Annoying or molesting a child under 18 is a serious crime under California law. This offense is defined under Penal Code 647.6. It involves an adult expressing sexual acts or advances toward a child or group of minors. You could face charges for this offense even without sexual contact between you and the child. A conviction of this offense could hurt your life, with the consequences reaching far into your future. If you are facing charges under PC 647.6, you should seek the services of a professional criminal defense attorney. At the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm, our attorneys are well-versed and skilled in handling sex crimes. We help you create an appropriate defense strategy to win your case.
Definition of Annoying/Molesting a Child Below 18 Under Penal Code 647.6
Most sex offenses under California law involve physical contact with the victim. However, the violation of annoying/molesting a child under 18 does not require physical contact with the victim. Talking to a child in a sexually inappropriate way could lead to an arrest and make you face charges under Penal Code 647.6.
Under Penal Code 647.6, annoying and molesting are synonymous with sexually motivated conduct meant to irritate or disturb someone. You could face severe punishment and serve a lengthy jail term if these actions are directed against a child under eighteen years.
The Components Of The Crime
Penal Code 647.6 requires that the prosecutor prove the following elements for you to face charges:
- You committed an act that could annoy or disturb a child under eighteen years.
- Your conduct was motivated by sexual pleasure or interest in the child or children.
Committing An Act That Could Annoy r Disturb A Child
Penal Code 647.6 typically outlines the conduct of annoying/molesting a child under 18. First, your behavior must be motivated by sexual desire for the child. Your behavior must also interfere with the security and privacy of the child. Annoying or molesting a child under 18 is among the offenses with a general resolution. You could face charges even if you did not intend your action to be obscene or lewd. Similarly, your affection could be considered obscene and unlawful if someone else gets annoyed or offended.
The judge could also charge and convict you even if you did not pick a particular child or a group of minors in advance. You could be guilty of violating Penal Code 647.6 if your conduct stems from an abnormal and unnatural sexual interest in a particular child or children in general. Similarly, your behavior does not have to disturb the minor. The judge will focus on your conduct instead of the results of your conduct. You could face charges under PC 647.6 if the prosecutor proves that your action can annoy a regular person and intrude on the child's security and privacy.
You could also face charges under PC 647.6 for an indirect sexual act, like masturbation. You can face charges under PC 647.6 if you masturbate while a child watches you.
Motivated By Sexual Interest In A Child
You could be guilty of annoying/molesting a child under eighteen if you act in a manner that shows an abnormal or unnatural desire for sexual contact with a child. Your aim does not need to have been to lure a minor into engaging in a sexual act with you.
If the judge finds out your conduct was motivated by other factors but not a sexual interest in the child, you cannot face charges under PC 647.6. For example, the child could unintentionally see or hear something that they were not supposed to see or hear. In this situation, you cannot face charges under PC 647.6. The prosecutor will be burdened to prove your intention in support of the accusations. The prosecutor could support the allegation by:
- Investigating your previous conduct towards minors with whom you interacted in the past.
- Evaluating the circumstantial evidence provided in court as well as the circumstances surrounding your conduct.
Annoying or molesting a child is the most challenging crime since no one can prove someone else's intentions. This is an offense whereby your attorney can easily overturn the prosecutor’s evidence and have your charges dismissed or reduced.
Penalties Violating Penal Code 647.6
Judges usually charge annoying or molesting a child under eighteen as a wobbler. You could face misdemeanor or felony charges. The applicable charges will depend on the circumstances of your case and your criminal record. You could face felony charges if there are aggravating factors. For example, you will likely face felony charges if you enter an occupied property to annoy or molest a child. Similarly, you could face felony charges if you have a criminal history of molesting or annoying a child.
You will likely face misdemeanor charges if it is your first time violating Penal Code 647.6. However, you could still face felony charges for a first-time offense if aggravating factors exist. Misdemeanor charges attract a fine that does not exceed $5,000. You can also face a jail term that does not exceed one year in a county jail.
You will likely face felony charges if you have a prior conviction of annoying/molesting a child under the age of face felony charges if you have a previous conviction for a felony sex offense. The typical sex offenses include violations under PC 288, PC 288.5, and PC 311.4.
You will face charges under PC 647.6 if you have a previous conviction of violating any sex offense statute, even if it is your first time breaking PC 647.6. A felony conviction can lead to a jail term that does not exceed three years in state prison.
Probation In Place Of Jail Time
The judge could sentence you to probation in place of a jail term. However, you would only serve probation if there were no aggravating circumstances. The court will grant you probation after evaluating your criminal background and the facts of your charges. The court will also determine whether you are a threat to society before granting you probation. Eligibility for probation will depend on whether you face charges for a misdemeanor or a felony.
For a misdemeanor, you could serve probation for one to three years. The conditions for misdemeanor probation include:
- Appearing before the judge to prove that you are adhering to probation conditions.
- Meeting with your counselor regularly.
- Pay all the imposed fines.
- Complete community service.
- The judge could also impose an order prohibiting you from contacting the child or victim.
A felony conviction can attract probation for a period of between three and five years. The conditions for felony probation include:
- Settlement of all restitution fees.
- Meeting with your probation officer as required.
- Meeting with your counselor.
- Adhering to other additional probation conditions.
However, serving felony probation does not mean you will not serve a jail term. Sometimes, the court could impose a mandatory jail term that does not exceed one year in county jail. You can face jail time if you violate the conditions of your probation.
Sex Offender Registration
Among the most severe punishments you could face for sex-related offenses is the requirement to register as a sex offender. Unfortunately, sex offender registration is among the penalties you could face following a conviction of annoying/molesting a child under 18. This offense is a tier-one'' sex offense if it is your first time committing the crime. You will serve ten years in prison and register as a sex offender. Your second or subsequent crime is categorized as a ''Tier 2'' crime. Under Tier 2, you must register as a sex offender for 20 years.
Once you register as a sex offender, the public can access your details online. Anyone can search for your records to determine if you are listed in the sex offender registry. This is the reason why you need to challenge your charges aggressively because they could negatively influence your future.
The Senate passed a Bill that proposed a three-tiered registration system for sex crime perpetrators. Offenses like molesting a minor had a lifelong requirement to register as a sex offender before enacting a three-tiered system. Today, only offenses categorized as ''Tier 3’’ are subject to lifelong registration.
The court can exclude you from the sex offender registry if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor offense. However, you will have to register until the judge issues you a certificate of rehabilitation. The judge can order you to register as a sex offender for a period that does not exceed ten years before your removal from the sex registry.
Defenses To Penal Code 647.6 Charges
You can employ several strategies to challenge your PC 647.6 charges. Hiring a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney should be your priority. Your attorney will evaluate your case and create the most effective legal strategy to fight your charges. Some of the most effective defense strategies include:
Your Civil Rights Violation
If the police arrest you on the allegation of annoying/molesting a child under 18, you could claim an infringement of your civil rights. For example, law enforcement officers could have pressured you to confess to an offense you did not commit. The court could consider this police misconduct. You can point out that the police denied you access to an attorney until you admitted to the crime. If your argument convinces the judge, you can have your charges reduced or even dismissed.
Your Action Was Not Motivated By Sexual Interest
The prosecutor must prove that your actions were driven by a desire to engage in a sexual act with a child or children. If the prosecutor fails to prove this element, you cannot face charges under Penal Code 647.6. For example, a witness could misinterpret your actions to indicate that you were sexually attracted to a child.
Sometimes you behave in a particular manner for various reasons, and someone misinterprets your motive, assuming that you were acting with sexual intent. In this situation, you cannot face charges for annoying/molesting a child under 18. The judge could dismiss or reduce your charges based on your defense.
The prosecutor could lack sufficient evidence to support allegations against you even if you are accused of molesting or annoying a child under 18. If the prosecutor secures convincing evidence like footage or photographs showing you molesting a child, the court will likely admit this evidence and convict you based on it. The judge could dismiss or reduce your charges if the prosecutor fails to provide substantial evidence to back up the accusations against you.
Using A Polygraph Test
Most people are convicted of sex offenses that they did not commit. Sex crimes are severe and attract longer jail terms, sometimes even when there is insufficient evidence against you. If your attorney believes you did not commit the crime, he/she can carry out a private polygraph test and present the outcome as evidence to dismiss your charges. This defense can only succeed if you pass this test.
Generally, the police and FBI are associated with polygraph tests. You need to seek the services of a professional polygrapher for the reports to be valid in court. Your attorney can present the results to the prosecutor if they favor you. It is not guaranteed that the results will be admissible in court. With the help of a reputable attorney, you can convince the judge to reduce or dismiss your charges.
Lack Of Authenticity Of The Witness Or Victim
Absent confessions are common in most cases involving the annoyance or molestation of a child. The credibility of the victims and witnesses determines these cases. You need a skilled attorney to challenge the credibility of witnesses in several ways, including:
- Examining emails, text messages, medical records, phone calls, and social media accounts of the alleged victim’s family members or friends.
- Interviewing the victim’s family members or friends.
Using this strategy, your attorney could highlight evidence regarding the victim's record or fabricate information and deceit.
Mistaken identity is the common defense most defendants use to contest the charges of molesting and annoying a child. Someone could misidentify you. Your attorney can claim that you did not commit the offense, but it was a case of mistaken identity. If you prove this defense, the judge could consider reducing or dismissing your charges.
Penal Code 647.6 is related to the following crimes:
Lewd Acts With a Child — Penal Code 288
The crime of lewd and lascivious acts with a child is defined under Penal Code 288 as any touching of a child under 14 years old for sexual purposes. This crime is also known as child molestation. If the prosecutor accuses you of lewd acts with a child, he/she is required to prove the following elements:
- You touched the child or fondled a sexual organ.
- You molested the child.
However, you can face charges for lewd acts even if:
- The touching was not on a sexual organ.
- The minor was the one who did the touching.
- You touched the child through their clothing.
You will face charges for child molestation based on several factors, including:
- The age of the child.
- Whether the child is 14 or 15 years younger than you,
- If there was a pattern of lewd acts.
- If you accomplished the lewd act by threats, coercion, violence, or force.
The penalties you could face for violating PC 288 are as follows:
- If you molest a child under 14 without force, you could face a jail term of three, six, or eight years in state prison. You could also face a fine of up to $10,000 and formal probation.
- If you molest a child under 14 years old using force, you could face a fine of up to $10,000. You could also face a jail term of five, eight, or ten years in state prison.
- If you molest a child below 14 years old, inflicting bodily harm, you could face up to life in prison.
- If you molest a child who is 14 or 15 years old and you are ten years older than the child, you could face one, two, or three years in state prison. You could also face a fine of up to $10,000.
- You could be required to register as a sex offender.
The defenses you could present to challenge PC 288 charges are:
- The victim is lying or mistaken.
- Perpetrator substitution.
- There was contact but no intent to cause sexual arousal.
- The contact was accidental.
Sending Harmful Messages To Seduce a Minor — Penal Code 288.2
It is a crime under PC 288.2 for anyone to send, exhibit, or distribute obscene or harmful messages to minors below 18 to arouse them or make them engage in sexual intercourse. If the prosecutor accuses you of violating PC 288.2, he/she must prove the following elements:
- You intentionally sent, exhibited, or distributed harmful messages to a minor by any means.
- When you acted, you were aware that the target person was a minor, or you did not exercise reasonable care to determine the minor's age.
- You sent the messages intending to arouse the passions, lust, or sexual desire of yourself or the minor.
- When you sent the messages, you intended to engage in sexual activity, oral copulation with the minor, or sexual intercourse.
The judges usually charge violations of PC 288.2 as wobblers. You could face misdemeanor or felony charges. If the judge charges you with a misdemeanor, you could face a fine of up to $1000 and a jail term of up to one year in a county jail.
If the judge charges you with a felony, you could face a fine that does not exceed $10,000 and a jail term of up to three years in state prison. A felony charge could also lead to a lifetime duty to register as a sex offender as a three-tier offender.
The defenses you could use to contest your PC 288.2 charges include the following:
- You were falsely accused.
- No criminal intent.
- No harmful material.
Contacting a Minor To Commit A Felony — Penal Code 288.3
It is an offense under PC 288.3 for anyone to communicate with or contact a child under 1, intending to commit a sex offense or other serious felony. If the prosecutor accuses you of violating PC 288.3, he/she must prove the following elements:
- You directly or indirectly communicated with, contacted, or tried to communicate with or contact a child under 1.
- When you contacted the minor, you intended to commit one of the crimes involving a child outlined under PC 288.3.
- You were aware or reasonably should have known that the alleged victim was a child.
Violating PC 288.3 is often charged as a felony crime. The penalties you could face include:
- A jail term in a state prison.
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000.
- Formal or felony probation.
If you have a prior conviction of violating PC 288.3, any future violation could increase your state jail term by an additional and consecutive five years. A violation of penal code 288.3 could also lead to a sex offender registration requirement. In this situation, you must register as a three-tier offender.
Find A Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
The law protects children against all forms of sexual advances. If the judge convicts you of annoying/molesting a child under 18, the repercussions could be devastating. You should seek an attorney's help to challenge the charges to avoid devastating penalties. We will evaluate your charges at the Michele Ferroni Pasadena Criminal Attorney Law Firm. Our attorneys will create a winning defense strategy for your charges. We have assisted many people in fighting their criminal charges and would be glad to help you too. Call us at 626-628-0564 and talk to one of our attorneys.