Many people are surprised when they are charged with public lewdness in Texas. In a nutshell, public lewdness is a criminal offense of engaging in sexual acts in public places.
Any type of sex crime conviction, including public lewdness, can drastically affect your life. Having a sex crime on your criminal record can have long-lasting repercussions.
That’s why you need to contact a Belton criminal defense attorney immediately after being arrested and charged with public lewdness in Texas. A knowledgeable lawyer will identify the best defense strategies in your case to help you avoid a conviction.
What is Considered Public Lewdness in Texas?
Public lewdness is categorized as a sexual offense under Chapter 21 of the Texas Penal Code. Section 21.07 defines the crime of “public lewdness” as knowingly engaging in any of the following acts in public places:
Bestiality (an act involving sexual contact between an individual’s genitals or mouth and the genitals/anus of an animal)
However, the above-mentioned acts do not necessarily need to be conducted in a public place to be charged with public lewdness in Texas. A person can face public lewdness charges when not in a public place if they are reckless about whether another person is present and could be “offended” or “alarmed” by the conduct.
When Can I Face Public Lewdness Charges in Texas?
You can be arrested for and charged with public lewdness in Texas when you do any of the following in a public place (or not a public place if another person is offended or alarmed by your conduct in a private location):
Engaging in sexual intercourse with another person. Texas law defines the word “intercourse” as the penetration of female sex organs by a male’s sex organ.
Engaging in deviate sexual intercourse, which is any contact between one person’s genitals and another person’s mouth or anus or the penetration of the anus/genitals by an object.
Engaging in sexual contact, which is any touching of another person’s breasts, genitals, or anus with the intent to arouse sexual desire.
Engaging in bestiality, which is any contact between a person’s mouth or genitals and the genitals/anus of an animal.
Texas law defines a public place as any place that can be accessed by the public or where a substantial group of people is present. However, as mentioned earlier, you can face public lewdness charges even if you are not in a public place.
As you can see, the definition of “public lewdness” in the Texas Penal Code is quite broad. It means that pretty much anyone could be charged with the offense if another person considers your conduct offensive.
If you are facing criminal charges for engaging in any of the acts mentioned above, do not hesitate to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney in Belton to fight for your freedom, reputation, and rights.
What’s the Difference Between Public Lewdness and Indecent Exposure?
Many people mistakenly believe that public lewdness and indecent exposure are synonymous. In reality, however, these two are separate criminal offenses under the Texas Penal Code.
The main difference between public lewdness and indecent exposure is that the former involves much more than exposure. You can be charged with public lewdness for engaging in sexual intercourse or contact in public.
You may be arrested for indecent exposure for exposing your genitals or anus to others with the intent to arouse or gratify your or the other person’s sexual desires.
However, what makes public lewdness and indecent exposure similar is that you can be charged with any of these two crimes if you behaved recklessly regarding whether another person could be present and offended by your conduct.
According to the Texas Penal Code, you are behaving recklessly if the prosecutor can prove that you were aware of and knowingly disregarded the substantial risks associated with your conduct. In addition, you do not necessarily need to be in a public place to be charged with public lewdness or indecent exposure.
Note: Indecent exposure is a Class B misdemeanor. Public lewdness, on the other hand, is a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.
What Are the Penalties for Public Lewdness in Texas?
Under Texas Penal Code § 12.21, a Class A misdemeanor is punishable by:
A fine of up to $4,000; or
A maximum jail sentence of one year; or
Both jail sentence and a fine.
Many people who have been arrested for public lewdness in Texas mistakenly believe that they will be required to register as sex offenders. However, under Texas law, public lewdness is not classified as a reportable conviction or adjudication. In other words, if you are convicted of public lewdness, you do not have to register as a sex offender.
What Are the Possible Defenses Against Public Lewdness Charges?
People charged with public lewdness in Texas may be able to raise one of the following defenses to avoid a conviction:
Accidental. You may not be convicted of public lewdness if you accidentally touched your own or someone else’s genitals or anus in a public place (for example, you accidentally touched another person’s genitals while playing football in the park).
Lack of sexual intent or gratification. If the prosecutor cannot prove sexual intent or gratification, you may not be convicted of public lewdness. Thus, if you touched your own or another person’s private parts with no intent to arouse sexual desire, you may not be convicted.
Lack of intent to act publicly. Under Texas law, you may be convicted of public lewdness for engaging in sexual intercourse or contact in a public location.
No other person was present. You may be convicted of public lewdness if another person witnessed your conduct and was offended by it. However, if no person was present at the time of the act, you may be able to raise a successful defense.
State of mind. The state of mind of the offender plays a major role in sentencing public lewdness and indecent exposure in Texas.
It is advisable to speak with a knowledgeable criminal lawyer to identify the best defense strategy in your particular case.