LEWD, WANTON, AND LASCIVIOUS ACT
In Massachusetts Sex Crimes is a broad category of criminal offenses. One such crime punishable under M.G.L. Chapter 272, Section 53 is Lewd, Wanton and Lascivious Act, or sexual touching in a public place that does not rise to the level of a completed sexual act.
What does Commonwealth law say on the offense of committing a lewd, wanton, and lascivious act?
Lewd, Wanton, and Lascivious Act. According to Commonwealth law:
“[L]ewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior may be punished.”
In other words, a person who says sexually crude or immodest things is committing a crime.
Related but separate offenses to this crime include (ALL):
What is the purpose of making committing a lewd, wanton, and lascivious act illegal?
The purpose of making committing a lewd, wanton, and luscious act illegal is to punish the performance or solicitation of a sexual touching which does NOT rise to the level of a completed sexual act and which is performed or intended to be performed in a public place where others may be offended by it.
How does the Commonwealth prove a defendant guilty of committing a lewd, wanton, and lascivious act?
In order to prove a defendant guilty of committing a lewd, wanton, and lascivious act the Commonwealth must prove:
- That the defendant committed or publicly solicited another person to commit a sexual act
- The sexual act involved touching the genitals or buttocks, or the female breasts
- That the defendant did this either for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification
- The sexual act committed in a public place; that is, a place where the defendant either intended public exposure
If he or she desired privacy for a sexual act is a defendant guilty?
NO, the defendant is not guilty if he or she desired privacy for a sexual act with another consenting adult and took reasonable measures in order to secure that privacy.
The Commonwealth must prove that there was a substantial risk of public exposure at that place and time.
What are some of the exceptions to the statute prohibiting lewd, wanton, and lascivious acts?
The following is a list of instances in which the is not applicable:
- Solicitation for sexual conduct where it is unclear whether it was to occur in a public or private place
- Sexual conduct in a location where there is little likelihood of observation
- Protected speech or expressed conduct (only if it solicits a particular public sexual conduct which is itself criminal)
Note that the statute only prohibits the commission of conduct in a public place or the public solicitation of conduct to be performed in a public place involving the touching of the genitals, buttocks, or female breasts for purposes of sexual arousal, gratification, or offense by a person who knows or should know of the presence of a person or people who may be offended by the conduct.
Also note that regarding the lewd, wanton, and lascivious act of masturbation the place in which the act occurs does not necessarily need to be one to which the public or a substantial group has access. The offense in this instance only requires either that the defendant intended public exposure or recklessly disregarded a substantial risk of exposure to one or more persons.
Are all private acts of prostitution lewd, wanton, and lascivious acts?
Prior to one case, Commonwealth v. Sefranka (1980), evidence of prostitution in a non-public place would also support a conviction for the offense of lewd, wanton, and lascivious acts.
However, the opinion of Sefrankanotes that it addressed only noncommercial sexual acts or solicitation. It is unclear to what extent the Sefranka definition of the offense is applicable. With lewd, wanton, and lascivious acts is there a single penalty for one act with multiple victims?
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH COMMITTING A LEWD, WANTON AND LASCIVIOUS ACT, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.