Molesting or annoying a minor is a serious offense in California. The crime is outlined and penalized under California PC 647.6. It entails an adult expressing sexual acts or discourse to a minor or group of children. Even if there was no sexual contact between you and the child, you could still be charged with these crimes. A conviction for the crime could have a significant impact on your future. Therefore, if you are accused of committing this offense, don't ignore them or even consider defending yourself on your own.
A professional criminal lawyer is recommended for a favorable case outcome. Our lawyers at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney are well-versed and skilled in dealing with sex crimes. We have assisted many clients charged with sex crimes in Los Angeles, CA, in having their cases dismissed or reduced. Therefore, do not hesitate to call us as soon as you are arrested.
Understanding Annoying or Molesting a Minor Under California Law
California laws address all forms of sex crimes. Most of these offenses involve physical contact with the victim. However, when it comes to annoying or molesting a child, the crime does not always necessitate physical contact. Words alone, directed against a child in a sexually inappropriate manner, can result in an arrest and prosecution for this violation. It is a crime under California law, PC 647.6.
According to California law, annoying and molesting are all the same, in that it involves a sexually motivated behavior meant to disturb or irritate another person. If these actions are focused on a child under the age of 18, the defendant would face harsh penalties and serve many years in prison.
What The Prosecutor Must Prove
To understand these provisions better, let's look at the elements of the offense. They are the facts of the case that the prosecution has to demonstrate to the jury for the accused to be convicted of the crime. They include:
- The offender committed an act that was likely to cause disturbance or annoyance to a child under the age of 18
- The defendant's actions were inspired by sexual pleasure in the minor or children
The description itself isn't entirely clear on what counts as annoying or molesting a child. For this reason, let's break down the key elements of this concept to comprehend it even better:
Conduct That's Likely To Disturb or Irritate A Minor
California PC 647.6 is clear about the type of behavior that resembles molesting or annoying a child. First, the conduct must be driven by the child's sexual desire. The conduct should intrude on the child's privacy and security. Therefore, it is one of those crimes with a general resolution. This implies that an individual could face prosecution even if he/she didn't intend for his or her action to be lewd or obscene. Again, a person's affection could be viewed as obscene and illegal if another individual gets annoyed or offended.
The accused would be charged and convicted even if he or she did not pick out a specific child or a group of children in advance. He or she would be considered to have broken the law if their behavior stems from an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest for a specific child or minors in general. Again, the conduct does not have to irritate the child. The courts will concentrate on the behavior itself rather than the outcome of such behavior. If the prosecutor proves that your action can annoy a regular person while also invading the privacy and security of the minor, the defendant would be found guilty of violating the provisions of California PC 647.6. This conviction would stand even though no child was irritated by their actions at the time the violation was committed.
An infringement of this provision of California law, unlike most California sex crimes, does not necessitate direct contact with the child's body. If a statement fits all of these elements, it's sufficient to warrant an arrest and prosecution of annoyance and molestation of a child. An indirect sexual encounter, like masturbation, can also constitute an infringement of the law. This is possible if the defendant wanted to be noticed by another child or minors while performing the conduct.
The Intention Should Be Sexual Interest In The Minor
Sexual offenders who act in a way that shows an unnatural or abnormal desire for sexual contact with a minor or minors could be found guilty of annoying or molesting a minor. This doesn't imply that the perpetrator meant to lure the child. If the court finds that the perpetrator's behavior was motivated by factors other than the child's sex intent, they would not be convicted under this provision of the law. For instance, if the minor unintentionally heard or saw something that he or she was not supposed to see or hear, the defendant would not be convicted of this crime.
Therefore, it will be the prosecutor's burden to demonstrate the defendant's intention in support of the allegations. He or she would be able to back up this by:
- Examining the circumstantial evidence provided in court as well as the facts surrounding the purported behavior
- Investigating the defendant's past behavior towards a child with whom she or he had a previous relationship
This ranks among the most challenging offenses to prove in California because no one can entirely prove another individual's intentions. Anyone facing allegations of annoying or molesting a minor should expect their attorney to overturn the prosecution's verdict.
Penalties for Annoying or Molesting a Child Under the Age of 18
A violation of California PC 647.6 is classified as a wobbler offense. This means you could face either a misdemeanor or felony charge depending on your criminal history and the circumstances of the case. When there are aggravating circumstances, the courts would apply felony charges. For example, if you enter an occupied property to annoy or molest a minor, you would be charged with a felony. You would also risk a felony charge if your criminal record includes threats to minors.
Misdemeanor Penalties for a PEN 647.6 Violation
A first-time violation of California PC 647.6 is normally charged as a misdemeanor. However, you will be charged with a felony if the first-time crime involves aggravating factors. A misdemeanor charge carries a hefty fine of no more than $5,000 and up to a year in jail.
Felony Penalties for a PEN 647.6 Violation
If you have a past conviction for California PC 647.6, you would be charged with a felony. The same rules will apply if you've previously been convicted of a felony sex crime. The sex crimes would include PEN 288.5, PEN 21, PEN 311.4, and PEN 288. If you have a prior conviction for violating any of the sex crimes laws, even if it is your first crime, you would face a California PC 647.6 conviction. A felony charge carries a three-year sentence in prison.
You can be sentenced to probation instead of spending time behind bars. However, you would only be placed on probation if no aggravating factors were present. The court will assess the facts of your case, whether you are a threat to the community, and your criminal background. A court verdict can not be altered until a hearing is held to decide on the adjustments based on the best interests of the victim. If you're eligible for probation, your sentence will be determined by whether you are convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. The court would also issue an order barring you from contacting the alleged minor.
Probation for misdemeanor crimes often lasts 1 to 3 years. If the court sentences you to probation, you must complete community service, settle all fines, meet with your counselor regularly, and appear before the court to demonstrate how well you are following the terms of your probation.
Probation for felonies lasts between 3 and 5 years. This probation mainly involves:
- Reporting to your probation officer
- Settling all restitution fees
- Complying with the probation conditions
Being on felony probation does not guarantee that you will not spend time behind bars. You can end up spending a year incarcerated in the county jail. Violating the terms of your felony probation could result in imprisonment. You would also meet with your mental health counselor as part of the felony probation terms.
Sex Offender Registration
The harshest punishment for sex-related crimes is a court order to register as a sex offender. Unfortunately, this is one of the punishments stipulated by the law for perpetrators found guilty of molesting or annoying minors. If you're a first-time perpetrator, the crime is classified as a tier one offense, with a ten-year prison sentence and the requirement to register as a California sex offender. A 2nd or subsequent offense is classified as a tier two offense, and the perpetrator should register as a California sex offender for 20 years.
Information on registered California sex offenders is available to the public. It implies that anyone could search a defendant's records to determine whether or not he/she is listed in the sex offender registry. This is why you should fight these charges as aggressively as possible, as these penalties can have far-reaching consequences in your life. The California Senate Bill proposed a three-tiered registration system for sex offenders. Before the implementation of this system, crimes such as molesting a child involved a lifelong requirement to register as a California sex offender. Currently, only crimes classified as third-tier offenses are subject to lifelong registration.
If you've been found guilty of a misdemeanor crime, you could ask the court to exclude you from the sex offender registry. However, you would be required to proceed with the registration process until the court issues you a rehabilitation certificate. In some situations, the courts will require the defendant to register as a California sex offender for 10 years before they are allowed to stop registering.
Legal Defenses for a California PC 647.6 Violation
A defendant can use several legal arguments to fight a California PC 647.6 violation. If you work with a professional criminal defense lawyer, he or she will assess the case and choose the most effective legal strategy for your situation. You could use any of the following legal defenses to challenge the allegations:
Mistaken identity is a common legal defense that you could use to challenge the charges. An individual could easily be misidentified for another due to his or her outfit. Therefore, your criminal defense lawyer could argue that you didn't engage in the crime and that it was a mistaken identity. The courts would then consider dropping or reducing the charges.
Doubting the Credibility of the Alleged Minor or Witness
In most cases involving the annoyance or molestation of a minor, the issue devolves into a "he said, she said" scenario. As a result, the outcome is mainly determined by the credibility of the victims and the witnesses. You should have a strong defense in place to dispute the authenticity of witnesses in many ways, such as conducting interviews with the alleged victim's relatives or friends and examining their social media accounts, phone calls, medical records, text messages, and/or email. Using such approaches, your defense lawyer could highlight evidence about the alleged victim's history of deceit and fabricating information.
Using a Polygraph Test
Many individuals are serving time behind bars for crimes they didn't commit. Sex-related offenses are considered very serious crimes and can result in lengthy prison terms even if there isn't much proof against the defendant. If your lawyer believes you're innocent, he or she could administer a private polygraph test and submit the results in court as proof to have the case dismissed. You must pass this test for this defense to apply to your case.
Polygraph tests are commonly associated with the FBI or the police. A competent polygrapher is essential for the reports to be considered as authentic in court. If the findings are favorable to you, your lawyer can present them to the prosecution. However, there's no guarantee that the results will be accepted in court. With the help of a competent lawyer, he or she will be able to persuade the prosecution to dismiss the charges. Again, nobody wants to send an innocent person to prison, that's why this could be successful.
Even if you are charged with the crime, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to back up their allegations. If the prosecution has photographs and footage showing the perpetrator molesting the minor, they could present it as proof. However, if the prosecution fails to submit sufficient evidence, the courts would reduce or drop the charges.
The Action Was Not Motivated By Sexual Interest
One of the key components of this crime is that the defendant's actions must be driven by a desire to engage in sexual activity with a child or minors in general. If the prosecution's evidence fails to satisfy the elements, the court won't be able to hold the defendant accountable for the allegations. There are situations when a person's actions could be misinterpreted to indicate that he or she was sexually attracted to a child.
Other times, an individual may behave in a certain way for a different reason, and when this motive is misunderstood, it is assumed that the person was acting with sexual intent. If this is the case, then the courts would not convict you of annoying or molesting a child. The judge would decide to reduce or dismiss the charges, based on the defendant's actions.
Your Civil Rights Have Been Violated
Another significant factor you could use to challenge the allegations is an infringement of your civil rights. When a police officer pressures you to admit to a crime that you did not commit, the court will consider it police misconduct. You could claim that the law enforcement officer withheld you the right to a lawyer until you admitted to the offense. When the courts acknowledge your argument, the charges will be dropped.
Other Offenses Related to Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18 Years
California PC 647.6 is distinguished from other sex crimes because of two reasons. First, being guilty of the offense does not always necessitate physical contact with the child. You could be convicted even if you had no intention of seducing or molesting the child. California PC 647.6 is associated with the following offenses:
Contacting a Minor With Intent to Commit a Felony
A conviction under California PC 288.3 would result in serving time behind bars. Before you could be found guilty of a crime, the prosecutor must show that the accused contacted the minor with the intent to commit a specific felony. These crimes would include kidnapping, rape, child pornography, or lewd acts. Being convicted of the crime doesn't always imply that you perpetrated the offenses. The court will evaluate whether you had an intention to perpetrate the offense.
Lewd Acts With Minors
A defendant would be held accountable for violating the provisions of California PC 288 if the prosecutor can prove that he or she touched or made physical contact with a minor to satisfy or arouse himself/herself sexually. The offense is centered on the act of physically touching the minor. Any type of contact could make you guilty of the offense. The provision doesn't restrict touching that does not involve genitalia. Therefore, even if you make contact with the minor's clothing, you could still be convicted.
If you're found guilty of this offense, the consequences would vary based on certain factors like how the alleged minor was touched and his/her age. For example, if the defendant used force or threatened the minor, the case would be subject to harsh penalties. Therefore, depending on the circumstances of the case, you could spend a maximum of ten years in jail. In addition, if you have a prior sex crime conviction, you could face up to 25 years behind bars. If the alleged victim is under the age of 14, the crime is punishable by a strike as per California's three-strikes statutes.
Sending Offensive Messages With an Intention to Seduce the Minor
Both annoying or molesting a child and PC 288.2 violations are similar in that the action is motivated by sexual desire. However, for you to be found guilty under PC 288.2, the prosecutor must show that you had an intention to seduce the minor. In addition, the offense requires the perpetrator to share pornographic or damaging content with the intent of seducing the minor.
California law classifies this offense as a wobbler. Therefore, the accused would either face a misdemeanor or a felony charge based on his or her criminal record and the specific details of the case. A misdemeanor offense will result in probation times and up to 6 months behind bars. You would also have to pay a hefty fine of no more than $1,000. A felony conviction, on the other hand, will result in three years of formal probation, a hefty fine of no more than $10,000, and registration as a state sex offender.
The Voyeurism of a Minor
This crime is also referred to as the "Peeping Tom" crime. The offense involves spying or recording another person. Before you can be convicted of the crime, the prosecutor must prove that you intended to infringe on another person's privacy. The offense is classified as a misdemeanor, with a one-year jail sentence and fines of no more than $2,000.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
California protects minors against all forms of sexual advances. If you are charged with these offenses, the consequences could be devastating in the future. You can contest the allegations to avoid erroneous charges and penalties. Our lawyers at the Los Angeles Criminal Attorney are here to assist you. Our professionals are well versed and experienced in dealing with sex crimes. Call us today at 424-333-0943 to speak with one of our attorneys.