The idea of having sex in a car may be seen by some as a gray area between private and public, making this moment of intimacy seem innocent. However, the reality from a legal perspective is a bit different. That’s why it is necessary to understand what you’re allowed to do under California state laws and the potential consequences for violating them.

There Is No Specific Law Criminalizing This Behavior

Although there are no laws that specifically criminalize sex in a vehicle, it is possible to be criminally charged if the car is in public and in a place where people can see. You could end up being charged with lewd conduct in public or indecent exposure. 

You Could be Charged With Lewd Conduct in Public

Lewd conduct in public entails engaging in sexual conduct deemed inappropriate or offensive in public spaces. This includes touching one’s or another person’s genitalia, buttocks, or female breasts with the intent of receiving sexual pleasure. To be convicted, the conduct must be able to be observed by others who would be annoyed or offended.

This means that if you’re engaging in sexual activities inside a car that’s located in an area where someone could see inside, you could be arrested for lewd conduct. This is true even if your vehicle is parked in the driveway at your home. 

Your home, your hotel room, and your closed place of business are not considered public places. However, if any of these places is exposed so that the public can see inside, your behavior may still violate the law. For example, if your window faces the street and you don’t close your blinds, sexual activity in an otherwise private place could be a crime.

Penalties For Lewd Conduct in Public

Public lewd conduct in California is a misdemeanor charge, carrying a possible 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In practice, judges typically sentence a defendant to probation for a first offense and not jail time. Probation usually requires checking in with a probation officer, paying fines, receiving counseling, and staying away from the location of the crime in some instances.

While the penalties have the potential to be severe, you will not have to register as a sex offender as a result of this conviction. 

You Could Be Charged With Indecent Exposure 

California’s indecent exposure laws penalize a person for willfully exposing their genitals or naked body in public places in a manner that’s intended to be offensive or is likely to offend or annoy others. 

This means that engaging in sexual activities in a car that is visible to the public could certainly lead to an arrest and a charge of indecent exposure. 

Indecent Exposure Penalties

While there is sometimes a perception that an indecent exposure conviction in California is not that severe, it can actually carry quite significant consequences. Most first-time offenses are misdemeanors that carry up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, those with a prior conviction face more serious penalties: it will be charged as a felony and carries 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000. 

Arguably, the most devastating consequence of this conviction is the requirement to register as a sex offender for up to 10 years. 

There are several defenses available to individuals charged with crimes like lewd conduct in public or indecent exposure, depending on the specific circumstances of your case. These defenses most often include: 

Expectation of Privacy

This defense involves arguing that the act occurred in a place where the defendant had an expectation of privacy and had no reason to anticipate public exposure. 

Mistaken Identity

A criminal defense attorney could also argue that the accused was wrongly identified, challenging the accuracy of witness identification or other evidence pointing to the defendant.

False Accusation

This defense asserts that the charges stem from a misunderstanding, exaggeration, or even malicious intent, arguing that the defendant was falsely accused and the incident did not occur as alleged.

Contact a San Diego Sex Crimes Attorney at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers Today For Help

If you’ve been accused of a crime for having sex in a vehicle, there are defenses and ways to challenge the charges against you. If you need help, contact us today to schedule a free consultation with a San Diego sex crimes defense lawyer.

For more information, please contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation, give us a call at (619) 357-4977, or visit our convenient location:

Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers – San Diego Criminal Defense Law Firm
255 Broadway, Ste 1740. San Diego, CA. 92101