Protecting children is the priority of every government. However, it shouldn’t occur at the expense of innocent persons. It is often the case where you or another adult is facing charges of annoying or molesting a minor. If you engage in any behavior motivated by unusual and abnormal sexual interest in a minor or a person below the age of 18, that results in irritation or disturbance of the minor is a crime. A lot of people don’t understand the conduct that results in these charges, while others are facing allegations of having committed an illegal act. Keep in mind just an accusation of the crime can change your whole life. A strong defense is what you need whenever you are facing these allegations to avoid sentencing when you are innocent.
At The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm, we are here to assist you in reducing the harsh penalties being charged or convicted for annoying or molesting a child under 18. Below we have highlighted the overview of the crime, elements of prosecution, penalties, defenses, and how the offense is different from other sex crimes.
Overview of Annoying or Molesting a Child
California PC 647.6 makes it unlawful to annoy or molest a minor under 18 or an adult you believe to be below 18 years. If you irritate or molest a minor after having gained access to their dwelling or any part of a building they have inhabited without consent, you will be charged under PC 647.6b. The offense is a wobbler, and the prosecution can file it as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Note that in this definition, molesting and annoying mean the same thing. Many people think of molesting when it comes to sex crimes as any physical, sexual abuse. But in this case, no kind of physical harm is required to charge you with the offense. A word you say can constitute molestation. Also, indirect acts that are sexual and directed towards children or minors constitute molestation or irritation.
Elements of PC 647.6
You are guilty of violating this California PC if the prosecution can establish the following components:
You Engaged in a Conduct Directed to a Minor
Any sexual event, expressed or spoken in the presence of a child under 18 to rouse or stimulate the minor sexually, is deemed as conduct in this component. Therefore, if the prosecution can prove that you used sexual language like asking children questions that are sexual, texted a minor sexual content, or masturbated in a place full of children, the court will conclude your actions were targeting the minors. That way, you will be found guilty of violating PC 647.6.
Your Conduct Would make a Reasonable Person Feel Offended or Irritated
The prosecution also has the burden to demonstrate that your actions or conduct were odd, and an average child would feel disturbed or irritated by it. PC 647.6 has the goal of punishing persons who assault a minor’s sense of privacy or security. Therefore, even if you never intended for your actions to be lewd or you thought your conduct was appropriate, you will be convicted as long as you invaded the security or privacy of a minor. Also, it will not count if the child felt irritated or disturbed by your behavior. The court will focus more on whether a reasonable or rational child would be annoyed or bothered by your conduct. If the conclusion is that an average child would feel uncomfortable and disturbed by your actions, then you are guilty of the crime.
An Unnatural or Abnormal Sexual Interest motivated your Actions in a Child
Convictions under PC 647.6 focus more on punishing actions that are driven by odd or abnormal sexual interest in a child below 18. It doesn’t require that you succeed in coaxing the child to engage in sexual conduct.
Also, note that you are not punishable under this Penal Code if you were driven by other interests that are not sexual. For the prosecution to succeed in proving your guilt, they must present evidence showing your previous actions towards a child in a past relationship with a child. Secondly, they must submit the circumstantial evidence surrounding your actions.
It is not easy to counter these elements unless with the help of a profound criminal defense lawyer. An experienced attorney understands that proving intent to irritate or molest is not easy for the prosecution. Thus they will exploit this weakness to get you a favorable outcome.
Penalties for PC 647.6 Violation
You could be subject to misdemeanor or felony charges depending on your criminal history and the specific situation of your case. The prosecution holds the decision on the type of charge to prefer against you. PC 647.6 violation is a wobbler under subsection PC 647.6b if there are aggravating factors surrounding your cases such as entering a dwelling or a portion of a structure inhabited by a child or children without consent to annoy or molest them when motivated by sexual interests.
Generally, first-time offenders under this statute are charged with misdemeanor charges if aggravating factors are lacking. Also, you can be charged with misdemeanor PC 647.6b if there are aggravating circumstances. The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction includes:
- As much as 364 days in jail
- Court fines not beyond five thousand dollars
If you are charged with a felony PC 647.6b and convicted, you will incur the following penalties:
- A minimum of sixteen and a maximum of thirty-six months in prison
- As much as $5,000 in court fines
Keep in mind that if you have a prior felony conviction for PC 647.6 violation, a subsequent breach will attract prison incarceration for twenty-four to seventy-two months. The previous felony conviction defined here is sex crimes like:
- Rape of a child below 16
- Continuous sexual abuse of a minor
- Lewd acts with a minor
- Child pornography
Probation in Place of Prison or Jail Sentence
Rather than having to be incarcerated for the period of your sentence, the court might order probation. However, parole is not granted to persons charged with annoying or molesting a child with aggravating factors. The court will evaluate the situation surrounding your case, whether or not you are a danger to children and your criminal past to determine your eligibility.
If you are subject to summary or misdemeanor probation, you should expect it to last for 12 to 36 months. Sometimes it might extend even to as much as five years. The conditions for this type of probation are:
- Community service or labor
- Paying fines
- Appearing before a judge for periodic reports
If the court orders formal or felony probation, expect it to last for thirty-six to sixty months. The form of parole also comes with its conditions. These are:
- Regular reports to a parole officer
- Restitution to the victim
- Adherence to other terms set forth by the judge or parole officer
Note that being granted formal probation might also mean that you will be spending twelve months in jail instead of prison incarceration. Also, keep in mind a violation of any of the terms of probation might lead to the cancelation of parole, and you could be sent to serve the underlying sentence in prison.
If you want a court order barring you from getting in contact with the victim modified, the request to have the adjustment must be made by the victim and a finding made by the court that the modification is for the interest of the victim.
Registration as a Sex Offender
Despite the type of conviction you have either a misdemeanor or a felony, you are required to register as a sex offender per PC 290. The registration means that your details and the type of crime you have been convicted for will be available for the public to see. The record usually lasts for a lifetime, but currently, it follows a three-tier system, and only a third-tier offense carries a lifetime registration. A first-time conviction is referred to as a tier-one offense. Under this, your registration as a sex offender lasts for a minimum of ten years. If you get a second or subsequent conviction, it is categorized as a two-tier offense. Under this system, you will register as a sex offender for not less than twenty years.
The only way to get off the registry is if you acquire a certificate of rehabilitation if you had been convicted of a misdemeanor PC 647.6. The other way to get off the record is that if you complete the ten years, you will register for tier one offense. If you are off the register, it means your information is not accessible to the public.
Keep in mind that employers and various learning institutions always run some background checks before hiring or admitting someone into their organization. As a result, if you have been convicted of PC 647.6 violation, registering as a sex offender means you might never join a college or work again until your period of registration is over. If you register under the three-tier system, you might never work still because the record lasts for a lifetime. A strong defense will help you in this situation because your attorney will ensure you face reduced charges or get the charges dismissed. If the charges are dismissed, it means you don’t have to register as a sex offender at all. On the other hand, if the allegations are reduced, you will be convicted for a lesser charge where you register through the first or second-tier system. Under these systems, you won’t appear in the registry forever, which means your life will not completely change like that of a person registered under the three-tier system.
Legal Defenses for PC 647.6 Charges
In cases of annoying or molesting a minor, every litigant and defendant is different. It means that the prosecution cannot use similar defense strategies for all these cases. Every case has different circumstances, and the defense theory applied must be changed for another trial. Some of the strategies you can use to fight these charges are:
The Accuser or Victim is not Telling the Truth
The majority of PC 647.6 cases involve allegations with no facts. It is the child who is the victim or the witness who alleges the defendant said or did something. There is no way of establishing whether the child is telling the truth or not. In such situations, the court relies on the credibility of the accuser or the witness to decide if the allegations are true or false. Diminishing the reliability of a person is not easy. It means you have to do a lot of homework and background checks on them. Here, you will need an enthusiastic attorney with the resources to attack the credibility of the accuser or witness. The attorney will learn all the facts required by interviewing the relatives and friends of the accuser, keeping an eye on the victim’s social media accounts and subpoenaing text messages, phone calls, email, and medical records.
It is in these records that an excellent attorney will find facts to show that the alleged victim or witness has a history of making false allegations or of being dishonest. If you can succeed in demonstrating to the court that the accuser or witness by the prosecution cannot be trusted because of his or her history, their credibility will be questioned. It will help show that the child is known to be a liar or biased against you or the defendant. The court will, therefore, assume that the accusations are not valid, or the accuser is biased against the defendant, thus throwing the case out.
The Behavior was not Driven by Sexual Interest
Remember, as said earlier, the prosecution must show that your sexual interests drove you into engaging in the behavior or conduct. If your attorney can prove you were motivated by other desires that were not sexual, you won’t be convicted. If you had the innocent motivation or the prosecution lacks facts to prove that sexual interests motivated you, then you will be acquitted of the charges.
Making Use of Lie Detectors
Lie detectors are also known as polygraph tests. These are used by law enforcers and prosecutors to tell if someone is lying or not. In California, private defense polygraph tests are allowed. In these, everything is confidential, and you don’t have to be worried about the results of the tests being made public or revealed to the court. Your defense attorney can administer this test, and although you can’t use the results in court to show you are telling the truth, your attorney can use them to convince the court to reduce or dismiss the charges. Polygraph test results are inadmissible in court, and often, your defense lawyer reveals them if you are telling the truth.
Besides the above defenses, you can also argue that you honestly and in good faith didn’t believe that the accuser was a child below 18. You can claim that the victim said he or she was 18 years or they were taking alcohol when you met them, which led you to reasonably believe they were above 18. Also, you can claim that your behavior would not have disturbed, irritated, or annoyed the victim.
Statute of Limitation for PC 647.6 Charge
The majority of misdemeanor offenses have a statute of limitation of twelve months. However, for misdemeanor PC 647.6, where the victim is under the age of 14, the law of limitation is three years. If the thirty-six months elapse without the prosecution filing the charges, you lose your constitutional rights to bring charges against the accused.
PC 647.6 Vs. Other California Sex Crimes
PC 647.6 is different from other sex crimes in that it doesn’t require actual touching of physical, sexual abuse with the child. Also, you will still be convicted even if you didn’t have the intent to arouse or sexually stimulate the child. Below are other components that distinguish these offenses:
The Voyeurism of a Minor
The crime is also referred to as Peeping Tom, and it is codified under PC 647(j). The statute prohibits people from spying or recording videos of another person with the intent to invade his or her security or privacy. The law is different from PC 647.6 in that the prosecution must prove you had intentions to invade the privacy of the victim. Also, the acts in PC 647j are not intended to be seen by the victim.
The offense of Peeping Tom is a misdemeanor, and a sentence attracts fines no more than two thousand dollars and incarceration in jail for 364 days.
Sending Harmful Matter with Intent to Seduce a Minor
The offense is codified under PC 288.2. It makes it a crime to post pornographic or any other harmful matter to a minor in the continuance of the intent to seduce him or her. The offense differs with annoying or molesting a minor in that there must be a further intent of the actual seduction of a child. The two crimes are, however, similar in the sense that they are motivated by sexual interest.
Violation of PC 288.2 is a wobbler. Where the preferred charge against you is a misdemeanor, you will be subject to the following punishment:
- Informal probation
- Jail imprisonment for no more than 180 days
- Court fines not exceeding one thousand dollars
On the other hand, a sentence for a felony PC 288.2 violation attracts punishment as follows:
- Felony probation
- As much as ten thousand dollars’ court fines
- Registering as a sex offender under the tier three system
- Incarceration for 16, 24 or 36 months in state prison
Contacting a Minor with Intent to Commit a felony
The crime is defined under PC 288.3. It makes it illegal to touch a child with the intent to kidnap, rape, engage in lewd actor, child pornography, or other felonies listed under this statute. To be convicted under PC 288.3, you don’t need to succeed in committing any of these felonies. The prosecution needs to show you are guilty of contacting or trying to touch a minor with the intent to commit a crime.
On the issue of sentencing, if you are found guilty of PC 288.3 violation, you will be subject to state imprisonment for the same duration as the term in prison you would have been subject to for an attempt to commit the felony in question. So, if you were contacting a minor to try and rape him or her, if you are guilty under PC 288.3, you will face penalties of attempted rape on a minor. The same will apply to all other penalties under PC 288.3.
Repeat offenders, on the other hand, will face enhanced sentencing. Whatever prison or jail term you get, you will get an additional and consecutive sixty months in prison.
Lewd Acts with a Child
PC 288 prohibits individuals from touching a child with intent to arouse or excite themselves or the minor sexually. Remember, the prosecution focuses on the touch and not the touch. Even if the brush is on clothing or that of the minor, you can be convicted of the offense.
The penalties for a sentence, in this case, depends on the age of the child and whether force or threats were used. Depending on the situation, you might be sentenced to probation or, in other cases, up to ten years in prison. If the victim is a minor under 14, you will get a strike. Furthermore, if you are a habitual sex offender, you will be subject to an additional 25 years to life imprisonment.
Find a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
If you or an immediate family member has been accused of violating PC 647.6, reach out to The LA Criminal Defense Law Firm at 310-935-1675. Our attorneys are experienced in sex crimes and will provide the best defense against annoying or molesting a child under 18 charges. Call us today or visit our offices for a free consultation.