The act of annoying or molesting a child is made criminal under California Penal Code section 647.6. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant engaged in conduct directed at a child;
2. A normal person, without hesitation, would have been disturbed, irritated, offended, or injured by the defendant’s conduct;
3. The defendant’s conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child;
4. The child was under the age of 18 years at the time of the conduct.
It is important to note that under California law it is not necessary that the child be irritated or disturbed. It is also not necessary that the child be touched; rather a normal, reasonable person would have deemed the conduct disturbing, irritating or offensive. Under the law, a person becomes one year older as soon as the first minute of his or her birthday has begun.
Absent the presence of aggravating circumstances, a first time offender may be with a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail, and/or a fine of up to $5,000. However, a violation of Penal Code 647.6 may be escalated to a felony if a defendant annoys or molests a child after entering, an inhabited dwelling house, trailer coach, or the inhabited portion of any other building without consent. If charged as a felony, this offense carries a maximum penalty of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in the California state prison. If the offender has a prior conviction of annoying or molesting a child the present offense must be charged as a felony. Second or subsequent convictions under this statute are punishable with up to three years in the California state prison. If the defendant has a previous felony conviction for a sex crime, a violation of Penal Code 647.6 is punishable by two, four, or six years in state prison.
A number of defenses may be raised to a charge of annoying or molesting a child. For example, a defendant may assert the defense of mistaken age. A defendant might be found not guilty of this crime if he or she and reasonably believed that the child was at least 18 years of age. The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not and reasonably believe the child was at least 18 years of age. In some cases, the fact of the case may involve an alleged victim who may have been coached or forced to make allegations against the defendant. Other cases may warrant a defense in which the defendant alleges that the conduct in question was not sexual or abnormal in nature. It may also be asserted by the defendant that a reasonable person would not have deemed the conduct disturbing, irritating or offensive. This defense would likely need to be supported by testimony providing the context and intent for the conduct and testimony supporting the claim that the conduct would not be deemed disturbing, irritating or offensive by a reasonable person. Regardless of the presence of these defenses it is not a defense that the child consented to the act. Even if the alleged victim allowed the Defendant to engage in the charged conduct legally the relationship or conduct could not be consensual given the fact the victim, by virtue of his or her age, was not capable of granting legal consent. As such, it is not a defense that the alleged victim may have consented to the charged conduct and may be detrimental to the defense of the case as it would constitute an admission of wrongful conduct.
Given the high risk involved with an annoying or molesting a child charge, it is important to seek experienced counsel if you are the subject of an investigation or are detained by law enforcement. Regardless of whether or not the case proceeds to trial, the seriousness of a California annoying or molesting a child charge requires the assistance of a skilled and committed California criminal lawyer who knows every legal argument when defending clients.
If you have been arrested for the crime of annoying or molesting a child in the Visalia, California area, contact an expert criminal lawyer as soon as possible to protect your legal rights.
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