Contact Us for a Free Consultation (213) 542-0979


Is It Legal to Have Sex in a Car?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding | Jun 05, 2024

No California law specifically prohibits people from having sex in a car. However, having sex in a vehicle in public view could potentially result in criminal charges, such as lewd conduct in public or indecent exposure.

Suppose you have sex in your car with someone in the middle of nowhere, and there are no other people around to see it. In that case, it's not a crime. The primary factor that can turn this into a criminal offense is whether it occurs in public view.

Is It Legal to Have Sex in a Car?
No laws prohibit having sex in a car, but you might be charged with lewd conduct in public.

Simply put, no law says it is illegal to have sex in a car, but there are related laws that say it's illegal to participate in or solicit lewd or dissolute conduct in a public location or public view, codified California Penal Code 647(a) PC.

Thus, it is potentially illegal to have sex in a car that is parked in a public location or a car that is parked on private property but given to the public.

PC 647(a) prohibits lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place, which is described as willfully touching female breasts, genitalia, or buttocks for the purpose of sexual gratification or sexual arousal.

If the intent is not gratification or arousal but to offend somebody who may see the conduct, it is also considered lewd or dissolute conduct.

To be charged with lewd conduct under Penal Code Section 647(a) PC, the sexual conduct must be in a public place, in a place open to the public, or in a place in public view.

Having sex or sexual contact in a vehicle that is in a place accessible to the public is illegal, including a park, a side street, an alley, a beach, or anywhere that is not private property.

If you have sex in a car parked on a driveway or in a yard that is in full public view, it's also illegal. Having sex on private property obstructed from public view is always legal, such as when your car is parked on your property and fences or trees obscure the view from the street.

Having Sex in a Vehicle - Quick Facts

  • While no specific California statute directly addresses having sex in the vehicle, it can still break several other laws.
  • If you engage in sexual conduct in a car in a public area and within public view, you could be charged with a crime.
  • Public sex may violate numerous California statutes.
  • Private parts refer to the genitals, the buttocks, or the female breast.
  • A prohibited public act generally affects people in a community.
  • Whether or not sex is considered a public act affecting people will usually depend on the case details.
  • Sexual or lewd acts can be considered public if they occurred in a car in a parking lot or public city park and were visible to people passing by.
  • You may be charged with Penal Code 647(a) PC lewd conduct in public, Penal Code 314 PC indecent exposure, or Penal Code 647 PC disorderly conduct.
  • Lewd conduct in public means somebody touches their private parts, or those of another person, for sexual gratification and does so when they know, or should know, that there are people present who could be offended.

Sex in a Car with a Prostitute - Quick Facts

  • Having sex in a car in public related to prostitution can expose you to criminal charges of Penal Code 647(b) PC solicitation of prostitution.
  • Penal Code 266h and 266 PC defines the crime of pimping and pandering.
  • Related Penal Code 653.22 PC is loitering to commit prostitution, and Penal Code 653.23 PC defines supervising or aiding a prostitute.
  • Some sex crime convictions require PC 290 sex offender registration.

Which Crimes Can Be Filed for Public Sex?

Suppose you're arrested for having sex in a car. In that case, as discussed, you could potentially face various California criminal charges depending on the circumstances of your case, such as the following:

  • Penal Code 647(a) - Lewd Conduct in Public. This law prohibits engaging in any act of lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place, including touching somebody's private parts or your own private parts for the purposes of sexual gratification. Notably, PC 647(a) is the most common statute charged for having sex in a car in public view.
  • Penal Code 314 PC - Indecent Exposure. This law prohibits someone from intentionally exposing their private parts in a public area or any place where someone could be offended or annoyed by such behavior.
  • Penal Code 647(b) PC - Solicitation of Prostitution. This infamous law prohibits exchanging sexual services for money or other forms of compensation.
  • Penal Code 415 PC - Disturbing the Peace. This law defines engaging in loud, unreasonable, or offensive behavior toward others.

What Are the Possible Penalties?

Most criminal charges for public sex are misdemeanors that carry the following punishments, such as the following:

  • Six months and one year in county jail, plus fines up to $1000.
  • In most cases, the judge will impost summary probation only.
  • Indecent exposure and lewd conduct can qualify as sex crimes under California law and carry the requirement to register as a sex offender.
  • If you are convicted of a sex crime related to the incident in a vehicle, you might be included on the sex offender registry for at least ten years (tier-one).
  • Sex offender registration means you must register with local police every year within five days of your birthday and five days of moving.
  • Being a registered sex offender can also impact where you're allowed to live and where you can work.

What are the Defenses?

If you're facing charges related to sex in a vehicle, our California criminal defense lawyers can use several strategies on your behalf, as discussed below.

Perhaps we can argue there was no willful intent. Maybe we can say that any exposure or act wasn't intentional or meant to be seen by the public, but this defense would require evidence that you had no intention for your actions to be viewed publicly.

Perhaps we can argue the location was on private property. If your vehicle was on private property obstructed from public view, you should not be convicted of any crime.

Perhaps we can argue there was no public view. If your car was in a public area, but no one was around to see it, then it's not a crime or could be used to minimize the sentencing.

Related Content:

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding

What Makes Ronald Hedding Uniquely Qualified To Represent You? I've been practicing criminal defense for almost 30 years and have handled thousands of cases, including all types of state and federal sex crime cases. All consultations are discreet and confidential.