“Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand.” – Woody Allen

It may still be a crime to masturbate in your own home.
If others can see you, it may be a crime to masturbate even if you are in your home.

Most of us expect that there are certain acts that, if done in public, will almost certainly lead to an arrest and charges. For example, if you and your significant other have sex in a public place where other people could see you, you can probably expect that you will be charged with a crime. If you get drunk and urinate on the sidewalk in front of the bar, chances are you will soon find yourself in handcuffs.

What is probably unexpected by most people is that many of these acts could be performed in your own home and still lead to your arrest. This is even true of the most private of moments, doing an act that most people have done at least once in their lives but will never admit to doing. Yes, it can be a crime to masturbate and you can be arrested for masturbating in your own home under certain circumstances

Lewd or Dissolute Conduct (California Penal Code Section 647(a))

California law punishes persons who “solicits anyone to engage in or who engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.” 1

Two elements of California PC 647 (a) are important to understand. First, the conduct that is prohibited is lewd conduct or dissolute conduct, which are terms that mean fundamentally the same thing under the law. 2 Both terms refer to the touching of the genitals, buttocks, or female breast for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, annoyance or offense, whether the touching is of someone else or yourself.

In your own home, the key phrase is “exposed to public view.” The California Supreme Court has stated that the law’s primary purpose is “protecting onlookers who might be offended by the proscribed conduct.” 3 This means that for the activity to rise to the level of a crime, it must take place in a location where there is a likelihood of being seen by a third person such as a street or parking lot, including a parked car in a public area. This includes being inside your own home if you are in full view of the public, such as in your backyard or in front of an open window.

Truman Capote once said, “The good thing about masturbation is that you don’t have to get dressed up for it.” While this might be true, you do have to at least close the blinds. Remember, if you can see them, they can probably see you.

Indecent Exposure (California Penal Code Section 314)

According to PC 314, you could be found guilty of indecent exposure if you do the following:

  • Expose your genitals in the presence of another person or people who might be
    Masturbating in plain view is a crime.
    If you are masturbating in plain view, you may get a visit from the police.

    offended or annoyed by your actions; and

  • You acted lewdly by intending to direct public attention to your genitals for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying yourself or another person, or sexually offending another person.

In other words, if you are masturbating inside your home in plain view of others who can see, and you did so to for personal gratification, you could be charged with indecent exposure.

This is a more serious crime than lewd or dissolute conduct. If you are convicted of this crime, you could face up to six months in jail for a misdemeanor and up to three years in jail for a felony. You will also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life if you are convicted of indecent exposure.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich

If you have been charged with lewd or dissolute conduct, regardless of whether you were in public or your own home, you need to speak with an experienced sex crimes attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully helping clients facing these charges for over 30 years. We know that facing criminal charges can affect the rest of your life, and we are dedicated to working tirelessly on your behalf to provide you with the best defense possible. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation so we can begin working on your case.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich sex crimes attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.


1. [Cal. Pen. Code § 647(a).]
2. [Pryor v. Municipal Court (1979) 25 Cal.3d 238, 158 Cal.Rptr. 330.]
3. [Id.]

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