Charged with Public Lewdness in New York ?

Published on
November 14, 2023
Nicholas Balboni
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Even if you are never convicted, an arrest alone for public lewdness can be both embarrassing and life altering. If you are charged with public lewdness it is essential to secure the right representation in order to prevent these charges from following you for life.

What is public lewdness?

Under New York State Penal Law § 245.00, a person is guilty of public lewdness when he or she “intentionally exposes the private or intimate parts of his or her body in a lewd manner or commits any other lewd act”. However, the Prosecutor must also show that the lewd act was committed either (1) in a public place; (2) in private premises but in such a manner that the individual could be readily observed, and that he or she intended to be observed; or (3) while trespassing in a dwelling, and with the intent to be observed by a lawful occupant. 

What have courts considered to be public lewdness?

Court have established that not every instance of nudity in public constitutes the offense of public lewdness. Rather, the Courts will look at a range of factors in order to determine if an individual’s actions rise to the level of a criminal offense. For example, In Matter of Jeffrey V., 586 N.Y.S.2d 18, 18 (1992) the Court found that a defendant’s actions of yelling vulgar comments, while exposing and grabbing his penis, while shouting “stare at this” met the standard for what is considered public lewdness. Similarly, in the case of People v. Topy, 2002 WL 493146 (N.Y. App. Term 2002) that a defendant standing naked while moving hips in a “sexual manner” in front of a restaurant was enough to constitute public lewdness.

In contrast, in People v. Gilbert, 338 N.Y.S.2d 457 (Crim. Ct. 1972), the Defendant removed her bathing suit on a public beach and was completely nude for approximately 90 minutes, during which time she engaged in various activities including playing with a ball, waving at a passing boat, sunbathing and applying suntan lotion to the front of her body, including her breasts and down to her pelvis. Despite the Defendant’s activities, engagement with other beach-goers, and the duration of her exposure, the Court found her actions did not rise to the level of “lewdness.”

What are the possible punishments for public lewdness and its related offenses?

The punishment for public lewdness and its related offenses can vary greatly. For instance, if you are found guilty of New York Penal Law §245.01, exposure of a person, then you will have a violation on your record and could face up to 15 days of incarceration. If you are convicted of public lewdness under New York Penal Law § 245.00, you will have a B misdemeanor on your record and face up to 90 days in jail. However, rather than jail time, a Court may mandate that you complete a program, pay a fine, complete community service, and/or be placed on probation.

The first step to resolving a public lewdness case is to understand the accusations and charges against you. Contact the Balboni Law Firm for a free consultation.