Couple in Florida Cited for Lewd Conduct on Public Beach (CA Penal Code 647(a))

Rabin Nabizadeh
May 6, 2015

Florida, much like California, is a place where summertime beachgoers can enjoy a little sand and surf.  For one Florida couple (20 and 30), however, a fun time at the beach became a nightmare.  The couple has been accused of having had sexual intercourse on a public beach, witness statements and a video taken with a bystander’s smartphone point to the couple having had intercourse on the beach in the afternoon and in the presence of young children.  While the couple has refused to take the charges seriously, prosecutors have, asking for 15 years in state prison for the randy display.

California law also addresses the problem of lewd conduct in public (CA Penal Code 647(a)) and the penalties are just as harsh as they are in Florida.  “Lewd conduct in public” may describe a range of behaviors, but what it boils down to is the idea that it is illegal for a person to touch their own intimate parts or another person’s intimate parts for the purpose of a) sexual gratification or b) annoyance or offense to others.  However, there are other considerations to take into account.

Most importantly, sexual activity in a public place, by itself, is not considered illegal.  In order for you or someone else to be charged with and convicted of a violation of CA PC 647(a), you must have a reasonable expectation or knowledge that another person is watching.  In other words, if you engage in sexual activity or intercourse in public, you may not be charged with a violation of this law, but only if there was no way that you could have known that others were present and might be offended by the way in which you are behaving.  Clearly, if the Florida couple had conducted themselves in the same manner on a California beach, they would have been subject to similar legal consequences, as a public beach in the middle of the afternoon is certainly a locale in which one could expect that others were watching.  In fact, there seems to have been a veritable crowd present.

If you are convicted of a crime related to CA PC 647(a), you may expect misdemeanor charges.  It is likely that you will end up paying a small fine ($1,000) and, in some instances, you might spend up to 6 months in county jail.  However, the worst penalty for the violation of this law is the duty to register as a sex offender for life.  The Florida couple will likely have to do the same.  Their sexy frolic on the beach may cost them far more than they bargained for.


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