Defining Lewd and Lascivious Conduct

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In the legal arena of sexual crimes there is terminology which is used and thought to be understood by most people.  In this case the terms "Lewd and Lascivious" are generally understood by most people as sexual acts that are found offensive, particularly in public.  In a legal context this definition is rather broad and not always accurate depending upon the state in which it is being used.

Lewd and Lascivious Conduct Defined

There are going to be differences from state to state according to the wording of statutes as they are written.  What follows are certain definitions the terms have been used to describe and are currently used to describe in given situations.  They are not the exact meanings for all states in all situations.

  1. Lewd and Lascivious can be in reference to conduct which people living together but are not married engage in.
  2. Lewd and Lascivious can refer to entertainment which is geared toward arousing the libido in others or arousing sexual sensations.
  3. Lewd and Lascivious behavior includes the open solicitation for prostitution.
  4. Lewd and Lascivious conduct includes indecent exposure of genitalia.

California Penal Code §314

Using California law as an example the following issues fall under the category of "Lewd and Lascivious" Conduct.

They include those who willfully and lewdly:

  1. Expose themselves or any of their private parts in any public location, or in a location where other people are congregated (a public setting) and can be offended or annoyed thereby; or
  2. Assists or in some way counsels another person to expose him/herself or take place in some other way in the exhibition of him/herself in a public arena.  This includes allowing others to view him or her in a way that would be found offensive and/or indecent, or in such a way that it excites other to vicious or lewd thoughts and/or actions.  These actions would constitute a misdemeanor. Repeated convictions can lead to being guilty of a felony punishable by time in a state prison.

The California Penal Code 288 states the following:


(a) Any person who willfully and lewdly commits any lewd or lascivious act, including any of the acts constituting other crimes provided for in Part 1, upon or with the body, or any part or member thereof, of a child who is under the age of 14 years, with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of that person or the child, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years.

(b) (1) Any person who commits an act described in subdivision (a) by use of force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for three, six, or eight years."

Definitions of Lascivious Mailings

According to 18 USC § 1461 as interpreted in Manual Enterprises, Inc. V. Day, 370 U.S. 478, 482-484 (1962), the following matter is prohibited from being mailed:

"Every obscene, lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article, matter, thing, device, or substance ... [i]s declared to be non-mailable matter and shall not be conveyed in the mails or delivered from any post office or by any letter carrier."

Additional Definitions

Additional definitions of Lewd and Lascivious Conduct include indecent acts of sexual gratification with another person while aware that these behaviors are being acted out in the presence of others (in a public setting), or publicly and in an indecent manner exposing genitals.   In this case the convicted individual is guilty of lewd and lascivious behavior and is committing a Class A misdemeanor. The sole exception would be a female breast-feeding her child, which is not considered to be lewd or lascivious conduct.

Contact Criminal Attorney

For exact definitions for "Lewd and Lascivious" you will want to contact a criminal attorney who works in the state and jurisdiction for which you live.  He or she can give you an accurate legal definition and potential penalties for violation of these laws.