Annoying or Molesting A Child in California
- Penal Code §647.6 -
Annoying or Molesting A Child Under 18 – PC §647.6
California Penal Code section 647.6 makes it a crime to annoy or molest a child under the age of 18. A person who violates PC 647.6 can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances.
Criminal charges for annoying or molesting a child should never be taken lightly. As you will see, the consequences for violating PC 647.6 are very serious. In fact, California characterizes PC 647.6 as a sex crime that requires a defendant to register as a sex offender for a MINIMUM of 10 years, if convicted.
The following information is intended to provide a general understanding of the crime for annoying or molesting a child in California. It is always recommended that someone charged with violating penal code section 647.6 contact an experienced sex crimes lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
1. What is considered annoying or molesting a child?
Annoying or molesting a child is criminalized pursuant to penal code section 647.6, sometimes referred to as PC 647.6.
PC 647.6 makes it a crime to engage in conduct directed at a child that a reasonable person would find offensive or annoying when the conduct is motivated by an unnatural or an abnormal sexual interest in children.
Penal Code §647.6 States:
(a) (1) Every person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.
(2) Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, engages in conduct with an adult whom he or she believes to be a child under 18 years of age, which conduct, if directed toward a child under 18 years of age, would be a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
While many believe that molting a child requires that someone commit a sexual act on a child, this could not be further from the truth. A person can violate PC 647.6 simply by using offensive language if they were motivated by an unnatural sexual interest in children when making the statement.
An example of PC 647.6 might be a teacher repeatedly asking a student about their sexual history or sharing their sexual history with a student.
2. What are the elements of Penal Code §647.6
All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in the United States. A prosecutor, either a district attorney or a city attorney in Orange County, is responsible for proving all of the essential components of the crime.
The essential components of a crime are called the elements of the crime. To be convicted of violating PC 647.6 for annoying or molesting a child the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant engaged in conduct directed at a child,
A reasonable person would have been disturbed or offended by the conduct,
The conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child, AND
The child was under the age of 18 years old at the time of the conduct.
It should be noted that PC 647.6 does not require the child to actually be disturbed or offended. A person violates PC 647.6 when a reasonable, ordinary person would consider the defendant’s conduct disturbing or offensive.
Indecent exposure directed toward a child may be considered a violation of Penal Code §647.6
3. What are the penalties for annoying or molesting a child?
The penalties for annoying or molesting a person in violation of penal code section 647.6 depend on the severity of the charge. A violation of PC 647.6 can be charged either as a misdemeanor or a felony.
A first violation of PC 647.6 is usually a misdemeanor crime. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor violation of PC 647.6 is a fine of $5,000, imprisonment in the county jail for 1-year, or both that fine and imprisonment.
A subsequent violation of PC 647.6 is a felony offense. The maximum penalty for a subsequent felony violation of PC 647.6 is:
Imprisonment in the state prison for 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years;
A fine of up to $10,000; OR
Both that fine and imprisonment.
There are also aggravating circumstances that can increase the penalty for violating PC 647.6. If the prosecutor alleges one of the aggravating circumstances, then the maximum term of imprisonment is 6-years in the state prison.
A judge can also order that the defendant be imprisoned in jail as a condition of the defendant's probation.
4. Will I have to register as a sex offender if convicted of PC 647.6?
Yes, if you are convicted of annoying or molesting someone in violation of PC 647.6 you will have to register as a sex offender. California law requires that persons convicted of certain sex crimes register as sex offenders with their local law enforcement agency.
Pursuant to penal code section 290, any person convicted of PC 647.6 must register as a sex offender as a tier one offender for a minimum of 10 years.
Any person convicted of a subsequent violation of PC 647.6 must register as a tier two sex offender for a minimum of 20 years.
A list of persons that are required to register as sex offenders is made publicly available by the Department of Justice on the Megan’s Law Website. Additionally, the Department of Justice is required to notify some professional licensing agencies of any licensee who is convicted of a sex crime.
Sex offender registration is required by law and is not a penalty that can be negotiated with the prosecutor or the judge. However, a good sex crimes lawyer can ordinarily negotiate a deal that allows the defendant to plead guilty to a different offense that does not require sex offender registration.
Click here for more information regarding the requirement to register as a sex offender or to learn more about the consequences of failing to register as a sex offender.
5. Common defenses to charges for annoying or molesting a child
Although every case and every accusation is different, there are many common defenses that a criminal defense lawyer can use to fight charges for violating PC 647.6.
Mistake of Age –
A person is not guilty of violating PC 647.6 if the person had a reasonable belief that the child was at least 18 years old. This defense requires that the defendant actually believe that the child was at least 18 years old, and that the defendant’s belief was reasonable under the circumstances.
The jury must consider all of the surrounding circumstances in determining whether the defendant reasonably believed the child was 18 years old.
A jury is usually more likely to believe the defendant made a reasonable mistake as to the child’s age when the child was almost 18 years old, told the defendant they were 18, and/or engaged in conduct that is ordinarily reserved for adults.
Not Sexually Motivated –
PC 647.6 requires that the defendant’s conduct be motivated by a sexual interest in children. If the defendant was NOT motivated by some sexual interest in children, then the defendant would not be guilty of a crime.
For example, consider the teacher in the example mentioned earlier. If the teacher was asking the student questions about their sexual history because they suspect the student may be being sexually abused, then the teacher would not be guilty of PC 647.6.
If you or someone you love has been charged with violating PC 647.6 for allegedly annoying or molesting a child, it is imperative you speak with a knowledgeable Orange County sex crimes lawyer right away. A good criminal defense attorney will be able to preserve any legal defenses that may be available.
Contact An Orange County Criminal Lawyer
John-Patrick Mullen-Lujan is a trusted sex crimes lawyer located in Orange County, CA. He prides himself on his ability to communicate with clients as he helps them navigate our complex criminal justice system.
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