In many cases, charges of public lewdness come as a surprise to those involved – especially because when it comes to sexual offenses, Texas laws can be severe. Therefore, it’s essential to understand what the laws encompass, including your rights if accused.
Therefore, today’s post examines Texas lewd behavior laws – namely, public lewdness. Given that conviction for public lewdness can result in criminal penalties, understanding the nature of the law is critical. Therefore, we will examine the Texas public indecency laws related to lewdness, including the definition of (under Texas law) public sexual acts and the legal consequences of public lewdness if charged.
Introduction to Public Lewdness in Texas
The Cambridge Dictionary defines public lewdness as: “behavior that is sexual in an obvious and offensive way.” The key takeaways here are the words sexual, obvious, and offensive.
The act of public lewdness is a criminal offense that is taken seriously under Texas Penal Code 21.071. This law specifically addresses behavior considered indecent or sexually explicit and conducted in a public space or in a place where others are present (i.e., sexual, obvious, and offensive). Understanding the nuances of this law is critical not only for residents of Texas but also for visitors subject to its jurisdiction.
What Constitutes Public Lewdness
Under Texas Law?
Public lewdness, as defined in the Texas Penal Code 21.071, occurs when a person knowingly engages in any of the following acts in a public place or, if not in a public place, the person is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by the person’s:
(1) act of sexual intercourse;
(2) act of deviate sexual intercourse
(3) act of sexual contact
The law provides definitions for each of these acts, which you can read more about in the first section of the Penal Code. However, the most essential aspect of these particular lewdness charges in Texas is how the law emphasizes the public nature of the act and the potential for it to cause offense or alarm to others. After all, consensual sex between two adults in private is legal – it’s more the public nature and intent of lewdness charges that cross legal lines.
Therefore, it’s important to note what constitutes private concerning lewdness charges in Texas. For example, engaging in sexual activity in a semi-public location, such as a shared space that others can access, might be considered public lewdness if the participants are reckless regarding the presence of others who may be offended or alarmed by the act. Texas law defines reckless2 as “disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur.” So, if two adults engage in consensual sex in an office supply room closet during office hours, there is a substantial risk that someone else may enter the room and witness the act.
Charges and Punishments for Public Lewdness in Texas
Individuals in Texas accused of public lewdness face Class A misdemeanor charges (Texas Penal Code 21.07), which is one of the more severe misdemeanor levels under state law. However, effective September 1, 2023, the offense can be enhanced to a third-degree felony if the participant is “civilly committed as a sexually violent predator” (Chapter 841, Health and Safety Code3).
If convicted of a Class A misdemeanor-Texas for public lewdness, penalties can include:
- A fine of up to $4,000
- Jail time of up to one year
- Both a fine and jail time
Additionally, a conviction often results in a criminal record, which can jeopardize employment opportunities, professional licenses, housing opportunities, and more.
The Role of a Criminal Defense Attorney
When facing these criminal charges, the best course of action is to immediately contact a Texas criminal law expert for legal advice regarding public lewdness. A Texas criminal defense attorney understands the law and the criminal system best and can confidently navigate defending public lewdness charges in numerous ways, including protecting your rights.
How an Attorney Can Help
The legal consequences of public lewdness charges can be overwhelming and frightening. However, an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help. There are a number of legal strategies they can employ to seek justice on your behalf, including:
- Provide legal advice and emotional support while guiding you through the court process
- Challenge the evidence against you
- Negotiate with prosecutors for a lesser charge or reduced sentence
- Represent you in court, presenting your case and arguing on your behalf
- Advocate for leniency during sentencing if convicted
- Initiate an appeal if convicted, where applicable
Finding the Right Attorney
Choosing an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with Texas laws and local court systems is critical to defending against public lewdness charges. Look for lawyers with experience handling lewdness charges in Texas and a track record of successfully defending similar cases.
Public lewdness charges in Texas are serious and can have lasting consequences. Understanding Texas Penal Code 21.07, the potential charges and punishments, and the importance of skilled legal representation are vital for anyone facing such accusations.
If faced with charges associated with breaking Texas public indecency laws, the team of Criminal Defense Attorneys at GHC Law can help. Don’t wait – take the critical step toward protecting your rights and future by contacting us today.
Public Lewdness Texas FAQs
Sexual conduct in public places in Texas is illegal. Public lewdness in Texas, as per Penal Code 21.07, involves engaging in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, sexual contact, or exposure of genitals in a public place or where others might be offended or alarmed.
Public lewdness is classified as a Class A misdemeanor in Texas – a serious level of misdemeanor that reflects the state’s strict view on sexual offenses.
Punishments for public lewdness can include a fine of up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, or both. Additionally, a conviction can lead to a criminal record, affecting future opportunities.
A criminal defense attorney can provide legal guidance, challenge evidence, negotiate for lesser charges or reduced sentences, and represent you in court to defend your case effectively.
An experienced attorney, especially one familiar with Texas laws and local court systems, can significantly impact the outcome of a public lewdness case. With experience in similar cases, they can expertly navigate Texas’ complex legal system effectively.