Lewd Conduct in a Public Place (Penal Code Section 647(a)

This crime is usually charged under Penal Code Section 647(a). The Elements are as follows:

  1. The Defendant willfully engaged in the touching of his or another’s genitals, buttocks or female breast; and
  2. The Defendant did so with the intent to sexually arouse himself or another person OR annoy or offend another person; and
  3. The act(s) occurred in public or in a place open to public view; and
  4. At the time the Defendant engaged in the act(s) someone else might have been offended who was present; and
  5. The Defendant should have known that another person who might have been offended by his conduct was present.


Many times the Police engage in sting operations in public bathrooms wherein an undercover officer entices usually gay men to solicit him for sex. Depending on the facts of the case the defense of Entrapment may be applicable. Also, because these vice-police sting operations tend to result in the exclusive arrests of gay men a motion under People v. Murgia may be appropriate. This motion deals with discriminatory police practices. Touching must occur for this offense to be proven.

This is not a sex offense requiring registration under Penal Code Section 290; however, it is a very undesirable charge to have on one’s record. A skillful attorney may be able to negotiate a non-sexual offense such as disturbing the peace or trespass if the charge can be otherwise proven.

Contact Orange County defense attorney Katie Walsh if you need help with Lewd Conduct in a Public Place or any other criminal matter.

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