California law is stringent on crimes involving persons under eighteen years. Therefore, if you express a sexual act or interest towards a child, you will face an arrest and charges for annoying or molesting the child under California Penal Code 647.6. Evidence of sexual or physical contact with the child is not necessary to establish guilt for this crime. Therefore, any act towards a child motivated by sexual interests will attract a conviction.
Molesting or annoying a minor under eighteen is a sex crime, making the potential criminal consequences severe. In addition to spending a long time in jail, you may be required to register as a sex offender for a period of time. Being a sex offender is embarrassing and can affect your professional life and personal interactions.
If you face charges for violating PC 647.6, you will need the guidance of a competent lawyer. Your attorney will help protect your rights and build a robust defense against the charges.
Understanding California Penal Code 647.6 PC
California law makes it a crime to depict or express sexual interests towards a child. Most people think of physical contact when they think of molesting a child. However, what differentiates PC 647.6 from other sex offenses is that no evidence of contact is necessary to establish that you molested or annoyed a minor under eighteen.
Before a conviction under this statute, the prosecutor must establish these elements:
You Engaged in Annoying Conduct Towards a Minor
California PC 647.6 is clear on conduct that is considered annoying towards a minor. A minor, in this case, is a child under eighteen years. In California, children cannot consent to any sexual acts. First, your conduct must be driven by a sexual desire and must intrude on the victim’s security and privacy.
Therefore, you could be charged and convicted under this statute even when you did not intend to act lewd toward the child. Sometimes, your affection towards a minor could be considered annoying if it irritates another person.
When proving this element, the prosecution does not need to show that you picked out or targeted a specific child. Engaging in annoying acts in the presence of a group of minors could attract charges. The court concentrates on your conduct, not the minor’s reaction. If it is clear that the acts could annoy a normal person, you will be convicted.
Sexual Interests Towards a Minor Motivated Your Conduct
You will only be found liable of violating this statute if your conduct at the time was motivated by your unnatural sexual interest in a minor. An intent to seduce the child is not necessary in this case. In cases where the motivation for your conduct is unclear, you cannot be convicted. For example, if you were engaging in a sexual act or making gestures to an adult and a child saw it accidentally, you cannot be guilty of molesting or annoying them.
The prosecution demonstrates your sexual intentions by:
- Investigating your past behavior towards the alleged victim. If there is evidence that you have done the same to the child or another minor, the sexual intent will be clear.
- Investigating the circumstances around the crime. Your conduct before and after engaging in the act can help the prosecution support their allegations.
Sentencing and Penalties for Annoying or Molesting a Minor
Without the aggravating factors, molesting or annoying a minor is a misdemeanor. A conviction, in this case, attracts a one-year jail sentence and up to $5,000 in fines. If you enter an inhabited building, house, or trailer couch to annoy or molest your charge, your crime becomes a wobbler.
Wobblers are crimes that attract felony or misdemenor criminal charges. The prosecution considers the facts of your case and your past convictions to determine the type if charge they will file. When charged as a wobbler, a misdemeanor conviction under this statute is punished by a year in county jail. A felony conviction will attract a prison sentence of sixteen months, two or three years.
If you have a prior conviction for molesting or annoying a child, child pornography, rape, or continuous child sexual abuse, your violation of PC 647.6 is a straight felony. A guilty verdict, in this case, attracts a sentence of 2, 4, or 6 years in prison.
Probation for Penal Code 647.6
Probation acts as an alternative sentence in California. If you face charges for annoying or molesting a child with no aggravating circumstances in your case, the court could sentence you to probation instead of incarceration.
You can be sentenced to probation for a felony or misdemeanor conviction. However, not all defendants qualify for the probation sentence. The court is reluctant to offer the sentence to repeat offenders and individuals with a violent history.
If you feel that probation is the right sentence for you, your attorney can negotiate with a district attorney or prosecutor. After a felony conviction where probation is part of sentencing, you will serve a portion of your prison sentence out of incarceration performing community service.
On the other hand, misdemeanor probation can replace the entire jail time, meaning you will not spend any time behind bars. Felony probation for molesting or annoying a minor will a m, maximum of five years with these conditions:
- Avoid contact with the alleged victim of your acts. The court could enforce this by issuing a restraining or protective order against you.
- Regular reports to a probation officer. The probation officer is responsible for monitoring your probation.
- Pay victim restitution
- Avoid criminal acts while on probation.
Suppose the court sentences you to misdemeanor probation. In that case, you will sentence between one and three years and must follow these conditions:
- Complete your community service hours
- Settle the fines and pay restitution
- Meet the counseling requirements
- Avoid contact with the victim.
Receiving a probation sentence does not mean that you will not spend time behind bars. If you fail to follow any felony or misdemeanor probation conditions, you will be arrested and charged under PC 290 on probation violation. If you are found to have violated yoyur terms, teh court can revoke teh probation.
Sex Offender Registration after a PC 647.6 Conviction
The most dreaded consequence of annoying or molesting a minor is the requirement to register as a sex offender. The court will mandate that you remain on the sex offender registry for up to ten years for a first offense and twenty years for a second offender. Sex offender registration requires you to appear at your local police department and provide all your identification details.
You must update your status at the nearest law enforcement office whenever you move or change residence. Like the criminal record, a sex offender registry is public. Therefore, anyone who searches your name can find you on the list. Being a sex offender carries significant societal trauma. Most people will be reluctant to interact with you. If an employer finds your name on the sex offender registry, they can deny you an employment opportunity based on this fact.
After a PC 647.6 conviction, you will continue to update your sex offender registry until you seek a governor’s pardon or obtain a certificate of rehabilitation. Failure to register as a sex offender in California is a serious offense.
Defense Against Charges for Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18
Molesting or annoying a child attracts severe consequences. In addition to jail time and fines, they could require you to register as a sex offender. This will affect all aspects of your life. Therefore, your best bet at avoiding these consequences is employing the following arguements against your charges:
The difference between molesting a child and other sex offenses is that there is no requirement for physical touch or intent to seduce the child under PC 647.6. Therefore, it is not uncommon to be a victim of mistaken identification. Your appearance similarity with the perpetrator of the crime could cause you to be mistakenly identified. You can use this defense by presenting an alibi that shows you in a different location when the crime allegedly occurred. The court can drop your charges if you can successfully use this defense.
Attack the Credibility of Alleged Witnesses
Evidence of physical injury or harm is not necessary to prove that you annoyed or molested a child. The case against you may be solely based on the credibility of the testimony provided by the victim or witnesses. Your attorney can help create doubt in the witness's credibility by interviewing the victim’s relatives and examining their social-media communications. If the victim has a history of deceit on the same issue, you can argue that the crime did not happen.
Before a conviction for violating California Penal Code 647.6, the prosecuting attorney must prove the crime's elements beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes your exact actions and your intent when you acted. The prosecution establishes these elements by presenting physical and circumstantial evidence before the court.
If there are photographs or a video depicting your actions, the prosecution will use them against you. Unfortunately, for cases involving minors, the prosecution will file a criminal case with the slightest suspicion that the crime occurred. If the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to support their claim, you can avoid a conviction and the consequences of molesting or annoying a minor.
Use a Polygraph Test
Many innocent people are serving jail and prison time for crimes they did not commit. Annoying or molesting a child is a serious crime that can have more consequences than incarceration and fines. If your attorney believes you are innocent of the crime, they can administer a private polygraph test and present the test results as evidence.
While favorable results from the polygraph test can create doubt in the prosecutor’s case, there is no guarantee that the court will accept these results. A skilled criminal lawyer can convince the prosecution to drop your charges based on a positive polygraph test.
Your Conduct was not Motivated by Sexual Interests
A key element that the prosecution must prove when establishing guilt for molesting or annoying a child is that your actions were motivated by sexual desires. If this crime element is unclear, you cannot be convicted under Penal Code 647.6.
Violation of your Civil Rights
California law is strict on individuals suspected of committing crimes against minors. Therefore, law enforcement officers may be tempted to use excessive force during investigations and arrests. Even for individuals facing criminal charges, each person has constitutional rights that must be respected at all times. Common forms of civil rights violation include:
- Coerced confessions. If the police officers use excessive force to force you or other victims to give false testimony, you can claim a violation of your rights.
- Failure to read your Miranda rights. Before arresting you for violating PC 647.6. the police officers must read your rights. This informs you of your right to remain silent and obtain legal representation.
If you are a victim of police misconduct or your rights were violated, you can work towards the elimination of some evidence in your case.
Find a Knowledgeable Criminal Attorney Near Me
Different crimes are addressed under California law, and most involve physical or sexual contact. However, molesting or annoying a child does not necessitate physical touch. Any comment that is sexually inappropriate and directed towards a minor is enough to secure an arrest or possible conviction for the offense. A conviction under PC 647.6 attracts severe legal consequences and a criminal record that can ruin your life.
Fortunately, your arrest under this statute does not have to end in a conviction. The prosecution must prove all the elements of the crime and support them with evidence before a conviction. For this reason, you can employ different defense strategies to lessen your sentence or be acquitted iof the charges. California sex crime laws are complicated. Therefore, hiring and retaining a defense lawyer throughout your case is critical.
If you battle criminal charges for molesting or annoying a child under eighteen in Los Angeles, CA, you will require the expert guidance we offer at The Law Office of Sara L. Caplan. Call us at 310-550-5877 today and allow us to guide you through this challenging time.