What Is Public Lewdness in Texas?

June 5, 2024 | By Shane Phelps
What Is Public Lewdness in Texas?

There is nothing wrong with a little PDA from time to time, but public intimacy may result in criminal public lewdness charges in Texas.

What does Public Lewdness in Texas mean? According to Texas criminal law, a person commits public lewdness if they knowingly engage in sexual intercourse, deviant sexual intercourse (i.e., oral and anal sex), and any sexual contact (i.e., any touching of private parts to arouse or satisfy sexual urges) in a public place.

The law defines a public place as anywhere groups of random people assemble or the public has access to, such as city parks and outdoor spaces, public restrooms, common areas of an apartment complex, and even inside a vehicle located in a public parking lot or on a roadway.  

You can face public lewdness charges in a nonpublic place where you recklessly ignore the risk that the sexual act might alarm or offend another person. 

For example, if you share a house with several other people and you have sex in the living room and a housemate walks in on the act, police could arrest you for public lewdness if you alarmed or offended the individual.

Public lewdness is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a jail term of up to one year and a maximum fine of $4,000. Although this offense is considered a sex crime, a conviction does not result in registration as a sex offender. If you need legal assistance, consulting with a sex crime lawyer can help you understand your rights and options. 

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It’s easy to get carried away by the moment with someone you love. 

Ordinary, law-abiding people can get caught up in a spur-of-the-moment situation they wish they’d thought harder about first. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people or should carry extensive repercussions. There are many valid defenses.  

Potential Defenses for Public Lewdness Charges

  • Lack of Intent: A central aspect of public lewdness is that the individual knowingly engaged in the act. This defense is valid if the accused proves they had no intention to commit an offense or didn’t realize their actions could be construed as lewdness.
  • Nonpublic Place: If the act occurred somewhere that doesn’t qualify as a “public place” under Texas law, it could serve as a defense. However, the challenge often lies in interpreting what constitutes a “public place.”
  • Reasonable Expectation of Privacy: If the accused believed they had a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., inside their home or in a vehicle with tinted windows), it could undermine the public aspect required for a conviction.
  • Recklessness and Alarm: The state must prove that the accused recklessly disregarded the likelihood of alarming or offending others to prove public lewdness in Texas. A valid defense is if no one is alarmed or offended.
  • Coercion or Duress: If the accused was coerced or under duress when committing the act, it can provide grounds for a defense.

You may face other consequences for public lewdness in Texas, whether you get jail time and fines or not. 

Broader consequences include:

Boys were watching a girl, and one of them was flirting with her, but it was part of a larger bullying problem.
  • Social Stigma: Even though public lewdness isn’t a sex offense that requires registration, a charge or conviction carries a significant social stigma. This can affect personal relationships and reputation in their community.
  • Loss of Job Opportunities: A public lewdness conviction on one’s record may limit employment opportunities. Many employers conduct background checks and may view a criminal record unfavorably.
  • Impact on Professional Licenses: If convicted, individuals in professions that require licensing or certifications may risk losing their credentials. This is relevant for teachers, healthcare professionals, and others in trusted positions.
  • Housing Difficulties: Some landlords refuse to rent properties to individuals with criminal records, making it difficult to secure suitable housing.
  • Travel Restrictions: A conviction might result in restrictions to countries denying visas to individuals with criminal records, limiting international travel opportunities.

These defenses and consequences highlight the importance of understanding the nuances of public lewdness laws and seeking proper legal representation if charged.

Do I Need a Lawyer for a Public Lewdness Charge in Texas?

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If you have a public lewdness charge in Texas, a lawyer can assist you with:

  1. Case Evaluation: A lawyer will carefully review the details of your case, including evidence, witness statements, and police reports, to understand the circumstances surrounding the charge. This evaluation will help identify strengths, weaknesses, and potential defense strategies.
  2. Legal Advice: They can explain the legal process, possible outcomes, and the implications of a public lewdness charge. This will enable you to make informed decisions about how to proceed.
  3. Building a Defense: The attorney will develop a strong defense strategy based on the investigation's results. They might challenge the location's labeling as a public place, argue that you had a reasonable expectation of privacy, or show that no one was alarmed or offended by your actions.
  4. Negotiating Plea Deals: In some cases, negotiating a plea bargain might lead to reduced charges or lighter sentencing. An experienced attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to achieve the best possible outcome.
  5. Representation in Court: If your case goes to trial, your lawyer will represent you, present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and argue your case to achieve an acquittal or reduce sentencing.
  6. Mitigating Consequences: Even if a conviction is inevitable, a lawyer can help reduce its impact by advocating for alternative sentencing, such as community service or probation, instead of jail time. They can also work to reduce fines or negotiate penalties that don’t jeopardize your future.
  7. Post-Conviction Relief: If you are convicted, your lawyer will assist with expunging or sealing your criminal record. This could limit the long-term consequences of the conviction on your personal and professional life.

A lawyer is an essential ally if you have a public lewdness charge by providing legal advice, defending your rights, and guiding you through the justice system.

If authorities charge you or a loved one with public lewdness or any other sex crime in Bryan or College Station, contact Shane Phelps Law today at (979) 775-4100 for your free initial consultation. Let more than 30-plus years of experience protect your rights and freedom. 

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Shane Phelps

Lead Attorney

As founder of Shane Phelps Law, Bryan/College Station criminal defense attorney Shane Phelps has a reputation as a leading trial lawyer in the Central Texas area. With decades of experience as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney, Shane has tried more than 300 jury trials, everything from DWI to Capital Murder.

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