Penal Code 647 PC
Understanding California Penal Code 647 PC
California Penal Code 647 PC covers a range of offenses commonly referred to as “disorderly conduct.” This section of the penal code includes laws against things like lewd conduct, prostitution, loitering, public intoxication, and invasion of privacy. While charges under this code section are misdemeanors, they can still carry jail time, fines, and other penalties if convicted.
Lewd Conduct – Penal Code 647(a)
Penal Code 647(a) makes it a crime to engage in “lewd or dissolute conduct” in any public place or any place open to public view. This covers things like public masturbation, public sex acts, mooning, public urination or defecation, and other obscene displays. Lewd conduct does not require any physical touching – flashing or other indecent exposures can qualify.
To be convicted under 647(a), the prosecution must prove:
- The defendant willfully engaged in touching themselves or someone else sexually
- The touching was done with intent to arouse themselves or others sexually, or to annoy or offend someone else
- The conduct occurred in a public place or somewhere open to public view
- The defendant knew or reasonably should have known another person was present who could be offended
Potential defenses against a lewd conduct charge include:
- The conduct did not occur in public or a place open to the public
- The conduct was not sexually motivated
- There were no other people present who could be offended
- The defendant did not act willfully (it was an accident)
Lewd conduct under 647(a) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. It does not require registering as a sex offender in California.
Prostitution – Penal Code 647(b)
Penal Code 647(b) prohibits soliciting, agreeing to, or engaging in prostitution. Under this code section:
- Soliciting prostitution means requesting or offering a sex act in exchange for money or something else of value
- Agreeing to prostitution means accepting an offer or solicitation to trade sex for something of value
- Engaging in prostitution means participating in a sex act for compensation
Potential defenses against a 647(b) charge include:
- There was no agreement to commit prostitution
- The defendant was falsely accused (set up)
- The defendant was a victim of human trafficking
Like other disorderly conduct charges, prostitution under 647(b) is a misdemeanor in California. Potential penalties if convicted include up to 6 months in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
Panhandling – Penal Code 647(c)
Penal Code 647(c) prohibits aggressive panhandling in public places. Also known as “begging” or “soliciting alms,” panhandling refers to asking people for money or donations. Under 647(c), it is illegal to accost someone in a public place and ask for donations. Potential defenses include:
- The defendant was not aggressively panhandling
- The solicitation did not take place in public
- The defendant was unlawfully profiled or targeted
Panhandling is a misdemeanor under 647(c) and carries a maximum 6 month jail sentence and $1,000 fine if convicted.
Public Intoxication – Penal Code 647(f)
Penal Code 647(f) prohibits being intoxicated in public to the point where you are unable to care for your own safety or are interfering with or obstructing other people. Potential defenses include:
- The defendant was not under the influence or intoxicated
- The defendant was safely in a lawful location
- The defendant did not obstruct or interfere with others
Public intoxication is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.
Loitering – Penal Code 647(h)
Penal Code 647(h) prohibits loitering on someone else’s property for the purpose of committing a crime. This covers things like trespassing or prowling. Potential defenses include:
- The defendant was not loitering
- The defendant did not possess criminal intent
- The defendant had permission to be on the property
Loitering under 647(h) is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum 6 month jail sentence and $1,000 fine.
Invasion of Privacy – Penal Code 647(j)
Penal Code 647(j) prohibits certain invasions of privacy, such as:
- Using a device to peep into someone’s private room
- Using a hidden camera to secretly record under someone’s clothes
- Photographing or recording someone in a private room without permission
Defenses against invasion of privacy charges can include:
- There was no attempt to invade reasonable privacy expectations
- The defendant was falsely accused
- The recording or viewing was accidental or unintentional
Invasion of privacy under Penal Code 647(j) is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum 6 month jail sentence and $1,000 fine.
Penalties for Conviction
Most disorderly conduct charges under Penal Code 647 are misdemeanor offenses. If convicted, potential penalties can include:
- Up to 6 months in county jail
- Fines up to $1,000
- Informal probation
- Community service
- Counseling or treatment programs
- Restitution to victims
While these offenses do not require registering as a sex offender, they can still impact things like immigration status, professional licensing, and future employment. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help minimize penalties and protect your rights if facing charges.
Other laws related to disorderly conduct charges include:
- Penal Code 415 PC – Disturbing the Peace
- Penal Code 602 PC – Trespassing
- Penal Code 314 PC – Indecent Exposure
An attorney may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed through plea bargaining. For example, they may be able to negotiate a disturbing the peace charge instead of a more serious lewd conduct accusation.
Getting Legal Help
Facing misdemeanor charges under California Penal Code 647 PC can have consequences that go beyond potential fines and jail time. Experienced criminal defense lawyers can often negotiate reduced charges or punishments and protect your rights. If you are being investigated or charged under this code section, it is advisable to consult with an attorney as early in the process as possible.
Getting Legal Help
Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can make all the difference in disorderly conduct cases. A lawyer may be able to get charges reduced or even dismissed through plea bargaining or by challenging the evidence. They can also advocate for alternatives to jail time such as probation, community service, or counseling.
An attorney can advise you on the best defense strategies for your unique situation. They can also walk you through the process and protect your rights at every stage, from arrest through trial and sentencing.
Find an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing Penal Code 647 charges, it is critical to speak with a criminal defense lawyer right away. Try to consult with an attorney experienced in handling disorderly conduct cases before your first court appearance.
When researching attorneys, look for ones with proven track records of favorable case results. Ask about their experience negotiating with prosecutors or taking these types of cases to trial. Be sure they are familiar with the local courts and judges.
Meet with or have phone consultations with a few attorneys before deciding who to hire. Many provide free case evaluations where they can assess the charges and advise you on possible outcomes. Choose a criminal defense lawyer you feel comfortable with and who instills confidence they can deliver the best resolution to your case.
Early Intervention Can Be Key
Involving an attorney early in the process can sometimes lead to charges being dropped before a case ever goes to court. Or they may be able to negotiate a plea deal to lesser charges to avoid a conviction on your record.
Even if a trial is unavoidable, an experienced lawyer can thoroughly prepare a defense strategy and represent you in working for the best possible outcome.
Do not wait to consult with an attorney if you have been arrested or charged with a Penal Code 647 violation. The sooner you have expert legal guidance, the better your chances of minimizing penalties and avoiding long-term consequences.