Open and Gross Lewd and Lascivious Behavior

This is a felony offense with severe consequences. We can help.

Open & Gross Lewd and Lascivious Behavior

In Massachusetts, so-called "open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior" is governed by G.L. c. 272, § 16.  The statute is not helpful in defining the offense and simply states that:

"A man or woman, married or unmarried, who is guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than three years or in jail for not more than two years or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars."

As it carries the possibility of state prison, open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior is a felony offense.

To prove the defendant guilty of open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, the Commonwealth must prove five things (five elements) beyond a reasonable doubt: 

First:      The defendant exposed their genitals or buttocks (or female breasts) to one or more people;

Second:  It was intentional”;

Third:     It was done "openly" with the intent of being seen (or in reckless disregard of being seen);

Fourth:   The exposure would alarm or shock a reasonable person; and

Fifth:      Someone was actually shocked.

The act can be in either a public or private area.  The display of nudity must actually produce "alarm or shock" that is a something more than nervousness and offense, but rather a "serious negative emotional experience".   

Likewise, mere concern for other people or even disgust are not sufficient to convict on an open and gross lewd and lascivious charge, which, as a felony, requires a substantially more serious and negative impact as a result of the behavior. 

Without that level of alarm or shock, the offense is better classified as a misdemeanor and charged as indecent exposure pursuant to G. L. c. 272, §53 .

Very often, open and gross charges involve exposure to children, although it is also frequently used in cases of public masturbation, exposure and sexual acts.  

Fortunately, where there is a single incident of open and gross lewdness resulting in shock and alarm to more than one person, only one charge can be brought.

Potential Defenses to Open and Gross Lewd and Lascivious Behavior

Common defenses to an open and gross charge include the identity of the perpetrator, and the level and reasonableness of the alarm or shock , if any.  It may also be possible to negotiate the charge down to indecent exposure or maybe even disorderly conduct. 

Even the accusation of Open and Gross Lewd and Lascivious Behavior is damaging and your reputation, your family, your living and possibly your freedom are on the line.  In many cases, a conviction carries not only prison, but also registration as a sex offender.  It is critical to contact an experience attorney as soon as possible.  Our attorneys have decades of experience defending persons accused of all criminal charges, including open and gross lewd and lascivious behavior, and have reputations as aggressive advocates and fine attorneys. 

Free Consultation on Any Massachusetts Open and Gross Lewd and Lascivious

If you would like to speak about your case and get an expert opinion, please call or text us at any time at 617-723-4163, email at or use our contact form, above.  We will listen to the facts of your case, address your concerns and let you know what your options are.

The initial consultation is free and there is no pressure to hire.  If you choose to hire us, we will give you a reasonable fee agreement, including possible payment options.

Some related content...

Criminal Defense FAQ

We Hope This Helps!

As a criminal defense lawyer, the fact that you clicked this accordion drives me crazy!

NO, you shouldn't! At least not without a lawyer after careful consideration.

Think about it. The police have a job, which is to solve crimes and bring criminal charges. The only reason for them to call you is because they are looking for evidence and there is no better evidence than your statement. Very often, they are calling you because they don't have enough evidence to charge you yet and they're looking to make their case with your statements.

They are not your friends. They are not trying to help you. There is nothing to "clear up". They will not go away if you just admit it and take responsibility.

Seriously, don't speak to the police without consulting a criminal defense lawyer first. It may be that we ultimately decide to give a statement, but only if it will help your case and after careful consideration!

First, unless you have committed a very serious crime, the chances of you going to jail are minimal (especially if you hire a good attorney). In any event, this is not something that typically would happen until many months down the road.

We're not going to lie to you, if the prosecution can meet the burden of proof on your case, there will be consequences, ranging from a slap on the wrist to jail time. Our job is to minimize the consequences and to eliminate them, if possible.

Of course, this depends on the charges, your criminal history and many other factors, so please feel free to reach out and we can give you a more specific answer.

No, no, no, no no! Even if you decide to eventually take responsibility, your lawyer should negotiate the best deal possible. What this means depends entirely the circumstances of your criminal charge, but very often you can take responsibility and still avoid a permanent criminal record. It may also involve:

  • Pre-Trial Probation or Pre-Trial Diversion
  • An outright Dismissal of your charges upon payment of court costs
  • A Continuation Without a Finding, including the length and terms of your probation (after which the case is dismissed)
  • A period of straight probation without a jail or state prison sentence
  • A suspended sentence, where a sentence is imposed, but not served unless probation is violated
  • A lesser sentence to jail or prison and less severe conditions upon release

This is to say nothing of the fact that your case may be winnable on a motion to dismiss or at trial!

In many cases, yes. Some cases have issues that may justify a Motion to Suppress or a Motion to Dismiss for lack of evidence.

Others can and should be taken to trial, or call for a plea as soon as possible so the client can move on with their life.

The decision on what to do really depends on the facts of the case and your individual goals.

This is why it is important to speak to an experienced Massachusetts criminal attorney who can quickly evaluate your specific case to see if there are any issues worth pursuing.

Related Content:

Strategy and Potential Issues in Massachusetts Criminal Cases

As a criminal defense lawyer, the fact that you clicked this accordion drives me crazy!

No, do NOT talk to the police without a lawyer. They are not your friends. They are not trying to help you. They will not go away if you just admit it and take responsibility.

Their job is to gather evidence of crimes and there is no better evidence than your statement.

It may be that we ultimately decide to give a statement, but only if it will help your case and after careful consideration!

It is very possible that you can avoid a criminal record, especially if you don't have a significant criminal history and and it is a relatively minor offense.

The answer to this question is very case-specific, depending on the facts of your case and what we decide to do with it.

A vast majority of our criminal cases cases are handled on a flat fee basis, ranging from a clerk-magistrate's hearing to superior court or federal court cases.

All we can tell you is that we are always up front and honest, and will treat you fairly. We're also willing to work with you on payments if we can, as this is not all about the money.

Of course, it is prefereable to have an attorney at the arraignment, but don't panic! First, you can call or text me at any time and I may be able to be there. If not, take a look at this link for all the information you need:

Arraignment in Massachusetts – What You Need to Know.

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