Can You Get Arrested for a Public Display of Affection?

By Mary Jane Freeman - Updated June 05, 2017
Couple kissing on the beach

Public displays of affection, or PDAs, can include a wide variety of romantic activities -- from holding hands to kissing in public. So long as the behavior is not over the top, it is not likely to catch the attention of the police and result in your arrest. However, if you were to engage in bolder conduct, such as sexual intercourse in a public place like the local beach or park, your chances of being arrested increase tremendously.

When Public Affection Crosses the Line

Although state laws vary, certain romantic behaviors conducted in public are never OK. Public displays of affection characterized as either public lewdness or public indecency can result in your arrest. In general, any sexual act that occurs in a public place is considered lewd or indecent. This can include a person exposing or touching his genitals, being partially or completely naked, engaging in sexual intercourse with another person or animal, or touching another person's private parts in public. In many states, such as Texas, Georgia and New York, these offenses are charged as misdemeanors. In some states, like Georgia, repeat offenders may face a felony charge. Other states, like Arizona and Ohio, will also increase the charge to a felony if the behavior involved, or was visible to, a minor.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article