Actual Case #1
In People v. Jose O. - Case No 3PN05821, my client was accused of lewd conduct and indecent exposure. The prosecutor wanted him to register as a sex offender for life. The allegation was that he often parked his car on a side street in Van Nuys where this attractive young lady would walk by everyday. One day, the young lady looked inside the vehicle he was driving and saw him masturbating as he was looking at her walk by. When he noticed her looking at him pulling on his manhood he drove off. The young lady was able to "partially" see his license plate and was "almost certain" as to the make and model of his car. The cops did a DMV search of the partial license plate information and came up with a make and model of a vehicle "matching the description" that the lady observed. The cops did a six-pack photo line-up of the picture of the registered driver attached to the vehicle "matching the description" and based on the lady witness pointing out a photo that looked like the guy jerking off in his car they arrested my client. The DA refused to let this case go. They refused to reason with me. They refused to see that this case was weak from a circumstantial stand point. They demanded we plead straight up to the charge and that my client who had no record register as a sex offender for life. They got what they deserved. Outcome: Not guilty verdict all charges.
The state of California takes a particularly serious stance toward the crime of "lewd or dissolute conduct." Section 647(a) of the California Penal Code defines lewd conduct as willfully touching one's own genitals, buttocks, or breasts in a public place for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or offensiveness. Both engaging in and soliciting others to engage in such conduct is prohibited. The act of lewdness must have occurred in a place where others could or could reasonably be expected to witness it. Any such act that did or potentially could have offended others can be charged as lewd conduct.
Penalties for Lewd Conduct
Lewd conduct is a misdemeanor charge that carries a sentence of up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The consequences of a conviction, however, can be lifelong since the prosecution has the option to ask for the defendant to be registered as a sex offender. The convict would then be marked for life and continually have to update his/her database information with the California DOJ Sex Offender Tracking Program. If, as is often the case, the charge of indecent exposure (PC 314) is also pursued and secured, sex offender registration would then be automatically part of the sentence.
Defenses Against Lewd Conduct Charges
It is often difficult to prove all elements necessary to a lewd conduct conviction, but as the stakes can be quite high, it is wise to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to put the odds in your favor. The prosecution must demonstrate the following facts beyond all reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did, in fact, engage in acts of lewdness as defined in the state penal code.
- These acts were done for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal, of himself or others, or to intentionally offend others.
- The incident took place in a public place where other people were or could easily have become present. It could also have occurred on private property if in public view, such as in front of an open door, an uncovered window, or in a yard with no/low fencing.
Common defenses designed to disprove these elements include:
- No touching of private parts, as defined by California law, occurred.
- Touching occurred on private property and not within the public's view.
- Touching was not done for gratification, arousal, or offense but for other reasons. Some other possible reasons are: scratching an itchy groin, washing the genitals, and urination.
- The defendant did not believe, nor could he have reasonably been expected to believe, that his action would be seen or that it would be thought offensive.
- Police entrapment occurred. Undercover police agents carried out a sting operation and purposefully baited the defendant into committing the lewd act. After initial resistance to the proposition, the defendant was later pressured with persistent and aggressive provocation.
We at the Law Offices of Jeff Voll understand the process the prosecution must go through to gain a conviction, and we know how to fight to avoid one at each juncture. We can appeal to the District Attorney's office for the case to be rejected. If that fails, we work for a dismissal at the trial or for a plea bargain that reduces the charge to a lesser offense like trespassing or disturbing the peace. We will fight particularly hard against the additional charge of indecent exposure since that would force lifelong sex offender registration. Finally, our expert lewd conduct defense attorneys will obtain police records and other evidences, closely examine state witnesses, search for witnesses to testify in your favor, and do everything possible to win your case.
Five closely related offenses that might come up in a lewd conduct case are as follows:
- Indecent Exposure (PC 314): This charge concerns willingly exposing one's genitals to public view for gratification, arousal, or offense. It does not pertain to the buttocks nor to breasts, but a conviction would require sex offender registration.
- Loitering In/Near a Public Restroom to Commit or Solicit Lewd Conduct or Another Illegal Act (PC 647d): This charge is a misdemeanor that specifically targets bathroom areas since lewd conduct so often occurs in such places.
- Trespassing (PC 602): If the defendant illegally entered private property or ignored no trespassing and no loitering signs, the charge could be reduced to criminal trespassing. This charge can be a misdemeanor or a mere infraction, which does not create a criminal record.
- Disturbing the Peace (PC 415): Some pleas bring the allegations down to only disturbing the peace. Since lewd behavior can disturb and offend others, there is a connection.
- Lewd Acts With a Minor (PC 288): If lewd acts were done to a minor, it is counted as child molestation. Both touching the child's sex organs and inciting him/her to touch the adult's are included. Any sexual touching, through the clothes or directly on the skin is included. This is a felony count and carries punishments ranging from probation to life imprisonment for certain repeat offenders. Sentencing is harsher if the child was under 14, mistaking the child's age is not an admissible defense, and sex offender registration is mandatory.
- Peeking While Loitering or Unlawful (647 i & j): This is California's "peeping Tom law." It is a lewd behavior of sorts and is classified as disorderly conduct. Lewd Conduct itself is also a sub-classification of disorderly conduct. Peeking is done secretly, violates privacy rights, and sometimes involves secret photography. Six months in jail, probation, and a $1,000 fine are possible punishments.
Expert Lewd Conduct Defense Attorneys
If you have been accused of committing lewd conduct or a related offense in the Los Angeles area, do not hesitate to contact us for immediate help. We know the law inside and out and have long experience in the courtroom with cases just like yours. The Law Offices of Jeff Voll frequently get lewd conduct charges dismissed or reduced. Call us today at 323-467-6400, and we will immediately arrange for a top-tier defense attorney to represent you.