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We all know that children are considered to be our most previous assets, so it should not be surprising that there are many laws on the books to protect them. If you are accused of committing a crime against a child, please understand that it should almost always be considered to be a serious offense. That being said, being charged of a crime is not the same thing as being guilty. To illustrate this, consider the California statute criminalizing the act of annoying or molesting a child. It is important to understand the nature of this crime, the possible defenses, and the penalties that can be levied against you for a conviction.
The Statute and Nature of the Crime Explained
There have long been laws against having any level of inappropriate contact with a child under the age of 18. What many people do not realize, however, is that even words can be enough to be accused of a crime under certain situations. Annoying or molesting a child is detailed under California penal code 647.6 PC. This, as its name implies, makes it a crime to annoy or molest someone under 18 years of age. What needs to be made very clear here is that physical contact is not necessary in order to be charged and found guilty of this offense. Let us explain.
There are four main provisions of this law that generally need to be met before an individual can be charged and found guilty of annoying or molesting a child in California. In a nutshell, these are as follows:
The individual being charged must have specifically directed his or her conduct towards a child.
It must be shown that a normal person, under normal circumstances, would have been troubled, offended, injured, or irritated by the actions of the individual being charged. This ‘irritation’ must be evident on the part of a normal person without hesitation, even if the child in question showed no such irritation at the time.
The individual that is being charged must be shown to have been motivated by some type of sexual interest in the child that is not natural or normal.
The child in question must have been under the age of 18 at the time that the alleged conduct took place.
A few key points are important to mention here. The child that the defendant is accused of having annoyed or molested does not actually have to have demonstrated irritation or disturbance on the part of the conduct he or she was exposed to. Also, the child does not have to have been physically touched in order to this charge to stick, as the law does not require physical touching in order for molesting or annoying to have occurred.
Some Examples to Consider
To understand such a statute, it often helps to point out a few examples that could lead to such a charge being levied against you. Imagine that a man is taking with a girl online who he believes is only 16 years of age. As the conversations continue, he begins to ask questions of a sexual nature that are driven by his abnormal tendency to engage in such conversations with underage girls. The person he is talking to online is not actually a teenage girl at all, but rather a police officer. He is subsequently charged with annoying or molesting a child in California under Penal code 647.6. This charge would likely stick because, even though he never actually met the girl, he did believe that she was under the age 18. This is enough to be charged for the offense under the law.
Not every case of annoying behavior would be covered under statute. Imagine an uncle getting a bit carried at a family reunion and telling his 17 year old nephew a joke that is a bit off color and of a sexual nature. Even thought the joke might have been told in bad taste, it would not constitute a charge under this statute because the uncle showed no motivation towards a sexual interest that was not natural or not normal.
Possible Defenses and Penalties
If you are charged with the crime of annoying or molesting a minor, it is important to consider your defense. Remember that you are innocent under this statute if your conduct was not motivated by some type of abnormal sexual interest, nor was it intended to irritate or disturb the minor. You might also have been falsely accused of doing something, in which case that should form the brunt of your defense.
The penalty for a conviction of this misdemeanor is up to one year in prison and a possible fine of $5,000. As such, you will want to retain the services of a professional and experienced attorney as soon as possible.