California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC: Annoying or Molesting a Child
1. Definition and Elements of the Crime
While most people know that inappropriate contact with a person under 18 is illegal, many do not realize that words alone can sometimes be enough to get an adult into hot water. Under California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC, it is a crime to annoy or molest someone under 18 years old. Physical contact is not required to be guilty of this offense.
To prove that a defendant is guilty of annoying or molesting a child, a prosecutor must be able to prove the following elements:
- The defendant engaged in conduct directed at a child
- A normal person, without hesitation, would have been disturbed, irritated, offended, or injured by the defendant’s conduct
- The defendant’s conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child
- AND the child was under the age of 18 when the conduct occurred.
The child does not actually need to be irritated or disturbed by the defendant’s conduct. As mentioned above, it is not necessary that the child be touched. The terms “annoy” and “molest” mean the same thing under the law and “molest” does not necessarily involve physical contact.
2. Related Offenses
Other similar or related offenses include:
- Lewd Acts with a Child - California Penal Code Section 288 PC
- Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor - California Penal Code Section 272 PC
- Statutory Rape - California Penal Code Section 261.5 PC
A man is chatting online with a person he thinks is a 16 year old girl. In reality, the “girl” is an undercover police officer posing as a teen. The man engages the “girl” in lewd conversations about sex and asks her many sexually charged questions. The man could be charged with annoying or molesting a child pursuant to California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC even though he was not actually speaking with a 16-year-old girl. The fact that he believed he was is enough to satisfy the statute.
In another example, a man at a family reunion gets drunk and starts telling dirty jokes to various people at the gathering. The jokes are of a lewd and sexual nature and he tells one of them to his 17-year-old nephew. The man would not be guilty of annoying or molesting the child because his conduct was not motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest.
4. Defenses to Annoying or Molesting a Child
As mentioned above, if the conduct was not motivated by sexual interest or was not likely to disturb or irritate a child, the defendant would not be guilty of this offense.
This is also an offense that may be subject to false accusations, especially if the child is mistaken or the child’s parent coaches the child to make the allegations in order to cause trouble for the defendant.
Without specific aggravating factors, annoying or molesting a child is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
If the offense occurred in an inhabited dwelling, annoying or molesting a child is a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, the defendant can be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
Any second or subsequent violation of California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC is always a felony that is punishable by up to three years in prison. If the defendant has a prior conviction for rape of a minor under 16 pursuant to California Penal Code Section 261 PC, lewd acts with a minor pursuant to California Penal Code Section 288 PC, continuous sexual abuse of a minor under California Penal Code Section 288.5 PC or child pornography under California Penal Code Section 311.4, the defendant can be sentenced to up to six years in prison.
Any conviction under California Penal Code Section 647.6 PC triggers a lifetime sex offender registration requirement under California Penal Code Section 290 PC.
6. Criminal Defense for Annoying or Molesting a Child Cases
Annoying or molesting a child is a serious offense that can result in lengthy prison sentences if convicted, even where there is no physical contact. As a result, it is crucial that you meet with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer if you or a loved one have been accused of this offense. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly experienced at handling offenses like this. Mr. Kraut understands the sensitive nature of these types of charges and works with his clients to ensure they receive the absolute best defense possible.
For more information about annoying or molesting a child, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.