Penal Code 647.6 PC - Annoying or Molesting a Child
California Penal Code 647.6 PC is the statute making it a wobbler crime to annoy or molest a minor under 18 or someone you believe is under the age of 18. Notably, it's not necessary to have physical contact with the alleged victim to be charged and convicted of this crime.
This offense is often called “child molestation” and applies when you are motivated by an abnormal sexual interest in minors. The terms “annoying” or “molesting” means to engage in conduct likely to disturb or irritate a child while you are motivated by sexual interest in the child.
As noted, physical contact is not required, meaning words alone could be considered annoyance or molestation. Also, indirect sexual behavior, such as masturbation, can be regarded as a violation of this law if done with the intent to be seen by a minor child or a group of children.
PC 647.6 says, “(a) (1) Every person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000, by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.
(2) Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, engages in conduct with an adult whom he or she believes to be a child under 18 years of age, which conduct, if directed toward a child under 18 years of age, would be a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $5,000, by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
(b) Every person who violates this section after having entered, without consent, an inhabited dwelling house or trailer coach as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code or the inhabited portion of any other building shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, and by a fine not exceeding $5,000.
(2) Every person who violates this section after a previous felony conviction under Section 261, 264.1, 269, 285, 286, 287, 288.5, or 289, or former Section 288a, any of which involved a minor under 16 years of age, or a previous felony conviction under this section, a conviction under Section 288, or a felony conviction under Section 311.4 involving a minor under 14 years of age shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years.”
What Factors Must Be Proven for a Conviction?
To convict you of Penal Code 647.6 PC annoying or molesting a child, a prosecutor must prove all the “elements of the crime” beyond a reasonable doubt, including the following:
- You engaged in conduct towards a minor under 18 that was likely to disturb or irritate them and
- Your conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the minor child.
Notably, the behavior prohibited by PC 647.6 is being motivated by a sexual interest in children that invades their privacy and security. There is no intent requirement that your behavior is lewd or obscene.
In other words, you can violate this statute when your conduct shows an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in a child under 18 or children in general. Also, you do not have to actually irritate or annoy a child; instead, conduct yourself in a manner that might irritate, annoy, or invade their privacy.
This means the words you use to speak with minors in the context of PC 647.6 could be considered an annoyance or molestation. To be “motivated by sexual interest” means you are motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest or intent in minor children but does not require an intent to seduce them.
“Sexual interest or intent” is often proven by prosecutors by the circumstances of your current behavior or prior behavior with a minor, such as a past relationship.
What are the PC 647.6 Penalties?
A first offense of annoying or molesting a child is a misdemeanor that carries the following PC 647.6 penalties:
- Up to a year in county jail,
- A $5,000 fine, or both.
Suppose you entered an inhabited dwelling house without consent during the PC 647.6 offense. In that case, it becomes a “wobbler” that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony.
Prosecutors will also use different factors to decide how to file charges, such as your criminal records and if they believe you are a danger to children. The penalties for a felony PC 647.6(b) carry the following penalties:
- 16 months, two or three years in state prison,
- A fine of up to $10,000,
- Sex offender registration under Penal Code 290 PC.
Suppose you have a prior felony conviction for PC 647.6 child molestation. In that case, a second conviction will be charged as a felony with the same penalties listed above.
Likewise, if you have a prior felony conviction for certain sex crimes, you will face a felony violation of Penal Code 547.6 PC that carries two, four, or six years in state prison. The prior sex offenses include the following:
- Penal Code 311 PC – child pornography,
- Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor,
- Penal Code 288.5 PC – continuous sexual abuse of child,
- Penal Code 261.5 PC – statutory rape.
Can You Get Probation Rather than Jail Time?
Possibly. Sometimes, rather than serving time in jail, the judge might grant probation if you are convicted of California PC 647.6 PC annoying or molesting a child. Still, their decision will be based on different factors, such as the following:
- Whether you are considered a danger to children,
- Circumstances of the current offense and
- Your criminal record.
Penal Code 647.6 PC says, “(d) (1) In any case in which a person is convicted of violating this section and probation is granted, the court shall require counseling as a condition of probation unless the court makes a written statement in the court record, that counseling would be inappropriate or ineffective.
(2) In any case in which a person is convicted of violating this section, and as a condition of probation, the court prohibits the defendant from having contact with the victim, the court order prohibiting contact shall not be modified except upon the request of the victim and a finding by the court that the modification is in the best interest of the victim.
As used in this paragraph, “contact with the victim” includes all physical contact, being in the victim's presence, communication by any means, any communication by a third party acting on behalf of the defendant, and any gifts.”
What Are the Terms of Probation?
Suppose a judge decides to grant probation. In that case, the terms and conditions will include the following:
- Misdemeanor probation (summary probation) in California will typically last between one and three years, including paying fines, counseling, prohibited contact with the victim, and completing some community service hours. You must also return to court periodically for a progress report to the judge.
- Felony probation (formal probation) will last between three and five years. You will be required to pay victim restitution, attend counseling, prohibit contact with the victim, comply with any other conditions set by the judge, and have monthly meetings with a probation officer. You might be required to serve up to one year in county jail rather than state prison. Any violations will result in time in state prison.
Do You Have to Register as a Sex Offender?
Yes. California Senate Bill 384 established a three-tier sex registration system. A conviction for violating Penal Code 647.6 PC, annoying or molesting a child, will require registration as a sex offender in California, as follows:
- A first-time conviction is considered a tier-one offense requiring a minimum of ten years of sex offender registration.
- A second or subsequent conviction is considered a tier two offense requiring a minimum of 20 years of sex offender registration.
When you register as a sex offender, your information is made public on California's “Megan's Law” website.
Suppose you were convicted of a PC 647.6 misdemeanor. In that case, you could request to be excluded from the Megan's Law website. However, you would be required to register as a sex offender until you obtain a California certificate of rehabilitation or until the court grants your request to be removed from the sex registry.
What Are Related Crimes?
California has several laws that are related to Penal Code 647.6, annoying or molesting a child, as discussed below:
Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts with a minor
This law prohibits intentionally touching a minor with the intent to arouse or gratify either you or the child sexually. You do not have to touch the intimate parts of their body with your genitals; instead, any sexual touching on their bare skin or through their clothes is sufficient for a conviction.
The penalties for lewd acts will depend on the minor's age and whether force or fear was used. For example, if the minor were under 14, the case would be filed as a felony and a “strike” under California's three strikes law. If you have a prior sex-related conviction, then under Penal Code 667.71 PC habitual sexual offender law, your sentence could be increased to 25 years to life in state prison.
Penal Code 288.2 PC – sending harmful matter with the intent to seduce a minor
This law prohibits sending pornographic or other harmful material to a minor when you have the intent to seduce them sexually. Violations of Penal Code 288.2 PC are motivated by sexual interest.
This crime is a wobbler that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If you are convicted of a felony, you are facing 16 months, or two or three years in the state prison, a fine of up to $10,000 fine, and lifetime registration as a sex offender as defined under Penal Code 290 PC.
Penal Code 288.3 PC — contacting a minor with intent to commit a felony
This law prohibits contacting a minor with intent to commit certain felony crimes, such as lewd acts and child pornography. Notably, completing the intended offense is not required for a conviction; rather, just attempting.
A conviction for violating Penal Code 288.3 PC carries the same penalty as the intended crime. Repeat offenders will receive an enhanced penalty of an additional five consecutive years in state prison.
What are the PC 647.6 Defenses?
Suppose you are under investigation or charged with annoying or molesting a child. In that case, our California sex crime lawyers can use different PC 647.6 strategies to obtain the best possible outcome. Some of the common defenses include the following:
- Your conduct was not motivated by a sexual interest in the child.
- Challenge the credibility of the alleged victim or witnesses.
- False allegation.
To violate PC 647.6, prosecutors must prove your conduct must be motivated by a sexual interest in the child or children. Perhaps we can prove you had no sexual interest but rather other valid reasons for contacting them.
Most cases will depend on the credibility of the alleged victim and witnesses. Perhaps we can prove the child has a history of lying by reviewing their social media and school records and interviewing their friends. Maybe they were coached by an adult to make false allegations.
Sometimes, the best strategy is negotiating with the prosecutor for a plea agreement. We would prepare a mitigation package with character letters and evidence showing that your conduct was an exception and would not occur again.
You should schedule a confidential meeting with our law firm under the cloak of the attorney/client privilege so we can get the plan together. So, if you need the best, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Hedding Law firm is in Los Angeles, CA.