Houston Public Lewdness Attorney
Although public lewdness is a misdemeanor, it still carries serious penalties. They include not only the legal ramifications of a conviction (the possibility of jail, fines, and other penalties), but also a permanent mark on your record, knowledge of the conviction in your community, an effect on your livelihood, your life and the lives of your family. As a result, it is essential that you defend a public lewdness charge vigorously, to avoid the negative consequences that would follow from a conviction.
At the Law Office of Nathaniel Pitoniak, we represent clients charged with a variety of criminal offenses, including sex crimes. If you are facing a public lewdness charge, call us for a free consultation.
What is Public Lewdness in Texas?
The crime of pubic lewdness is defined in section 21.07 of the Penal Code. That section says that it is a class A misdemeanor to knowingly engage in certain acts in a “public place,” or in a non-public place if you are reckless about whether another person or persons would be offended or alarmed by the acts. Those acts include:
- Sexual intercourse (penetration by the male sexual organ of the female sexual organ);
- Deviate Sexual Intercourse (contact between the genital organ of one person with the anus or mouth of another or with an object); and
- Sexual Contact (touching of the genitals, anus or breast with sexual intent, that is, with the intent to arouse a person’s sexual desire). Sexual contact does not include acts which would be classified under PC 21.11 (indecency with a child, which is a felony).
The law requires that for these acts to constitute public lewdness, they must occur in a public place, or in a non-public place if you are reckless about whether others may be offended. The term “public place” is defined in section 1.07(40) of the Penal Code. Certain of the items listed in the definition are clear – roadways, common areas of certain buildings (schools, office buildings, apartment houses, hospitals, transportation facilities (airports, bus stations, etc.) and even retail stores). On the other hand, the definition also includes a catch-all statement that “public places” includes anywhere the public (or a substantial portion of the public) has access to. Finally, the law includes acts committed in a non-public place in the circumstances outlined above.
What is the Difference Between Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure?
Public lewdness and indecent exposure are both misdemeanors under Texas law. While they both involve sexual acts of one sort or another, and both involve sexual acts which are in a public place or in the presence of another person or persons, there are differences between the two. The primary differences are:
- Public lewdness requires at least two people involved in the sexual act or acts.
- Indecent exposure always requires an intent to arouse the sexual desire of a person, while not all public lewdness charges contain that such requirement.
- Public lewdness is a class A misdemeanor, while indecent exposure is a class B misdemeanor.
The answers are unclear as to why the two offenses are classified differently, or why “public lewdness” can occur in a non-public place.
Defending a Public Lewdness Charge
While the potential penalties for a public lewdness conviction include jail, fines and more, it is treated much less harshly than many sex crimes. Nevertheless, the stigma of any sex crime, including public lewdness, will have a significant impact on your standing in the community, your job, and your future employment opportunities. So it pays to know that if you have been accused of public lewdness, there are potential defenses to the charge. They include:
- No sexual intercourse or sexual contact. What may look like sex to one person may actually consist of two people kissing and hugging, for example Eyewitness testimony can be and in many cases is simply wrong.
- Not a public place. If the activity occurred in a non-public space, where the participants had a reasonable expectation of privacy, there is no violation of the statute. They were in a non-public space and were not being reckless about being seen by others who may be offended.
- No intent to cause sexual gratification or desire. Where the charge is based upon sexual contact, the touching may have had nothing to do with sexual gratification, but rather with the mistaken belief or perception of a witness.
The important point is that this charge must be proven by the state beyond a reasonable doubt. Absent that proof, the case may be dismissed.
Public Lewdness Defense Lawyer in Houston, TX
If you have been charged with public lewdness, don’t be lulled into a sense of false security by the fact that the charge is a misdemeanor. A conviction would still have a major negative impact on your life and the lives of those you love. Speak to Nathaniel Pitoniak, an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer, today. Your initial consultation is free.