Dealing with a Charge of Public Lewdness in Texas

Under Texas law, in title 5 of the penal code dealing with offenses against a person, section 21.07 sets forth the provisions under which a person can be charged with public lewdness.  A person who knowingly engages in certain behavior in a public place, or in a non-public place with reckless disregard to whether there is another person present who might be offended or alarmed, may be charged with public lewdness.  The actions that fall within this category are:

  1. Sexual intercourse;
  2. Deviate sexual intercourse;
  3. Sexual contact;
  4. Sexual contact between a person and an animal.

A charge of public lewdness is a Class A misdemeanor that can lead to up to one year in jail and a $4000.00 fine.

It is possible to get charged with public lewdness while engaging in a consensual act in a place where you thought you had some privacy.  A couple who engages in sexual activity at a party and leaves the house for the backyard may find themselves facing charges and a looming arrest because a neighbor had a deck overlooking the yard.   The situation becomes further complicated if the offended witness is a minor.  The couple does not have to engage in actual intercourse.  Despite the general understanding that the action has to be offensive or in bad taste, the law is written in such a manner that there does not have to be actual nudity.  An experienced attorney can offer valuable solutions in this situation.  A charge of public lewdness does not have to be the reason for canceling all club memberships and committing to a monastic life of solitude.

One of the main problems with a charge and subsequent arrest based on public lewdness is the stigma attached to the allegation.  This becomes much worse if the witness was a minor.  Many times, the charge arises out of a lack of judgment rather than intentional malice.  However, there are prosecutors building a tough-on-crime profile who will zealously prosecute a public lewdness charge even if there is no evidence of malicious intent.  Although prosecutors do pursue public lewdness actions with regularity, a good criminal defense attorney can make the difference between imprisonment and a more favorable result.

A criminal defense attorney can negotiate the dismissal of the charges.  If the prosecutor does move forward with the action, a motion to quash the charging instrument may be successful.  Even if the prosecutor re-files the action after a defense victory, the previous win can make the case more difficult to bring to a conviction.  Moreover, an experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate a reduced charge, specifically one that involves probation rather than jail time.  In the event that a jail sentence is ordered, an attorney may get the sentence suspended.   A knowledgeable attorney is critical to a positive resolution.

For additional information, or if you are facing a charge of public lewdness or inappropriate behavior, it is important to work with an experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyer to help you enforce your rights.  For more than thirty years, our office has successfully defended thousands of individuals dealing with all types of criminal related offenses.   If you would like to speak to Mr. Pettit about your case, contact our firm today by calling 214-521-4567.  We accept most major credit cards and provide bilingual services in Spanish.


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