Open Lewdness in PA (Maximum Penalties and Defenses)

Open Lewdness is a criminal charge in PA. It can carry with it a lifetime of problems…. if you choose the wrong attorney. When it comes to finding the best Pennsylvania Sex Crimes attorney, we are it. 


The Law

You can read the entire statute here: 18 PS § 5901 (Open Lewdness). While it is short and sweet, it is nuanced. 

As always the government and the government alone has a case that it has to make. Under the law, you are innocent. The government must overcome this default not guilty with credible and actual evidence. The government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:

  1. the accused
  2. did any lewd act
  3. knowing it is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed.

So the nuance comes with the following questions:

What is or is not a lewd act?

Walking through a parking lot in a T-shirt and underwear does not constitute the crime of open lewdness.

Masturbating in a public parking lot parked in an area where high foot traffic existed in a conspicuous manner is a lewd act.

A man who was masturbating and exposing his genitals in his own back yard, which was visible from the victims’ home as well as an apartment occupied by another was open lewdness.

Being nude in one’s own house with windows open in and of itself is not the crime of open lewdness.

What are some examples of “knowing it is likely to be observed by others who would be affronted or alarmed”

A conviction for Open lewdness only happens when defendant’s lewd conduct occurs in a place and at a time when it is likely to be observed by persons who have not consented to its occurrence. Alternatively, the crime only occurs when those who have observed the lewd act not specially positioned themselves in such a manner as to be able to observe it. In other words, you get what you look for.

For example, a striptease in a bar viewed only by those who paid a $6 admission fee to view that specific performance was not open lewdness. It occurred in a confined space not accessible to the general, unsuspecting public. Further, they were the very acts the observers bargained for.

Megan’s Law and Sexually Violent Predator Considerations

A conviction for Open Lewdness in PA does not trigger Megan’s Law. The court cannot find you to be a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) simply based upon this conviction.

Maximum Penalties

Open Lewdness is a misdemeanor of the third degree. As such the potential penalty is no more than one year in prison and a fine not to exceed $2500. You also have to consider all lifelong consequences with this charge. A criminal conviction will be on your record forever. Imagine trying to explain this conviction to a potential employer. Here are some other consequences to consider: Misdemeanor Conviction Consequences in Pennsylvania