Lewdness - New Jersey Law 2C:14-4

Lewdness is offensive behavior, which you know, or reasonably should know, will be seen by another non-consenting person.

A common example of lewdness is the exposure of your private parts in public. 

Lewdness is generally charged as a Disorderly Persons offense (misdemeanor).

Under certain circumstances, lewdness may be charged as a 4th-degree indictable offense.

Lewdness charges arise in situations where you are intoxicated & your judgment is impaired. Unfortunately, it is a sex crime & the consequences can be devastating. In addition to facing incarceration, you will get a criminal conviction & must wait many years to clean your record.

As New Jersey criminal lawyers, we have successfully represented countless clients charged with lewdness in nearby counties & cities.

When is lewdness a felony charge?

Lewdness is a 4th-degree felony under two circumstances:

1) You expose your intimate body parts:
  • For the purpose of arousing or gratifying …
  • The sexual desire of yourself or another person …
  • When you knew or reasonably expected to know that your act would be seen by a child of fewer than 13 years old …
  • And you were at least four years older than the child.
2) You expose your intimate body parts:
  • For the purpose of arousing or gratifying …
  • The sexual desire of yourself or another person …
  • When you knew or reasonably expected to know that your act would be seen by a person who because of mental disease or defect is unable to understand the sexual nature of your act.

When is lewdness a misdemeanor charge?

Lewdness is a misdemeanor when:

  • You do a flagrantly lewd and offensive act …
  • Which you know or reasonably expect …
  • Is likely to be observed by another non-consenting person …
  • Who would be affronted or alarmed by your act

Lewdness Examples

Some example of lewdness are:

  • Having sex on a beach where people could be expected to see you
  • Urinating in public
  • Having sex in your car where somebody might see you.
  • Mooning (exposing your buttocks) to a crowd of people.
  • Sitting on a park bench with your genitals exposed.
  • Masturbating in your car, while parked in an area where other people might see you.
  • Having sex in a room where children or a mentally disabled person might wander in.

Important:

Lewdness cases are fact sensitive. This means that the prosecutor must prove that you had the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of yourself or another person. They must also prove that you had to know or should have known that somebody might see you.

In many lewdness cases, people are embarrassed that the police caught them with their pants down. As a result, people argue with the police and get arrested for resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, and criminal mischief.

Which NJ court handles Lewdness cases?

If your lewdness charge is a disorderly persons offense, then it will be heard at the local Municipal Court. Don’t take these court cases lightly. If you plead guilty or are found guilty of a lewdness charge, it will affect your employment. These convictions will show up on a background check & you may have trouble finding and/or maintaining employment.

If you are charged with lewdness as a fourth-degree felony, then it will be heard at the county Superior Court.

For instance, if you were caught having sex in the bathroom of a bar, it would likely be a misdemeanor charge. On the other hand, if you were caught having sex in a public park, it would likely be a felony charge because children play in public parks and it is reasonable to think they might see you.

Is Lewdness a big deal?

Judges and prosecutors take this offense seriously.

Whether you are in Municipal or Superior Court, the Judge wants the community to be safe from “sexual deviants”.

Prosecutors have the same incentive. They are very tough on people charged with lewdness. Lewdness victims are traumatized by what they saw. If a child witnesses an act of lewdness, you could face a felony endangering the welfare of a child charge. If you have a family of your own, DYFS will investigate you.

Lewdness penalties

For a misdemeanor charge, the penalties for a conviction are:

  • Up to six months in jail.
  • Up to $1,000 in fines.
  • Court costs of $33
  • Additional assessments of around $125.

 

For a fourth-degree felony charge, the penalties for a conviction are:

  • Up to 18 months in state prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Additional assessments of around $200

 

In addition, you will get a criminal record. The record may be expunged after a period of time. However, until and unless you expunge the record, the conviction will remain on your record.

Will I be required to register as a sex offender?

A lewdness conviction usually will not subject you to registration under Megan’s law. However, if charged with lewdness, you may also have been charged with other crimes which do make you subject to Megan’s law. 

lewdness & Immigration Consequences

Any crime that is considered a crime of moral turpitude will have serious consequences for a non-citizen. Lewdness is usually considered such a crime. If charged with lewdness, and your immigration status is an issue, you should meet with us.

Will a lewdness conviction hurt me?

Many employers have a very poor opinion of anyone convicted of a sex crime, and many other people consider lewd behavior to be despicable. Therefore, even if your conviction is a misdemeanor, it can hurt you.

fighting lewdness charges

If you’ve been charged with a lewdness ,you will have the following options:

Plead Guilty

You will have to admit what you did under oath. This option will leave you with a criminal conviction and it will show up a background check.

Plead Guilty to a Downgraded Charge

This is one aspect of plea bargaining. Instead of admitting that you committed lewdness, we will work out a deal with the prosecutor where you plea guilty to a lesser offense.

Go To Trial & Get Acquitted

This means that a judge or jury listened to all of the evidence & decided that you are not guilty of committing lewdness

Go To Trial & Get Convicted

This means that the judge listened to all of the evidence & decided that you did commit lewdness.

Defenses & Strategies

We use a number of strategies to fight the charge. Before devising a strategy, we need to have a complete understanding of the facts of the case. We need to know all the evidence that the prosecutor and police have against you.

If the state cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge may be dismissed.

Another favorable result may be a downgrade to a lesser offense such as a municipal ordinance. A municipal ordinance is the lowest offense in New Jersey. It is not a crime. Therefore, it would be not a criminal conviction on your record nor would jail time be imposed.  

NJ Lewdness Law

  1. A person commits a disorderly persons offense if he does any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.
  2. A person commits a crime of the fourth degree if;
  3. He exposes his intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person under circumstances where the actor knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a child who is less than 13 years of age where the actor is at least four years older than the child.
  4. He exposes his intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person under circumstances where the actor knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a person who because of mental disease or defect is unable to understand the sexual nature of the actor’s conduct.
  5. As used in this section, “lewd acts” shall include the exposing of the genitals for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person. 

If I'm convicted at trial, can I appeal?

Yes.

Although appeals can be expensive, it’s definitely worth the money to try.
If you feel that you didn’t get a fair trial or that certain evidence was irrelevant or missing, an appeal is a way to go.
We highly recommend that you hire an aggressive, criminal lawyer to represent you for your appeal.
There are specific steps that must be taken to (intelligently) file an appeal.
Please do not try to do this alone, get help!

Our Experience

You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.

Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.

How We Can Help

Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, we are here to defend & protect you. Whether you are facing a restraining order, drug charge, theft charge, or aggravated assault charge, we are here to help you. Even a DWI case can really complicate your life.

If we can’t get your charges dismissed, we can either get them downgraded or place you in a diversionary program. The point is, our criminal defense lawyers will fight tirelessly to get you the best result possible. Take advantage of our free consultation to see how we can help.

Our Practice Areas

Below, you will find a few of our practice areas.

Areas We Serve

Our Hackensack criminal lawyers represent clients in Bergen County & nearby counties & cities. 

Get Help With Your Case

How Do Your Free Consultations Work?

There are plenty of excellent Hackensack criminal lawyers in our area. Most, if not all of them, offer free, 20-minute, consultations. However, our free consultations do not have a time limit. You will never feel rushed.

The best way for us to help you is to patiently listen to your side of the story. Your version of events will serve as the basis for your legal defense. It is during these initial meetings that your memory of the event is fresh in your mind. Why we would rush you during such an important aspect of your case.

We understand that your choice of attorney could mean the difference between your freedom and spending years behind bars. 

When you hire an attorney, you are entering a long-term relationship. For this reason, it is important that you feel comfortable with the team of Hackensack criminal lawyers that will represent you.

What our clients say about us

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A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

a. Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;
b. Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;
c. Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;
d. Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;
e. Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
f. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
g. Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

***It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a “search” standard that applies in criminal law.

When a police officer conducts a warrantless search, and does not have probable cause to justify the search, the courts look to see if the police had
a “reasonable & articulable suspicion” for the search.

A mere “hunch” is not enough.

In other words, a police officer has to provide an acceptable explanation for the search.

United States Constitution

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

NJSA - 2C:43-7.2.
Eligibility for parole;
persons convicted of certain violent crimes

a. A court imposing a sentence of incarceration for a crime of the first or second degree enumerated in subsection d. of this section shall fix a minimum term of 85% of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.


b. The minimum term required by subsection a. of this section shall be fixed as a part of every sentence of incarceration imposed upon every conviction of a crime enumerated in subsection d. of this section, whether the sentence of incarceration is determined pursuant to N.J.S.2C:43-6, N.J.S.2C:43-7, N.J.S.2C:11-3 or any other provision of law, and shall be calculated based upon the sentence of incarceration actually imposed. The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall not be construed or applied to reduce the time that must be served before eligibility for parole by an inmate sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. Solely for the purpose of calculating the minimum term of parole ineligibility pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a sentence of life imprisonment shall be deemed to be 75 years.


c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and in addition to any other sentence imposed, a court imposing a minimum period of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence pursuant to this section shall also impose a five-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the first degree, or a three-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the second degree. The term of parole supervision shall commence upon the completion of the sentence of incarceration imposed by the court pursuant to subsection a. of this section unless the defendant is serving a sentence of incarceration for another crime at the time he completes the sentence of incarceration imposed pursuant to subsection a., in which case the term of parole supervision shall commence immediately upon the defendant’s release from incarceration. During the term of parole supervision the defendant shall remain in release status in the community in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and shall be supervised by the State Parole Board as if on parole and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines

Examples

First-Degree

1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses. Prison terms start at a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Second-Degree

2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison.
These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.

Third-Degree

3rd-degree felony charges carry 3-5 years.
You have a good shot at PTI if you are charged with a 3rd-degree.

Fourth-Degree

4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. These cases can get “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.