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Lewd Acts in Public
PC 647(a) Law & Defense

Information on the crime of disorderly conduct by lewd or dissolute conduct in public, also known as lewd acts in public, is found at California Penal Code section 647.

PC 647(a) Law

PC 647(a) Every 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 pubic or exposed to the public view is guilty of disorderly conduct (PC 647(a)).

Lewd & Dissolute: Lewd means to be crude and offensive in a sexual way or manner. Dissolute means lax in morals or licentious.

According to the law of PC 647(a) to be guilty of the crime of lewd conduct in public the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant willfully engaged in the touching of his or her own genitals, buttocks or female breast, or the genitals, buttocks, or female breast of another person, and

  • The defendant did so with the intent to sexually arouse or gratify himself or herself or another person, or to annoy or offend another person, and

  • At the time the defendant engaged in a sexual behavior he or she was in a place open to the public, and

  • The defendant knew, or should have known, that another person, who might have been offended by the defendant's sexual behavior, was present.

Sentence for PC 647(a)

Jail: Lewd conduct in public is classified as a misdemeanor in California. If found guilty of PC 647(a), the defendant may face up to 180 days in the county jail.


Probation: Probation, with or without a work release or house arrest sentence, is a period of supervision. Probation is perhaps a more common sentence for first time PC 647(a) offenders; however, every PC 647(a) case is different and probation is not guaranteed.

CIMT: The crime of lewd acts in public is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. Crimes involving moral turpitude are crimes that involve deceit or are otherwise considered to be morally wrong. As such, PC 647(a) convictions can lead to severe consequences for person who posses a professional or occupational license (doctor, dentist, lawyer, etc.). A licensed professional may have his or her license suspended or revoked for convictions of crimes involving moral turpitude. Moreover,a defendant convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, and who is not a U.S. citizen, may suffer severe immigration consequences, including denial of reentry into the US or deportation.

Bail: Bail is amount of money paid to the court, usually through a bail agent, that is intended to ensure that the defendant will appear in court during the criminal proceedings. The scheduled mail amount for PC 647(a) is $5,000 in San Bernardino County (2020). However, in many PC 647(a) cases, it may be possible to secure the defendant's presence in court on his or her promise alone and without the need for money bail (Own Recognizance Release). 

In addition to any possible jail commitment, if found guilty of disorderly conduct by lewd or dissolute conduct in public under PC 647(a) the defendant may be ordered to pay restitution, lose his or her professional license, lose his or her immigration status (for non-U.S. citizens), suffer harsh probation terms, and more. 

Note: Lewd conduct in public under is not usually a crime for which sex offender registration is required. However, under PC 290.006, if the judge finds that that the lewd conduct in public was motivated by a desire to sexually gratify the defendant then the judge may order sex offender registration.

Defenses to PC 647(a)

It is a defense to a disorderly conduct charge of lewd or dissolute conduct in public if the defendant did not reasonably know that another person would be offended or that any person or persons were present in public.

Other defenses to PC 647(a) may include intoxication, insanity, coerced confession, mistake of fact, statute of limitations, insufficient evidence, and more.

If you or a loved one has been charged with lewd acts in public, or PC 647(a), contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultations. Our team of defense attorneys has successfully defended hundreds of sex crimes, including crimes of lewd conduct in public charged under PC 647(a). Call today!


Quick Legal Reference​

Crime: Lewd Acts in Public

Code: PC 647(a) (CalCrim No. 1160-1162)

Wobbler: No. PC 647(a) is not a wobbler. This means that PC 647(a) is only charged as a misdemeanor.​


Incarceration: ​PC 647(a) jail sentence up to 180 days.

Probation: Probation is alllowed in PC 647(a) cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.​

Work Release or House Arrest: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.

Strike: PC 647(a) is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.

Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.

CIMT: PC 647(a) is a crime involving moral turpitude, which means that an arrest or conviction could lead to the following:

  • Immigration problems

  • Professional Licensing problems

  • Impeachment on credibility


Bail: $5,000 (San Bernardino County)

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