Under California law, it is an offense to annoy or molest a child under the age of eighteen years while motivated by a sexual interest towards them. A conviction for molesting or annoying a minor attracts severe legal penalties, including a prison sentence, fines, and probation. You may be required to register as a sex offender, which will significantly affect your personal and professional life. If you or your loved one faces criminal charges Under California Penal Code 647.6, you will require a strong defense. At Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm, we provide consultation, guidance, and representation services to ensure the best outcome in your case.

Overview of Molesting and Annoying a Minor

California Penal Code 647.6 prohibits annoying or molesting a child under the age of eighteen or an adult you believe is underage. For this offense, there is no difference between annoying and molesting. The following are important elements that need to be clear before a conviction for annoying or molesting a minor is made:

  1. You engaged in lewd conduct that was directed to a minor under the age of eighteen years. Sometimes you could make an annoying gesture to another person in the presence of a minor. In this case, you can get arrested for annoying or molesting a minor. Before you are convicted, the prosecutor needs to prove that your conduct was directed to a minor. You do not need to have singled out a particular child to get convicted. You violate the law when you act from unnatural sexual interests in children generally.
  2. A normal person would have been offended or disturbed by your conduct. When proving your guilt under Penal Code 647.6, it should be clear that your conduct would have bothered a normal person. Physical contact with a child’s body part is not required in such a case. Words and actions that have the potential to irritate the child could get you convicted. 
  3. You engaged in conduct that was likely to irritate a child. California law seeks to punish individuals who engage in behavior that assaults a child’s privacy and security. For this offense, it does not matter if you had an intention to annoy the child. As long as your conduct would have made an average child feel unsafe, you can get arrested and convicted for annoying or molesting a child.
  4. Your conduct was motivated by a sexual interest to a child. Penal Code 647.6 seeks to punish behavior that is motivated by the unnatural sexual interest in children. Even when you did not intend to coax the child with a sexual act, you can still be guilty of it. However, if your behavior was motivated by other interests that are not sexual, you cannot get convicted for annoying or molesting a child.

When you face criminal charges, the prosecutor will try their best to prove the above elements to get you convicted. However, it is crucial to understand that if you did not intend a child to witness your actions, you could fight the charges. If you had another motive behind your actions other than sexual interests in a minor, you might not be held guilty. However, the prosecutor tries to prove your sexual interests in a child by presenting evidence on previous lewd conduct towards a child. Also, they may find circumstantial evidence surrounding your actions

When you are battling criminal charges for molesting or annoying a minor, you will require guidance from a criminal defense attorney’s knowledgeable attorney who could present evidence that contradicts the prosecutor. This puts pressure on the case and gives you a fighting chance.

Penalties for Annoying or Molesting a Child under Eighteen Years

In California, molesting or annoying a child is a wobbler. The court has the discretion of charging the offense as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on your criminal history and circumstances of your case. If your offense is surrounded by aggravating circumstances, you are more likely to face felony charges. If there are no aggravating circumstances and your first offense, you are likely to be charged with a misdemeanor. A conviction for a misdemeanor attracts the following penalties:

  • A jail sentence of up to one year
  • A fine of up to $5,000
  • Summary probation. Misdemeanor probation lasts up to three years. If you are granted probation, you may be required to pay fines, meet a counselor, and appear to court for performance assessment.

If you have a prior conviction for molesting a child, you will face felony charges. Also, this will be the case if you have a history of committing sex offenses. When convicted as a felony, molesting and annoying a child attracts a prison sentence of up to three years. You may get sentenced to felony probation, whether you are required to adhere to the following conditions:

  • Paying victim restitution
  • Regular check-ins with a probation officer
  • Avoiding involvement in other criminal charges
  • Seek counseling

In California, the court may decide to impose probation instead of a prison sentence. However, you are eligible for probation if there are no aggravating circumstances in your case. Some of the aggravating circumstances could be a history of child molestation. The type of probation you get will depend on the nature of your conviction.

Sex Offender Registration

If you get convicted Under Penal Code 647.6, you are required to register as a sex offender. Therefore, all information about the offense you committed will be available to the public. If you are convicted for a first offense, you will maintain the sex offender status for at least ten years. For a second offense, you will register as a sex offender for twenty years. 

Legal Defenses for California Penal Code 647.6 Charges

Getting arrested and charged with annoying or molesting a child does not often guarantee a conviction. There are a variety of legal defenses to Penal Code 647.6. A competent criminal defense attorney will review your case and determine the suitable defense for your situation. They will then utilize the strategies to ensure the best possible outcome. Some of the common legal defenses available for you include:

  1. You were Falsely Accused

It is not uncommon for an individual to be falsely accused of a crime they did not commit. False accusations of annoying or molesting a child often arise. As a result, family misunderstanding or after a divorce. You can show that you were falsely accused by attacking the credibility of the alleged witness. Your defense lawyer could request the accuser’s medical school and networking records. Also, close relatives may be interviewed to identify previous instances, giving false testimony. If the alleged victim is found to be lying, the prosecutor could dismiss your criminal charges.

  1. Your Conduct Was Not Directed to a Minor

Before you get convicted for annoying or molesting a minor, it should be clear that your conduct was directed to a child under eighteen years. Sometimes your actions are annoying and inappropriate but are not intended to be witnessed by a child. If you can prove that your conduct was not directed to the child, you cannot be charged or convicted under California Penal Code 647.6.

  1. Your Conduct Was Not Motivated by Sexual Interests

Your indecent sexual interest towards a child is an important factor that needs to be proven before you are convicted. Showing that your actions were motivated by sexual interests in a child is difficult for a prosecutor. If you do not have past sex offense convictions against a minor, you can use this as a defense to your case. However, you might be required to explain the motive behind your actions.

  1. Use of Polygraph Examinations

Polygraph tests are commonly known as lie detector tests. California law allows you to take a private test that does not have to be revealed to the public. However, your attorney can mention it if it is favorable for you in the case. Although the tests are not considered admissible in court, they can help convince the judge to dismiss the charges brought against you.

  1. Your Conduct was Mistaken to be Inappropriate

Sometimes your actions could be mistaken as inappropriate and annoying, especially if you did it in front of a child. If you can prove that you lacked a sexual interest in the child and your actions were not meant to offend the child, you cannot get convicted.

  1. The Behavior You Exhibiting Does Not have a Tendency to Annoy a Reasonable Person

Your conduct should be offensive to a reasonable person for a conviction. However, an overreacting child could exaggerate your behavior to make it look like molestation. With the help of a competent attorney, you can prove that a reasonable person wouldn’t get offended by your actions.

  1. You Reasonably Believed that the Victim was an Adult

You may not be found guilty of molesting or annoying a minor if you reasonably believed that the victim was an adult. This could happen if the victim or a close family member tells you that they are eighteen years or older. Also, if you met the victim in an establishment such as a bar, you may have thought that they were over the age of eighteen. In this case, the prosecutor will need to prove that belief was reasonable.

Frequently Asked Questions on Molesting and Annoying a Child under Eighteen Years

Molesting or annoying a minor is a serious offense in California. The following are some frequently asked questions about this offense:

  1. Can I get convicted for annoying or molesting a child if I did not touch them?

Yes. The offense of annoying or molesting a minor does not require one to make any physical contact with the child. The only crucial thing is your conduct and how it may have affected abnormal children. Therefore, even if you did not touch a child, conduct motivated by sexual interests towards them could get you arrested and convicted.

  1. Do I need to register as a sex offender after a conviction for annoying or molesting a child?

Yes. Annoying or molesting a minor is one of the offenses that require registration as a sex offender. In this case, you will need to register at local law enforcement agencies annually and inform the location. Also, your personal information and sex offender status is posted for the public to see. If you face charges under Penal Code 647.6, you will require guidance from a competent criminal defense attorney. This will help you avoid the consequences that accompany the sex offender status.

  1. Can I be convicted Under Penal Code 647.6 if the victim lied about being 18 years or older

Criminal charges for molesting or annoying a minor arise if the victim was younger than eighteen. You would not be held guilty for this offense if the alleged victim lied about their age. However, the jury must find that a reasonable person in your position would have had a similar belief. In this case, the circumstances surrounding the offense are considered when making a decision. Therefore, it is always crucial to enlist the help of a competent criminal defense attorney if you are facing these charges.

  1. Does a child’s age affect the sentencing for California Penal Code 647.6?

Yes. Annoying or molesting a child attracts severe legal penalties if you get convicted in California. However, the penalties you receive will be influenced by a child’s age and the circumstances under which the offense occurred. The younger the victim, the more severe the penalties you are likely to face.

Offenses Related to Penal Code 647.6 of California

Annoying or molesting a child under eighteen years is a serious sex offense in California. The following are some common offenses that are related to Penal Code 647.6:

Sending Harmful Material With the Intent to Seduce a Child

California law makes it an offense to send harmful material to a minor to arouse them sexually. For this offense, a harmful material is considered as anything that offensively describes sexual conduct. A prosecutor needs to prove the following before convicting you under California Penal Code 288.2:

  1. You knowingly sent or exhibited a harmful material to a minor including electronic communication
  2. When you acted, you were aware that the recipient was a minor. Also, it should be clear that you failed to ascertain the recipient’s age reasonably.
  3. You acted intending to arouse passion, lust, or sexual desire on yourself and the minor.
  4. When you acted, you intended to engage in a sexual act with the child.

Physical contact is not a necessary factor when you are getting convicted for sending harmful materials to a minor. Sending harmful material to a child differs from annoying and molesting a child in that an intent to arouse the child is required for this offense. Penal Code 288.2 of California is a wobbler. The offense could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. The legal penalties for this offense when charged as a misdemeanor include:

  • Fines of up to one thousand dollars
  • A prison sentence of up to one year in county jail

On the other hand, a felony conviction will attract the following penalties:

  • Custody in State Prison for a period of up to three years
  • Fines that do not exceed ten thousand dollars
  • Formal probation in which you are required to adhere to all terms set by the court

If your case circumstances are aggravated, a conviction for sending harmful content to a child could affect your immigration status. Getting deported or rendered inadmissible is a common consequence of aggravated felonies. If you are facing criminal charges under Penal Code 288.2, it is crucial to seek legal guidance.

California Penal Code 311 – Child Pornography

In California, it is an offense to send, transport, or possess child pornography. Also, persuading minors to take part in pornographic activities could attract criminal charges. Some of the elements that are crucial to a child pornography criminal case include:

  1. Possession of child pornography - For this offense, child pornography is considered any sexual material that depicts the sexual conduct of individuals under 18 years old. The material could be photos, videotapes, or films. Before a conviction, the prosecutor must prove that you possessed child pornography.
  2. Knowingly - You are only guilty of child pornography in California if you acted knowingly. This means that you knew the maturity of the materials you were transporting, sending, or advertising.
  3. The materials were obscene - Under California child pornography laws, you can only get convicted if the pornographic material involved is obscene. Something is considered obscene if it offensively displays sexual conduct.

In most cases, child pornography is charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. When charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by a jail sentence of one year and fines of $2,500. For a felony conviction, you may serve a prison sentence of up to three years. Also, a conviction for this offense may require you to register as a sex offender.

California Penal Code 288(b) – Lewd Act With a Minor by Force or Fear

You commit an offense of lewd conduct with a minor when you use fear or force to touch a child under fourteen years for sexual purposes sexually. Your actions would qualify as lewd conduct if there were an intent to gratify yourself or the victim sexually. It does not require that you touch the child with a sex organ. Any contact, even though a child’s clothing could be considered lewd. 

When you face charges for lewd acts with a child, the prosecutor needs to prove that you used force. It should also be clear that you touched a child under fourteen years with the intention of sexual gratification for you, the child, or a third party. In California, Penal Code 288(b) is charged as a felony. The nature and severity of the penalties you receive will vary depending on a child’s age and the amount of force used to perpetrate the crime.

If you are convicted, you will be subject to a prison sentence of up to ten years. Additionally, if you have a prior conviction for a related offense or are a habitual sex offender, your sentence may be increased to 25 years. Therefore, guidance from a competent criminal defense attorney is crucial if you are facing charges for lewd acts with a child.

The Voyeurism of a Minor

You violate California Penal Code 647(j) when you make a video of another person or spy intending to invade privacy. Unlike annoying or molesting a child, Penal Code 647(j) applies to the conduct that isn’t meant to be seen. When securing a conviction, the prosecutor needs to show that you peeked through an opening. Also, it should be clear that you intended to invade the victim’s privacy.

The voyeurism of a minor is charged as a misdemeanor. A conviction for this offense gets punished by:

  • A jail sentence of up to one year
  • A fine not exceeding $2,000

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

If you annoy or molest a child under the age of eighteen, you risk getting arrested and charged under California Penal Code 647.6. The penalties you suffer for molesting or annoying a child with sexual interests will depend on the child’s age and method used to commit the offense. It is not uncommon for someone to accuse you of annoying or molesting a minor, especially in family battles. Fortunately, there are defenses you can prevent to avoid the serious penalties that accompany a conviction for this offense. If you are facing criminal charges for molesting a minor, you require the guidance of an attorney from Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Law Firm. If you are in Orange County, CA, you will need us by your side. Call us today at 714-740-7848 and allow us to guide you through the case.