The issue with public lewdness is that it happens where you least expect it. It can also be surprising who gets arrested for it. Recently, two men were arrested in a Fort Worth park for lewdness.
The sting operation by police by captured these two men has resulted in many arrested for public lewdness over the last couple of years. One man arrested last year was a former high school football coach.
So what exactly is public lewdness according to Texas law, and is it really that serious? Read on to find out.
Public Lewdness: What Is It in Texas?
Under the law in the state of Texas, you cannot engage in sexual activity in public places. Specifically, these actions are banned:
- Sexual intercourse, which the law defines as penetration of a woman by a man, or other sexual conduct
- Deviate sexual intercourse, which is the contact between the genitals of someone and the anus or mouth of another, including the penetration of the genitals or anus by an object
- Any sexual contact (any touching of the genitals, anus, or breasts to satisfy or arouse sexual urges) between a person’s genitals or mouth and the genitals or anus of a bird or other animal
Furthermore, a public place is defined under the law as any place where a substantial group of the public or the public has access.
The public lewdness laws in Texas are quite broad, which means that even acts that you may participate in that you consider to be private may be viewed by people who find it offensive. If this is the case, you may face criminal charges.
Is Public Lewdness the Same as Indecent Exposure?
Though public lewdness and indecent exposure are terms that tend to get used interchangeably, they are not the same thing legally. Indecent exposure is its own criminal offense in Texas.
The difference between these two charges is intent. Knowingly engaging in sexual conduct is public lewdness but indecent exposure is when the genitals are exposed in order to gratify or arouse.
Public Lewdness Penalties in Texas
In the state, public lewdness is charged as a Class A misdemeanor. If a person is convicted, they can face up to 12 months in jail and be required to pay fines up to $4,000. Probation and community service may also be ordered.
However, there are penalties beyond a criminal court case, there are social penalties after a sex crime conviction.
Remember that now, with a criminal record that includes a sex crime, future employers can do a background check and see this information. You may also have issues attending schools or joining private organizations.
No Sex Offender Registration
The good news is that under the law, public lewdness is not a reportable conviction. That means that even if you are found guilty, you are not required to register as a sex offender.
Defenses to Public Lewdness
If you find yourself being accused of public lewdness in Texas, there are a few ways for you and your attorney to mount a defense. An attorney can help to establish that there was a lack of sexual intent when the arrest took place.
Charges can also be fought by establishing what your state of mind was during the offense in question and show that you didn’t intend for anyone to observe the acts.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth. He has been recognized for his work by Expertise (Best Criminal Defense Lawyers in Forth Worth and Best DUI Lawyers in Fort Worth, both 2020), The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.