Free Consultation with a San Jose and San Mateo Lewd Conduct Defense Attorney
Arrested for Lewd Conduct in Silicon Valley or the Peninsula?
Despite the San Francisco Bay Area’s progressive reputation, California continues to enforce very strict laws prohibiting public sexual acts. In legal terms, such acts are referred to as “lewd or dissolute conduct,” and these sex crimes may refer to anything from masturbation to consensual touching of a woman’s breast. These acts are illegal and can have serious consequences for you and your family.
It is not unusual for someone to be falsely accused of lewd conduct or even be the victim of police entrapment. Vice officers in the San Francisco Bay Area frequently conduct “stings” in bathrooms, parks, and other public areas in an effort to induce lewd conduct. Since the law bans soliciting lewd conduct even if it never actually takes place, it is not difficult for a determined officer to manufacture an arrest.
While lewd conduct is usually treated as a misdemeanor– on par with other simple vice crimes like soliciting prostitution – it can still publicly label you a sexual deviant. This alone makes it worth your while to engage a skilled San Mateo and Santa Clara lewd conduct attorney to defend you if you are accused of any kind of lewd conduct.
At the Law Office of James Dunn, we don’t let our clients become victims of a witch hunt. We vigorously defend our clients’ rights with the goal of getting all charges dropped due to weak or insufficient evidence. When this isn’t possible, our goal will be to convince prosecutors to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge or take the case to trial.
California Penal Code 647(a)
Lewd conduct can actually describe a number of criminal offenses in California, but most often a person is charged under Section 647(a) of the Penal Code. This states that a 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 public or exposed to public view,” is guilty of the misdemeanor offense of “disorderly conduct.”
Let’s break down exactly what this means.
- First, lewd conduct does not have to involve another person. As noted above, masturbating in a public place is lewd conduct. The critical element is the touching of genitals–whether your own or someone else’s–for the purpose of “sexual gratification” or to “offend or annoy” someone else. In this context, genitals also include the buttocks or a woman’s breasts.
- Second, having sex in public is not, in and of itself, lewd conduct. It only rises to that level if you knew–or reasonably should have known–that someone else was likely to be watching. In other words, if you have sex in a car that is parked outside the SAP Center during a Sharks game, you should know that someone might walk by and see what you are doing. But if you are having sex in your private office at night after you think everyone has gone home, then you might have a defense if someone accidentally walks in on you.
What Are the Penalties for Lewd Conduct in San Mateo, San Jose and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Like all misdemeanor offenses, lewd conduct may lead to jail time if the case is not properly defended. A violation of Section 647(a) carries a potential term of 6 months in a county jail and a $1,000 fine. But it is important to note these are the maximum penalties established by the California legislature and your defense strategy can affect the case outcome. In our experience, most judges will not order jail time for our clients, especially for a first offense.
Instead, the judge is more likely to order misdemeanor probation. This is considered “informal” probation, as opposed to the more formal probation reserved for felony offenders. The actual probation term will vary, but it is usually between 1 and 3 years, although it may last as long as 5 years. Please ask us about this at your free case consultation.
Unlike formal probation, misdemeanor probation generally does not require you to actually check in with a probation officer. Instead, you will report directly to the judge from time to time. You must also follow whatever conditions are spelled out by the judge, which may include a fine, mandatory counseling, and requiring you to stay away from the public place where you were charged with lewd conduct in the first place.
Now you might also be wondering for example: Will a conviction for lewd conduct in San Jose require me to register as a sex offender? Unfortunately, it is possible. For Section 647(a) violations, the answer is usually no. But some prosecutors may try to bundle a lewd conduct charge with another sex crime, such as indecent exposure, that does require registration upon conviction.
This again shows why it is important to have a qualified Bay Area lewd conduct attorney on your side. Prosecutors know they can leverage guilty pleas from unrepresented defendants that can label them sex offenders for life based on flimsy evidence. Having an attorney represent you is often the only protection you have against such prosecutorial overreach.
What Are My Defenses Against a Lewd Conduct Charge?
As with any criminal offense, the burden is always on the prosecution to prove that you’re guilty, not for you to prove your innocence. What makes a lewd conduct charge tricky is that “solicitation” is just as much a crime as the physical act. For example, if an undercover police officer suggests that you have sex in a public bathroom and you affirmatively indicate your agreement, that alone can justify a lewd conduct arrest.
However, if the officer pressures you into agreeing to public sex after you rejected or ignored multiple prior advances, that could constitute entrapment. Police officers may legally give you the opportunity to commit a crime. But they cannot badger a person who otherwise had no criminal intent at the outset into committing an offense.
Along those same lines, if the police conduct stakeouts of secluded areas in order to catch “lovers in the act,” that can also raise a defense to lewd conduct. Remember, a public place under Section 647(a) is one where you “reasonably should have known” that someone was likely to see you. If you can prove that no reasonable person would have expected a member of the public, much less a police officer, to see them, that can be enough to create “reasonable doubt” with a jury.
Should I Call a Lewd Conduct Attorney if I have been Charged?
Yes! Because of the potential for sex offender registry and potential jail time, it is essential that you call an experienced San Mateo lewd conduct attorney – especially one that is experienced with the defense of sex crimes -as soon as possible after you are arrested for lewd conduct. Our strategy is to get involved in the case as early as possible.
Sometimes when a client is under investigation, but hasn’t yet been formally charged, we can intervene in the situation, explain our client’s side of the story and avoid charges from being filed. If this is your situation, then your case is considered to be pre-file.
If you have been formally charged, do not despair. There are still many ways that an experienced sex crime defense attorney can defend you and work to get the charged dropped or significantly reduced.
- Present any possible legal defenses against your charges;
- Challenge the prosecutor’s evidence;
- Negotiate a favorable plea bargain for a lesser charge or sentence;
- Fight against allegations of aggravating factors.
- Represent your rights at all court hearings and trials.
A lewd conduct arrest is obviously embarrassing and stressful. But you should not compound the problem by trying to deal with a criminal charge alone or with an attorney who doesn’t have the expertise and experience defending sex crime cases in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the Law Office of James Dunn, our attorneys specialize in helping people like you avoid the stigma of a lewd conduct conviction. Call us today if you have been charged and require immediate legal assistance.
Having the right lewd conduct attorney on your side can often greatly improve the outcome of a sex crime case whether your case is in San Jose, San Mateo, Redwood City or Palo Alto. Our goal in all cases is to work to get your charges dropped and to avoid registration. When that isn’t possible we can often negotiate more favorable outcomes that allow you to avoid jail.
Half the Cost, Twice the Work
Jim Dunn fixed my previous lawyers blunders, literally cost half as much, didn’t charge me until my case was settled. He got me the best possible outcome after miscommunications with the courts, mostly my previous lawyer was to blame. There were countless little things that Jim did that won’t get named here, but he visited me in Jail on a Sunday evening, he fixed the miswriting of the court scribe, a last minute catch on Jim’s part, my case was first, his pay was second. I like him, he is personable, he called to check on me, I could call him and actually reach him, not go through a secretary and hope to be reached in the same day like my last lawyer. I would definitely hire him again and even form a partnership to become the family lawyer. If you have a run in with with law, you want Jim Dunn on your side, he only tells you the truth, and genuinely wants to help you!
Reviewer: Charlie M. — September 4, 2015 – San Mateo, CA