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Is It Illegal to Have Sex in a Car or in Public?

There are no specific laws that prohibit a couple from having sex in a car; however, having any type of sexual relations in a vehicle in public can result in a violation of disorderly conduct laws.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What Happens if You Are Caught Having Sex in a Car?

If you are convicted of disorderly conduct for having sex in a car, it is a misdemeanor offense in most states. Guilty parties could face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. More importantly, the disorderly conduct conviction will stay on your record for life (unless you later qualify for a dismissal).

Is it Illegal to Have Sex in Public?

Yes. Sex in a public place can lead to embarrassing criminal charges for disorderly conduct, indecent exposure, or public lewdness.

  • Indecent Exposure - Intentional public exposure of a person's genitals is considered indecent exposure or public indecency. Because genitalia may be exposed during public sex, those caught in the act can face indecency charges.
  • Public Lewdness - A couple who has sex in a car could be breaking laws prohibiting public lewdness. Lewd acts are specified by the obscenity standards of the state in which they are enacted. A statute might specifically prohibit public sexual intercourse, sexual acts, or other acts of a lewd, lascivious, or sexual nature that would offend or alarm members of the public.
  • Disorderly Conduct - Several U.S. states penalize acts of lewd or indecent behavior under their disorderly conduct laws. For example, California Penal Code § 647 makes it a disorderly conduct offense to engage in lewd conduct in a public place or place exposed to public view.

Do You Have to Register as a Sex Offender if You Are Caught Having Sex in a Car?

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense, there is the possibility that you will need to register as a sex offender following a conviction for either public indecency or indecent exposure. With a public indecency charge, this is not always required. However, for indecent exposure, you will need to register as a sex offender for life.

Legal Defenses for a Lewd Conduct Charge

Several legal strategies can help you avoid conviction for public indecency or indecent exposure. Common defenses include proving that the car was not in a public place or that the accused was not having sex inside the car. Another defense involves proving that the defendant(s) were falsely accused of the crime.

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