The Crime of Annoying or Molesting a Child in California – PC 647.6
California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC describes the crime of annoying or molesting a child under 18 while you are motivated by an abnormal sexual interest of the minor.
This serious sex crime is often called “child molestation,” and the terms “annoying” or “molesting” means to:
- engage in conduct likely to disturb or irritate a child, and
- it was motivated by sexual interest in the child.
It's important to note that PC 647.6 doesn't require any actual touching of the minor, rather just the words used can be sufficient to be charged under this statute.
Penal Code 647.6 PC child molestation is another California “wobbler” crime that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony sex crime.
Example of child molestation
An example of annoying or molesting a child includes a situation where someone makes sexually explicit comments or gestures toward a minor and tells them exactly what sexual act they would like to perform on them.
In order to give readers a better understanding on California's child molestations laws, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a detailed review below.
What Does “Annoying” or “Molesting” Conduct Mean?
Most people believe the term “molesting” is some type of physical sexual act, but in the context of this statute, it's a synonym of “annoying.”
As stated above, no physical contact of any type has to occur in order to violate Penal Code 647.6 PC. Put another way, words alone can be considered annoyance or molestation.
In addition, indirect sexual conduct, like masturbation, can be considered a violation under this statute if it was done with the intent to be seen by the child or a group of children.
Thus, annoying and molesting conduct under Penal Code 647.6 PC is that which is:
- motivated by a sexual interest in a child or children in general, and
- likely to disturb or irritate a child or children.
It should be noted the child or children don't need to be personally disturbed or irritated for the conduct to be consider a criminal act, rather just the standard of would a reasonable child be disturbed or irritated under the circumstances.
Also, there is no requirement that a certain child be a target of the unlawful conduct. For example, if you engage a group of children in general in a prohibited act, then you could still be charged under PC 647.6.
General intent crime
California Penal Code 647.6 PC annoying or molesting a child is a considered general intent crime, meaning:
- you don't have to intend for your conduct to be lewd or obscene, or;
- that your conduct actually irritated a child.
In other words, this statute is primarily focused on the conduct itself, not the end result of such conduct.
This means that if your conduct would irritate a normal person and invade the privacy and security of a child, then it would be considered a crime under Penal Code 647.6.
What Factors Must Be Proven for a PC 647.6 Conviction?
In order for the prosecutor or obtain a conviction for child molestation under California Penal Code 647.6, they must be able to prove several different factors.
These factors are commonly known as the “elements of the crime” and listed under CALCRIM 1122 Criminal Jury Instructions:
- you engaged in conduct towards a minor under 18 at the time, and;
- a normal person would have been disturbed, irritated, or offended by your conduct, and;
- your conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the minor.
Again, PC 647.6 applies to anyone who are “motivated” by an abnormal sexual interest in a child and doesn't require an intent to seduce the child.
If you had a reasonable belief the child was at least 18 years old, then you are not guilty under this statute. Related California crimes include:
- Penal Code 261.5 PC - statutory rape,
- Penal Code 288.2 PC - sending harmful material to seduce a minor,
- Penal Code 288.3 PC - contacting a minor to commit a felony.
What are the Penalties for PC 647.6 Child Molestation?
In most first offenses of Penal Code 647.6 PC annoying or molesting a child, it's a misdemeanor offense punishable by:
- up to a year in a county jail,
- a $5,000 fine, or both.
Inhabited dwelling house
If the defendant entered an inhabited dwelling house without permission during the course of the crime, then PC 647.6 becomes a “wobbler” that can be filed as either a misdemeanors or felony case.
If you are convicted of a Penal Code 647.6(b) felony case of annoying or molesting a child, it's punishable by up to three years in a California state prison.
If you have prior conviction for PC 647.6 annoying or molesting a child, then the new case is always a felony offense.
Prior sex crime convictions
If you have a prior conviction for certain other sex crimes, then any violation of Penal Code 647.6 is a felony punishable by two, four, or six years in a California state prison. The prior sex crime conviction includes:
- Penal Code 311 PC – child pornography,
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts on a child,
- Penal Code 288.5 PC – continuous sexual abuse of child,
- Penal Code 261 PC – rape of a minor.
Registration as a sex offender
A conviction for PC 647.6 annoying or molesting a child will normally include a requirement to register as a sex offender under Penal Code 290 PC. This means you information will publicly appear on Megan’s Law website.
Defenses for PC 647.6 Annoying or Molesting a Child Charges
If you were accused of child molestation under Penal Code 647.6, our Los Angeles criminal lawyers can use a variety of defenses in an effort to get the charges reduced or dismissed. The most common defenses include:
- conduct was not motivated by a sexual interest in the child;
- challenge the credibility of witnesses.
Lack of motivation
One of the most difficult elements to prove in an annoying or molesting a child case is often the requisite mental state of the defendant.
Recall from the elements of the crime above, the prosecutor must prove the defendant was motivated by a sexual interest in a child or children in general.
Unless the defendant makes a confession to police, there is no evidence to prove their mental state. The prosecutor will normally rely of the totality of the circumstances in an attempt to prove the defendant was motivated by a sexual interest in children.
This means we might be able to make a reasonable argument this crucial element of guilt can't be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Witness and victim credibility
If the alleged annoying or molesting act was observed by a witness, then challenging the credibility of the witness might be possible.
We could review the case to seek any motivations for the alleged victim or witness to make false allegations. Perhaps they have a bias of history of dishonestly or manipulation.
Criminal Defense for California Child Molestation Charges
Any allegation you were involved in annoying or molesting a child case can have a dramatic impact on your life.
If you are under criminal investigation, or were already arrested for violating California Penal Code 647.6 PC for annoying or molesting a child, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers for a consultation.
Child molestation are serious allegations that can lead to severe penalties if you are convicted. Every case is unique and fact-specific and the outcome will depend on the circumstances of your case.
Early intervention with the prosecutor and law enforcement can be crucial to obtaining a favorable outcome.
Through prefiling intervention, we might be able to avoid formal charges being filed against you before court.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-ranked criminal defense law firm representing clients throughout Southern California, including Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange County, Pasadena, Riverside County, and San Bernardino.
We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is next to the Van Nuys Courthouse at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
Contact our firm to review the details of the case at (877) 781-1570.