Fourth-Degree Lewdness vs. Third-Degree Child Endangerment

Under New Jersey law, a person commits lewd acts when he exposes his genitals for a sexual purpose and “he knows or reasonably suspects [that he] is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed.” Lewdness is normally a disorderly persons offense with a maximum penalty of 6 months in prison, but when lewd acts are committed in front of a child under the age of 13, the offense becomes raised to a fourth degree crime with penalty of 6-18 months in prison. N.J.S.A. 2c:14-4.


In addition to carrying more significant penalties than run-of-the-mill lewdness offenses, crimes that are charged as fourth degree lewdness also tend to be charged as third degree child endangerment. This offense, which carries even steeper penalties than fourth degree lewdness (3 to 5 years in prison for child endangerment, as opposed to a maximum of 18 months for lewdness) occurs when a person engages in sexual conduct “which would impair or debauch the morals of a child” under the age of 16. N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4.


The New Jersey Supreme Court addressed the relationship between fourth degree lewdness and third degree child endangerment in State v. Hackett, 166 N.J. 66 (2001). The case involved a man who was charged with both offenses after repeatedly standing nude in the front window of his house, in full view of several children at a school bus stop.


The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions on both counts. Although the court cautioned that a conviction for fourth degree lewdness won’t automatically sustain a conviction for third degree child endangerment, the court found that the same evidence could be used to prove both offenses, so long as the distinct elements of each crime were satisfied. Disagreeing with the lower court, which had found the defendant’s “mere nudity” insufficient to prove the child endangerment charge, the court found that the jury had a thin but sufficient basis for its guilty verdict. “This was not a case involving a child’s stolen glimpse of nudity,” the court explained, “but instead… repeated instances when the defendant allowed himself to be viewed naked, through an unobstructed window, by girls who were age thirteen and under.” Attracting the children’s attention in such a flagrant and repetitive way, the court found, could have been viewed by the jury as evidence that the defendant sought to debauch the children’s morals. As the court emphasized, the question was not whether the children’s morals were actually debauched, but whether the defendant’s actions amounted to sexual conduct that was likely to debauch the children’s morals.


For more information about lewdness or child endangerment charges, or to schedule a free legal consultation in your case, call me, Anthony N. Palumbo, Union County Criminal Defense Lawyer, at 908-337-7353.


Middlesex County man arrested for lewdness twice in two weeks

South Brunswick police arrested a 41 year old man twice within two weeks for exposing himself to passing motorists from a hotel window, reports The man was charged with lewdness in both cases, adding to 6 lewdness charges that he had previously received in East Brunswick, South River, and Henrietta.


In order to be convicted for  lewdness in New Jersey, the prosecution first has to prove that the actor committed a “lewd act,” which is defined as “exposing of the genitals for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person.”


If the actor’s conduct qualifies as a “lewd act,” there are three ways for him to violate the lewdness the statute:

If a person engages in a flagrantly lewd and offensive act that he knows or reasonably expects is likely to be observed by other non-consenting persons who would be affronted or alarmed, he can be charged with disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

If a person exposes his intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying his own sexual desire or that of anyone else, under circumstances where he knows or reasonably expects he is likely to be observed by a child who is less than 13 years old and where he is at least four years older than the child, then he has committed a fourth degree crime subject to up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

If a person exposes his intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying his own sexual desire or that of anyone else, under circumstances where he 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 his conduct, then he has committed a fourth degree crime subject to up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.


If you’ve been charged with lewd conduct in Middlesex County or anywhere else in New Jersey, I can help you. Good people make poor decisions everyday, but everyone has the right to move past their mistakes. The best thing that you can do for yourself now is to seek an attorney’s advice. A skilled  sex crimes defense lawyer can help you to understand the charges you face and the chances for having them downgraded or dismissed. If you need an attorney, you can contact me, Anthony N. Palumbo,  New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney, through the  email form on my website or at 1-866-664-8118 for a free initial consultation. I have more than 35 years of experience as a prosecutor and public defender, and I will guide you through the legal process and explain how I can fight to defend your rights.


Appellate court upholds Spring Lake public nudity ordinance prohibiting topless sunbathing

The New Jersey Appellate Division issued a ruling in September upholding a Spring Lake ordinance prohibiting public nudity. The defendant, who was arrested for removing her top on a public beach, argued that the ordinance violated her constitutional right to equal protection because men were permitted to go topless on the beach, but women were not. Relying on a previous decision, the court rejected this argument, explaining that “restrictions on the exposure of the female breast are supported by the important governmental interest in safeguarding the public’s moral sensibilities, and the ordinance was substantially related to that interest.”


Like Spring Lake, many municipalities have public nudity ordinances that prohibit women from showing their breasts in public. Topless sunbathing doesn’t qualify as illegal indecent exposure under the state’s lewdness law, however. This is because the statute defines “lewd acts” as “exposing of the genitals for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the actor or of any other person,” and topless sunbathing doesn’t involve the exposure of a woman’s genitals or any sexual motivation (at least in most cases). (Note: on this issue, see also Belmar w. Buckley, 187 N.J. Super. 107 (1982), which explains that the state left the issue of public nudity up to municipalities and didn’t intend to cover it in the lewdness statute, as well as N.J.S.A. § 40:48-1, which gives municipalities the option to regulate bathing costumes and public nudity, which would suggest that they may also allow it if they choose.)


Even though New Jersey law doesn’t explicitly ban topless sunbathing, women who choose to buck the status quo and bare their breasts in public may still be charged with a disorderly conduct offense under the state lewdness statute by law enforcement officers who believe it to be illegal conduct. And, as in this case, they may be charged with municipal offenses related to public nudity.

Call 908-337-7353 for a free consultation today.



Lewd Conduct in Union County: Private Moments in Public Places

New Jersey laws governing lewd conduct make it easy for a couple engaging in a sexual encounter while under the impression that they are alone to be charged with a sex offense in Union County.  The law states that a person is guilty of lewd conduct if he engages in an offensive act in a place where he could reasonably expect to be viewed by others. Therefore, if two people have a few drinks before seeking the seclusion of a dark alley for an intimate moment and the dark alley turns out to not be private, this could result in charges of lewd conduct in Union County.  The standard for determining whether a person could reasonably expect to be viewed is an objective point of view.  Therefore the mindset of the individual in the heat of the moment is irrelevant.

My name is Anthony N. Palumbo, New Jersey lewd conduct attorney and this case is a good example of how everyday people can sometimes be charged with embarrassing sex crimes that stain their personal and professional reputations.  If you have engaged in conduct that led to an unanticipated lewd conduct charge, I am available to speak with you about your defense.  Contact me today for a Free Consultation at 1-866-664-8118.  For more information on lewd conduct in New Jersey visit the lewd conduct page on my main criminal and municipal website or visit the lewd conduct page on my sex crimes website.

Consider the following case as an example of behavior that could result in lewd conduct charges.  Recently, New Jersey police arrested several couples for engaging in sexual encounters in secluded areas of a public park.  Parts of the park ground were very secluded and it was in those places where some individuals set up blankets and engaged in activity under the impression that they were alone.  The problem is that the place is technically public and people wandering through the woods might observe these private couples. While these couples may have been under the impression that they were alone, a jury could find that a reasonable person would have been aware of the likelihood of being observed and lead to a conviction for the state.

Lewd Conduct in Hunterdon County

New Jersey Sex Crimes Attorney – Anthony N. Palumbo

Lewd conduct charges flourished in New Jersey during the 2010 summer months, especially near the New Jersey shore where beaches create a tempting environment to disrobe.  Lewd conduct is a unique charge and is one of many charges in which seemingly innocent conduct can result in criminal penalties.  In New Jersey, there are two main ways to commit lewd conduct.  The first way is by committing an offensive act which a person could reasonably expect to be observed by people who have not consented to see such an act and who would be alarmed or offended by it.  If a person is convicted of lewd conduct in this manner, it is a disorderly persons offense which carries $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in prison.  The second way lewd conduct can be committed is when a person exposes his private parts to gratify himself or someone else under circumstances that he can reasonable expect to be observed by a child under 13 years old, a child who is at least four years younger than the actor, or someone with a mental defect.  This is more serious than the first type of lewd conduct and is a fourth degree crime, carrying up to 18 months in prison on conviction.

For an example of lewd conduct, consider a recent case in Hunterdon County in which a man was charged with lewd conduct after he removed his clothes and masturbated inside of a public building.  Most likely this case would qualify under the first type of lewd conduct because it does not appear to involve a child or a person with a mental defect.  In this case, the actor was hired to clean a public building, but at some point after he arrived, he began to masturbate within the line of vision of a woman who was washing dishes next door.  The woman claims that the defendant was looking at her while he was committing the masturbatory act.  When the police were informed, they went to the building to question the man.  He answered the door in his clothes and explained to officers that he sometimes removes his clothes when he gets hot at work.  Police found a pair of boxers in the man’s pocket and arrested him.  He was charged with lewd conduct and criminal sexual contact.