Most people have gotten a little hot and heavy in a car after date night. It is particularly popular amongst young people who may have nowhere private to have sex because of housemates or living at home with their parents. There is no criminal law that explicitly prohibits people from having sex in a car. But did you know you could be convicted of a misdemeanor crime if you have sex in a car in any place open to the public or exposed to public view? The criminal charge is generally disorder conduct, indecent exposure, or public indecency. In this article, we will explain when it is legal and when it is illegal to have sex in a car in California.
Is Having Sex in a Car in California Legal?
Having sex or engaging in lewd conduct in a public place or in view of the public is illegal in California. Therefore, if the car is parked in a public place or in view of the public, then it is illegal to have sex in your car. If you are caught by the police, you risk being charged with a sex crime as per 647(a) PC. Penal Code 647(a) states:
An individual who solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.
647(a) PC does not only make it illegal to have sexual intercourse in a public place; it also mentions lewd or dissolute conduct. The legal definition of lewd or dissolute conduct is the willful touching of another person’s female breast, buttocks, or genitals with the intention of sexual arousal or gratification. It also counts the aforementioned behavior with the intention of offending anyone who may see.
In this photo above, a couple is making out in the car. If they are about to have sex in the car and the car is located in the woods away from the public, it may be legal. However, if the car is located in a parking lot at the shopping mall, that is in public view and is illegal.
When Is It Legal to Have Sex in a Car in California?
The law only prohibits sex in public places or in view of the public. Therefore, if you are having sex in your car which is parked on private property and out of view of the public, it is perfectly legal. A car parked on a driveway or front lawn that can be seen by passersby on the street would be illegal to have sex in. If it is parked somewhere where fences or hedges obscure it from public view, then it is not illegal to have sex in the car.
Can I Be Charged With a Felony For Having Sex in My Car?
No, luckily for most people, lewd or dissolute conduct is charged as a misdemeanor, not a felony. It is also one of the very few sex crimes that do not require you to register as a sex offender in California. As a misdemeanor offense, having sex in your car in public may result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in county jail.
What Are My Legal Options If I Am Arrested For Having Sex in a Car in California?
The state has the burden of proof to show that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the right to hire a criminal defense attorney to defend you against the charges (and you should do so.)
Your criminal defense attorney will review the case and evidence against you and choose a defense that is best for your case. Common legal defenses are:
- You were entrapped by the police
- The police violated your Constitutional rights in some way
- You were not in a public place while having sex or in view of the public
- You were not having sex or engaging in lewd or dissolute conduct
- You were touching genitals, but not for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification
- You had the reasonable belief that your behavior would not cause offense to anyone present
What happens if you are caught for having sex in the car?
When a person is caught having sex in the car in public view, the penalties may include:
- Up to $2000 fine
- Imprisonment in a county jail up to one year
A person convicted for having sex in the car in public view does not have to register as a sex offender.