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Lewd Conduct

In New Jersey, lewd conduct (or “lewdness”) can be charged as either a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree crime. A disorderly persons offense is roughly comparable to a misdemeanor in other states, while a fourth-degree crime is the equivalent of a lower-level felony. Both types of offenses carry the possibility of steep fines and jail time, and anyone charged with lewd conduct in New Jersey should seek experienced legal representation.

What Constitutes “Lewd Conduct” in New Jersey?

For purposes of criminal prosecution, “lewd conduct” has a specific definition under New Jersey law. To face prosecution under Section 2C:14-4, a person must be guilty of, “exposing of the genitals for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person.” In other words, a person exposing their private parts for a sexual purporse is considered lewd conduct. 

Section 2C:14-4 of the New Jersey Statutes defines three separate forms of lewd conduct:

  • It is a disorderly persons offense to commit, “any flagrantly lewd and offensive act which [the actor] knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other nonconsenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.”
  • It is a fourth-degree crime for a person to expose his or her intimate parts, “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person [if] 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.”
  • It is a fourth-degree crime for a person to expose his or her intimate parts, “for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person [if] 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.”

The fourth-degree lewdness offenses are also commonly referred to as indecent exposure.

What are the Penalties for Lewd Conduct?

The penalties you are facing depend on whether you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense or a fourth-degree crime. A disorderly persons offense carries the potential for a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine. A fourth-degree lewdness conviction can result in up to an 18-month prison sentence and $10,000 in fines.

What are Some Potential Defenses to Lewd Conduct Charges?

All three offenses outlined in New Jersey’s lewdness statute require that the actor “know[] or reasonably expect[]” that he or she is being observed by someone else. If you thought you were in private, this may provide a defense to culpability. There are a variety of other potential defenses as well, and when you contact us about your case we will provide a comprehensive assessment of the defenses you may have available.

Some examples of additional defenses a New Jersey lewd conduct attorney at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman may be able to assert on your behalf include:


● You did not commit a “lewd act” as defined in Section 2C:14-4. In order to
secure a conviction for lewd conduct, the prosecution must be able to prove that
you committed a “lewd act” as defined by New Jersey law. If you did not expose
your genitals for the purpose of arousal or other sexual reason, then you are not guilty of lewd conduct.


● You did not expect anyone who witnessed your act to be nonconsenting.
Proving guilt for lewd conduct also requires proof that you knew or reasonably
expected your act to be observed by a “nonconsenting person.” If you did not
mean or expect to make anyone uncomfortable, then you are not guilty of a
disorderly persons offense.


● You did not expect anyone who witnessed your act to be offended or
alarmed. In addition to proving that you knew or reasonably expected that your
act would be observed by a nonconsenting person, the prosecutor’s office must also prove that you knew or reasonably expected that this person would feel
“affronted or alarmed.” Again, if this is not the case, then you are not guilty of the crime alleged.


● You did not expect your act to be witnessed by a minor or an individual
with a mental disease or defect. If you have been charged with a fourth-degree
indictable crime for exposing yourself to a child or a mentally-disabled adult, you
can defend against your charge by disputing the prosecution’s evidence that you
knew or reasonably expected a child or mentally-disabled adult to witness your
act.


● The prosecutor’s office does not have sufficient admissible evidence to
convict you. In many cases, lewd conduct charges are based on statements
made by witnesses or individuals who learned about your alleged conduct
second-hand. If your accuser’s statements are inadmissible hearsay or are
otherwise insufficient to serve as evidence in a criminal case, then the
prosecution may not be able to meet its burden of proving your guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt.


Regardless of the circumstances involved, you are facing possible fines and jail time,and you need to defend yourself by all means available. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, our sex crime lawyers have experience defending clients against lewd conduct charges throughout New Jersey, and we can use our experience to help you avoid unnecessary consequences.

Does a Disorderly Persons Offense Go on Your Criminal Record?

Yes. While technically not a “crime,” a disorderly persons offense will still go on your criminal record. This means that it will show up in background checks conducted by law enforcement and potential employers, and it may also prevent you from obtaining (or maintaining) a professional license or securing your desired immigration status. A lewdness conviction can have a variety of other practical and long-term consequences as well.

Speak with a Lewd Conduct Defense Lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman

For more information about your situation, contact the criminal defense lawyers at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman. Our firm has multiple offices locations throughout New Jersey, and our attorneys handle lewd conduct cases statewide. To request a confidential case assessment, call 1-877-435-6371 or contact our firm online now.

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