none. Call today!



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