While indecent exposure involves one actor, public lewdness often involves young adults or even married couples engaging in sexual activities in places they may not have considered “public” (for example, the back of a parked car or in a tent)—or even in places they know they shouldn’t (i.e. a movie theater, a park, etc.). That said, the legislation regarding public lewdness is often referred to as the “get-a-room statute.”
The Texas Penal Code delineates what conduct is considered public lewdness:
A person commits an offense if he knowingly engages in any of the following acts in a public place or, if not in a public place, he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his:
1. act of sexual intercourse;
2. act of deviate sexual intercourse;
3. act of sexual contact; or
4. act involving contact between the person's mouth or genitals and the anus or genitals of an animal or fowl.
Sexual deviate intercourse knowingly done and occurred in a public place is illegal. The same act would be a crime in a private place if recklessly done. If the conduct reveals that those involved are reckless about whether another is present who would be offended or alarmed by that act, it is recklessly done. The Public Lewdness statute knowingly applies only to the act of deviate sexual intercourse and not to the place where such act was committed.
Disregarding the line about fowl or animal genitals, the statute itself does not define what is considered “public.” That is often where defense for a case arises. If the car is owned by one of those who committed the act, is the back seat considered a public place? Does the tint of the windows change such a determination? What if the vehicle was a van with no windows? What is considered “reckless” can just as well be subjective. Such details significantly affect the results of a case. Another common attack on public lewdness cases is attacking the circumstances surrounding the arrest and whether or not the sexual conduct meets the statutory definition of sexual.
Unlike indecent exposure, public lewdness is not a charge that requires an individual to register as a sex offender. Rather, it is prosecuted as a class A misdemeanor, providing for a maximum sentence of a year in jail and/or a $4,000 fine. Nevertheless, with a conviction, a charge would still be present on your record, and there is a social stigma against any criminal record that involves children, sex, or burglary. Further, having a sex crime on your record can have the collateral consequence of being unable to obtain most state professional licenses, the inability to get certain jobs, and refusal to be admitted to certain college and graduate school programs.
Even though many of these cases may be clear cut, many times it was simply a mistake made. Paul Doyle understands the consequences of a public lewdness conviction and will aggressively fight your case to ensure that the case gets off your record. Contact Paul Doyle today and take the next step to restoring your name.