There are various reasons people might be compelled to have sex in their cars. However, before you act on this impulse, it is important to be aware of the potential consequences of this action. In many situations, engaging in sex is a crime in the state of California.
The primary charge for sex in a vehicle is prosecuted under California Penal Code (PC) §647(a): Lewd Conduct. A conviction for this charge can result in fines and a jail sentence.
Elements of PC §647(a) that the Prosecution Must Prove
Under California PC §647(a), lewd conduct is considered willfully touching the genitals, buttocks, or female breast of another person or yourself. To be a violation of the law, this action must be taken with the intent of sexual arousal or to offend someone who may be watching.
Three things must be true, in order to be convicted under PC §647(a):
- You must commit a lewd act.
- You must be in a public place or on private property in an area easily visible to the public.
- You must know or be in a position where you reasonably should know that someone would likely see you.
If all three of these elements do not apply, you have not violated this section of the penal code.
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Defenses Against a PC §647(a) Charge
There are many potential defenses you can use against a PC §647(a) charge. It all depends on the specifics of your case. A criminal defense lawyer can review the charges against you and the situation under which you allegedly violated the law and advise you of all your options. Some of the most common defenses in these cases include:
- You did not touch the private parts of another person or yourself.
- You did touch the private parts of another person or yourself, but not for sexual gratification.
- You were not in a public place or a place visible to the public.
- You reasonably believed there was no one present who would be offended.
- The police entrapped you.
There Was No Touching of Private Parts
If you didn’t commit a lewd act, you are not in violation of the law. Maybe you were kissing someone and had your hands on their lower back. Someone may have misinterpreted what they saw. The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, so you should be in a good position to win your case under these circumstances.
The Touching of Private Parts Was Not for Sexual Gratification
There are various reasons for the touching of private parts that have nothing to do with sexual gratification. You may touch yourself in a private area because you have an itch. A friend or family member may ask you to touch her breast because she thinks she feels a lump. Your intent is an important element of the crime under PC 647(a).
It Was Not a Public Space
If you were parked on your own property behind a privacy fence, you are within your rights to have sex in your vehicle. Having sex in an open driveway in your car would be considered a violation. Despite the fact that you are on private property, you are exposed to the public view. However, in your backyard behind a fence, you should be able to assume privacy.
You Had a Reasonable Belief that Nobody Was Present
It is permissible to have sex in your car on public property if you have a reasonable belief that there is nobody around to see the act and be offended. If you are out camping in a secluded area, just as it would be acceptable to have sex in a tent, it is acceptable to have sex in your car.
You Were a Victim of Entrapment
It is against the law for the police to entrap anyone into committing a crime. Where the line is for what is and is not considered entrapment can be a little fuzzy. A mere suggestion of criminal activity is likely not enough to constitute an entrapment situation. However, aggressively urging on the illegal activity most certainly is.
If a police officer entrapped you into engaging in sexual behavior in your car in a public space, your criminal defense attorney will likely be able to build a strong defense on your behalf.
Penalties for a PC §647(a) Violation
If you are convicted of a violation of Penal Code §647(a) you are looking at a misdemeanor charge. A conviction can result in:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to six months in jail
- Summary probation
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Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer in California
When facing a charge for lewd conduct in public, your best chance of avoiding jail time is to hire a criminal defense lawyer. At the Simmrin Law Group, we have extensive experience taking on these types of cases and getting positive results for our clients.
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our legal team. One of our defense lawyers will review your case and advise you of all your options.