The state of California has very stringent laws aimed at protecting minors, which is anyone below the age of 18. In addition to its strict laws against sex crimes against children, other laws are equally severe and are meant to ensure that children are not annoyed or molested in any way. While this offense may not seem dangerous as it does not involve physical engagement with a minor, it can cause you a long time in jail and payment of hefty fines, among other penalties.
A person can be arrested and charged with molesting or annoying a minor, while in the real sense, they did not intend to commit the crime, owing to the nature of this offense. That is why at California Criminal Lawyer Group, we offer reliable criminal defense services to people charged in San Jose, CA. We may be able to compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges.
Legal Explanation of Molesting or Annoying a Child Below 18
There are all types of sex crimes covered under California laws. Most of these crimes involve physical involvement with a victim. However, when it comes to molesting or annoying a minor, the offense does not necessarily mean physical engagement. Words alone, uttered against a minor in a sexually offensive manner, can get you arrested and charged with this offense. It is an offense that is under Section 647.6 of California laws.
According to this law, molesting and annoying will mean the same thing, which is a conduct that is sexually motivated and intended to irritate or disturb another person. If this conduct is directed towards a minor of below 18 years, the offender can face serious charges and probably many years behind bars.
To understand this law better, let us look at the elements of the crime. They are the facts of the case that the prosecutor will be expected to prove before a jury for the defendant to be found guilty of the offense. They are:
- That the defendant engaged in a behavior that is likely to irritate or disturb a minor or minors below the age of 18
- That the defendant’s conduct was generally motivated by sexual desire in the victim or victims
The definition itself is not 100% clear on precisely what molesting or annoying a minor entails. For that reason, let us break down the main components of this definition to understand it even better:
Behavior That is Likely to Irritate or Disturb a Minor:
Section 647.6 is apparent in the kind of conduct that is considered annoying or molesting to a minor. First, it has to be behavior that is motivated by some sexual desire in the child. It is also the behavior that invades the security and privacy of the child. It is, therefore, one of those offenses that have a general resolve.
It means that a person can still face charges for the offense even if they did not intend for their behavior to be obscene or lewd. Again, behavior that a person considered affectionate may be interpreted as indecent and in violation of the law if another person gets irritated or annoyed.
Note that the defendant will still be found guilty even if they did not single out a particular minor or a collection of minors in advance. He/she will be found to have violated the law as long as their conduct comes from an abnormal or unnatural interest in sex for children in general or a particular child.
Again, the behavior need not have necessarily annoyed the child. What the court will focus on is the conduct itself other than the outcome of that conduct. If it is established that your behavior can irritate an average person as well as invade the security and privacy of a child, the offender will be found guilty of Section 647.6 of California laws. This conviction will be upheld even when no minor was annoyed by their conduct at the time the offense was committed.
As mentioned earlier, violation of this section of California law doesn’t require physical contact with the minor's body, like most sex crimes in the state. A mere statement is enough to cause a person to be arrested and charged with molestation or annoyance of a minor, as long as it satisfies all the elements listed above.
An indirect sexual act, like masturbation, could also qualify as a violation of this section of the law if the offender intended to be seen by a minor or minors while in the act.
The Motivation Should be Sexual Desire in the Minor/Minors:
Sex offenders who can face a conviction for molesting or annoying a minor are those whose conduct exhibits an abnormal or unnatural desire for sex with the child/children. Note that this does not mean that the offender intended to seduce the minor. If the court determines that the offender's behavior was driven by something else other than the sex intent in the minor, they will not be found guilty under this section of the law. If, for example, the minor accidentally heard or observed something they were not intended to see or hear, the offender, in this case, will not be found guilty of this offense.
Thus, the prosecutor will be tasked with proving the offender's intent in support of the charges. He/she may be able to confirm this by:
- Looking into the offender's past conduct towards a minor with whom he/she has a previous relationship
- Looking into the circumstantial proof presented in court and those surrounding the alleged behavior
It is important to note that this is one of those offenses that are challenging to prove in California, as no one can fully prove another person's intentions. For anyone facing charges for molesting or annoying a minor, it means that your attorney may have an easy time disapproving of the prosecutor's verdict.
Penalties for Molesting or Annoying a Minor Below 18
Molesting or annoying a minor is a serious offense as it falls under the umbrella of sex crimes, which are some of the gravest offenses in California. California laws protect minors because they are a category of people who cannot protect themselves against certain types of abuse. Some people take advantage of children for their gains, which is why we have stringent laws in place to ensure that those people are severely punished for their conduct.
There are two types of convictions that a person facing charges under Section 647.6 can face in California: misdemeanor and felony convictions. The kinds of penalties you receive for your conduct will depend on the circumstances surrounding your case, as well as your prior convictions.
A misdemeanor violation of Section 647.6 of California laws is one without any aggravating factors. These are the factors that are likely to heighten an offender’s sentence. If you get a misdemeanor conviction for molesting or annoying a minor below 18, here are the penalties you are likely to face:
- A maximum of one year behind bars
- A maximum fine of $5,000
Generally, this is a wobbler offense in California. This means the offender can either get a felony or misdemeanor conviction, depending on the nature of the crime. The crime is a wobbler when the offender molests or annoys a minor after entering the following areas, without their consent:
- An occupied house
- An occupied part of any other structure
- A trailer coach
The prosecutor will consider several factors in connection with your case to decide whether or not to charge you with a felony or misdemeanor. These factors include your criminal account and the question of whether you might be an endangerment to other minors. If following those considerations, you get a misdemeanor conviction; the penalties will be the same as listed above.
A felony conviction will carry more severe penalties than those listed under a misdemeanor conviction. Note that a defendant will face charges for a felony offense for molesting or annoying a minor if the following is true:
- He/she has a second or more convictions for the same crime. If so, the offender will face a maximum prison term of three years.
- He/she has a felony conviction of specified sex-related crimes. The prosecutor will give a felony verdict even if the offender is a first-time offender under Section 647.6 of California laws. Some of these sex offenses that could heighten your crime include:
- Raping a minor below 16 years, as provided under Section 261 of California Statutes.
- Unceasing sexual abuse of a minor, as provided under Section 288.5 of California laws.
- Lewd conduct with a minor, as provided under Section 288 of California laws.
- Child pornography, as provided under Section 311.4 of California laws.
In this case, the offender is likely to face a prison term of 2, 4, or 6 years
Probation for Section 647.6 Offenders
In most cases, the court will give probation in place of prison or jail term to allow the offender to serve part or all of his/her time out of incarceration. Note that probation is only given to those offenders who the court believes will not be a danger to their community. The judge will also consider your criminal history as well as the conditions of your case to decide whether or not he/she can send you on probation. There are mainly two probations which criminal offenders in California can get, depending on their conviction:
This type of probation will last for one to three years, though in some cases, it can go to a maximum of five years. Courts send offenders on probations on certain conditions, which must be met for the offender to be allowed to complete their term out of incarceration. Such conditions include involvement in community work as well as payment of court fines and restitution, if applicable.
If an offender is placed on misdemeanor probation, they will be expected to make periodic visits to the court for the judge to prepare reports on their progress.
This type of probation usually lasts for three to five years. It also comes with certain conditions that must be met by the offender for the court to allow them to finish part of their sentence out of prison. Some of the terms include:
- Reporting to the probation officer assigned by the court
- Payment of restitution to their victim
- Complying with all other set conditions enforced by the court
In some cases, the offender may be required to spend at least one year of their sentence behind bars before they are released on probation. If by any chance, he/she violates any condition of their probation, the judge may revoke the probation and send them back to prison for the full term stated by the law on the offense committed.
If an offender is granted either of the two probations for the violation of Section 647.6 of California laws, the judge will require them to undergo therapy as one of their probation conditions. Note that you may receive a court order against interacting with your victim during your probation period. This condition cannot be amended except in the following circumstances:
- Unless the victim makes the request themselves
- Unless the court realizes that changing the term is in the best interests of the victim
Registration as a Sex Offender for Section 647.6 Offender
The most severe penalty you are likely to face in California for sex-related offenses is an order by the court to register yourself as a state sex offender. Unfortunately, this is one of the penalties provided by law for offenders found guilty of annoying or molesting minors.
If you are a first-time offender, the offense is listed under tier-one crime, carrying ten years in which the offender must register as a sex offender. A second and subsequent offense is listed under tier-two crime, which takes 20 years, within which the offender must register themselves as sex offenders.
Information on registered sex offenders in California is usually available for public access. It means that anyone can search the records to find out whether or not you are in the registry. That is why you need to try hard to fight your charges, as this penalty can affect so many aspects of your life.
A California Senate Bill designed a 3-tier system of registration for sex offenders. Before the creation of this system, such offenses as molesting a minor carried a lifetime requirement to register as a state sex offender. Today, only those offenses that fall under the third-tier category of crimes are punishable by a lifetime registration.
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you may place a request to the court to be excluded from the registration. However, you may have to continue with the registration until the court grants you a certificate of rehabilitation. In some cases, the court may require the offender to register successfully as a sex offender for ten years before they can be permitted to stop recording.
Defending Yourself Against Section 647.6 Charges
From the penalties listed above, this is one of the most severely-punished offenses in California. You need the best criminal defense services you can get to avoid facing all the hefty penalties and the repercussions that come with it. The good thing is that criminal courts in California allow suspected offenders to have legal representation for a fair ruling. With the help of an experienced attorney, you should be able to navigate the legal system as well as enjoy excellent defense services. Some of the defense strategies your attorney can use in your defense include:
The Accuser or Key Witness is Not Credible
Charges for molesting a minor are serious in California but proving it can be difficult on the part of the prosecutor. Your attorney can take advantage of that to attack the credibility of the accuser or the critical witness. Note that in such a criminal trial, all the elements of the offense must be proven for the offender to be found guilty. If the court agrees that the witness or accuser cannot be fully trusted, it may drop your charges.
Criminal defense attorneys are well trained in handling such cases to ensure that their clients' rights are not infringed. He/she could, for instance, subpoena the witness' or accuser's records to ascertain whether or not his/her accusations are strong enough to convict their client. These records could be medical records, school counseling records, emails, and social media accounts. Other people close to the accuser or the critical witness could be interviewed, including their friends, family members, colleagues, or classmates.
Once their background is thoroughly checked, the court can now decide whether or not to accept their account of events as real or incredible. If the accuser or critical witness tends to lie or have a pre-existing grudge against the suspected offender, the court will dismiss it.
The Conduct Was Not Sexually-Motivated
One of the main elements of this offense is that the offender’s conduct must be motivated by sexual interest towards the child or children in general. If this element is not satisfied by the prosecutor's evidence, then the court will not have enough to hold the offender accountable. There are times an innocent act can be misinterpreted to mean that a person was showing sexual interest towards a minor. There are other times a person can act in one way with a different motive, and then their actions are misinterpreted to have a sexual purpose.
If that is your case, then the court will not find you guilty of molesting or annoying a minor. The court may decide to drop or reduce your charges, depending on your actions.
You Can Undergo a Private Polygraph Examination
Some so many people are serving prison/jail terms for offenses they did not commit. Sex-related crimes in California are taken very seriously and could cause a person to face a lengthy prison term even without so much evidence against them. If your attorney believes that you are innocent, he/she could conduct a private polygraph examination and present it in court as evidence to have your charges released. Note that you have to pass in this examination for it to be helpful to your case.
In most cases, polygraph examinations are associated with the police or the FBI. A reputable polygrapher is required for the results to be accepted as credible in court. If the results are in your favor, your attorney can take them to the prosecutor. There is, however, no guarantee that the polygraph results will be acceptable in court. But with an experienced attorney, he/she may be able to convince the prosecutor to drop the case. Again, no one wants to sentence an innocent person to imprisonment, which is why this might work.
California Section 647.6 and Related Charges
Some sex-related offenses in California are closely related to Section 647.6 offense. These could be charged alongside or in place of molesting or annoying a minor. However, Section 647.6 offense is very different from most of these other offenses in two main ways:
- The crime does not involve physical contact with the minor
- The crime does not include seducing a child
Some of these related offenses include:
- The voyeurism of a child, as provided under Section 647j of California laws. It is an offense committed when a person spies or makes a video recording of another to invade their privacy
- Sending a minor harmful material intending to seduce them, provided under section 288.2 of California laws. This offense is also mainly motivated by sexual desire in the juvenile or children in general
Find a California Criminal Lawyer Law Firm Near Me
If you are facing charges for annoying or molesting a minor, you are probably worried. The criminal court may be unforgiving if you are found guilty, and this means you could be spending several months behind bars. There is hope and this could be through the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At California Criminal Lawyer Group, we offer the best defense services to residents of San Jose, CA. Call us at 408-622-0204, and let us get you the justice you deserve.
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