Lewd and Lascivious Behavior

Sex Crime Attorney Defending Milwaukee Residents

In Wisconsin, sex crimes can generally be divided into two categories. Some consist of behavior that is targeted against a specific individual, while others consist of behavior that is offensive to the public in general. Lewd and lascivious behavior is one type of criminal activity against the public at large that state laws prohibit. While lewd and lascivious behavior is a broad category of crime that can involve many different acts, it can result in severe damage to a defendant’s reputation in his or her community and in the workplace. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, Milwaukee sex crime lawyer William J. Reddin can help defend you against the threat of a lewd and lascivious behavior conviction and the corresponding stigma in society.

Defining Lewd and Lascivious Behavior

Wisconsin statute 944.20 criminalizes lewd and lascivious behavior as a “crime against sexual morality.” The crime can occur in two ways. First, an individual may commit an “indecent act of sexual gratification” while in the presence of other members of the public, or, second, an individual may indecently expose his or her genitals “publicly” to those around him or her. While the second of these two categories is somewhat straightforward, the first category requires individuals to understand what an “indecent act of sexual gratification” is. Sexual gratification is defined in Wisconsin Statute 944.17 and includes oral, anal, or vaginal sex with another individual or with an animal. Thus, these kinds of acts in the presence of the public would constitute lewd and lascivious behavior.

Wisconsin courts have also clarified that exposing one’s genitals “publicly” to another should be construed in a limited fashion in order to avoid the unwanted criminalization of otherwise innocent acts. According to the Wisconsin courts, the statute should be interpreted as focusing primarily on protecting children from unwanted sexual exposure and preventing adults from becoming unwilling victims of exposure as well.

Importantly, Wisconsin’s statutes specifically carve out an exception for women who are breast-feeding their children. Such acts, even done in a public space, do not constitute indecent exposure or sexual gratification under the statutes.

Penalties and Defenses

Lewd and lascivious behavior is considered a Class A misdemeanor. A defendant charged with a Class A misdemeanor may face up to nine months in jail, a fine of $10,000 or more, or both. Wisconsin defendants charged with lewd and lascivious behavior do escape the threat of being registered as a sex offender. These crimes currently do not require registration after conviction. However, they can still be very stigmatizing and damaging to an individual’s work prospects and reputation. For this reason, it is important for criminal defendants to seek high-quality representation when they are facing such charges.

Accusations of lewd and lascivious behavior may be unwarranted when they arise as a result of a police sting operation, or when there was no intention that the public be exposed to another individual’s sexual act. If you feel that you were engaging in a private act that is now being unfairly characterized as public for the purposes of criminal prosecution, or that the charges against you have no basis, a criminal defense attorney can assist you in raising these issues.

Contact a Knowledgeable Milwaukee Lawyer to Fight a Sex Crime Charge

Lewd and lascivious activity is punished harshly under Wisconsin law. But police and prosecutors must be careful to punish only those who are truly acting to offend the public, rather than people who are engaged in personal and private conduct, or who are innocent victims of a police sting. Milwaukee sex crime attorney William J. Reddin has represented many Wisconsin defendants in overcoming lewd and lascivious charges, and he is ready to consult with you on these issues. Attorney Reddin also serves individuals in Port Washington, Mequon, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other communities throughout Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties. Contact our office at (414) 271-6400 or through our online form to set up a free consultation. We also are available to assist people who need a DUI attorney or representation against charges of domestic violence, drug crimes, homicide, white collar crimes, probation violations, and a wide range of other criminal matters.