Texas Law On Public Lewdness

It’s completely acceptable for couples to display their love for each other in public. But if their actions become overly sexual and make others uncomfortable, it might lead to a public lewdness charge.

Public lewdness is a form of sexual offense. It may occur when private moments unexpectedly become public or when reckless actions offend bystanders. This blog explores what constitutes public lewdness, potential consequences, and defense options if accused of this sex crime.

What Constitute Public Lewdness in Texas?

In Texas, a person can get in trouble for public lewdness if they knowingly do certain things in a public place. They may also face difficulties if they carelessly engage in these activities not in a public setting, but in the presence of another individual who becomes distressed by it.

Here are the acts that can be considered lewdness if done in public:

  1. Act of Sexual Intercourse
  2. Deviate Sexual intercourse
  3. Act of Sexual Contact

In Texas, public lewdness occurs when someone engages in sexual behavior that can be observed by others. Typically, it involves consenting adults. If the actions are non-consensual, it falls under different legal categories, such as sexual assault or abuse, depending on the specific circumstances and the individuals involved.

How Texas Law Define It

In Texas, public lewdness is a criminal offense defined in the Texas Penal Code under Section 21.07. Moreover, understanding the key elements that constitute public lewdness in Texas is crucial. Here are the specifics:

  • Location

The offense occurs in a “public place” or a place “visible to the public.” This means that the act must take place in a location where it can be observed by others who are not part of the act.

  • Sexual Conduct

Public lewdness typically involves engaging in sexual conduct or deviant sexual behavior. This can include activities such as sexual intercourse, oral sex, fondling, masturbation, or any other sexual act that is considered indecent in nature.

  • Intent

The individual must have the intent to arouse or gratify their own sexual desire or the sexual desire of another person.

  • Offending Public Sensibilities

The act must be offensive to public sensibilities. It should be something that a reasonable person would find offensive or indecent when witnessed in a public or visible location.

It’s important to clarify that, in the context of public lewdness in Texas, consent between adults does not typically serve as a legal defense. This means that engaging in sexual behavior in a public place or a location visible to the public, even if all parties involved are consenting adults, may still result in public lewdness charges being filed.

Differentiating Between Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure

A common misunderstanding is that the terms public lewdness and indecent exposure are similar. However, in the legal context of the Texas Penal Code, these are distinct offenses. Both of these offenses share the element of engaging in behavior without considering the potential for offense to others.

The primary contrast between public lewdness and indecent exposure is the nature of the actions involved. Public lewdness encompasses engaging in sexual intercourse or sexual contact in public. In contrast, indecent exposure involves intentionally exposing one’s private parts with the intent to sexually arouse or satisfy desires.

What Is The Punishment For Public Lewdness?

To better understand the difference between public lewdness and indecent exposure, it’s important to explore their legal meaning and elements. Additionally, we will examine the potential consequences and available defenses for each offense.

Class A Misdemeanor –  which can result in a sentence of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.

Class B Misdemeanor – which may lead to jail for up to 180 days and/or a fine of up to $2,000.

Additional Consequences

When you’re found guilty of these offenses, there can be other negative results, like:

  • Having a permanent criminal record.
  • Community Service
  • Needing to register as a sex offender.
  • Having difficulty securing employment.
  • Facing challenges in getting approved for a place to live.
  • Losing custody rights with your kids.
  • Hurting your immigration status or chances of becoming a citizen.
  • Having your professional license suspended or taken away.

Possible Defense

You have options to defend yourself against charges of indecent exposure or public lewdness. Being accused of these crimes does not automatically indicate your guilt.

You can challenge the specific details of the offense, like showing that you didn’t do it for sexual pleasure. You and your attorney can also bring up that you were unaware that others could observe you. For instance, if you were sun bathing nude on private property without realizing that you were visible to others.

Another defense is a case of mistaken identity. It might not have been you who exposed themselves. Your lawyer can strive to show that you were at a different location when the incident occurred. If you were wrongly accused of indecent exposure or public lewdness, your lawyer will do their best to prove you didn’t do it.

Arrested? Don’t Plea, Call Me!

Many people make the mistake of not treating public lewdness charges seriously until it’s too late. Accusations of a sex crime can harm your reputation, job, and even lead to sex offender registration. To avoid these harsh consequences, treat the charges seriously from the beginning. In addition to legal penalties, social consequences for indecent exposure or public lewdness are severe, having an experienced sex crimes lawyer is important.