Sometimes referred to as “child annoyance”, this offense – codified at California Penal Code section 647.6(a)(2) -- often – though certainly not always -- entails some relatively minimal sexual contact on the part of the alleged perpetrator. Notwithstanding, it is typically charged in conjunction with more serious sex-related offenses (see below).
Notably, you can be prosecuted for this crime if, while exhibiting or otherwise being motivated by a sexual interest in minors, you annoy or molest anyone 17 years old or younger or an adult whom you believe to be the former. (California Penal Code section 647.6(a)(2)).
Sex Crimes – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 – “Wobblers”
Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 (California Penal Code section 647.6) is a “Wobbler” offense (California Penal Code section 17(b)), which means that the prosecutor has the discretion to charge you with either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on a wide variety of factors.
Sex Crimes – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 – “Strikes”
Even if charged as a felony, however, since this crime is not considered “violent” or “serious” as defined in the applicable Three-Strikes Law statutes, it will not get prosecuted as a Strike Offense (California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b) and California Penal Code section 1192.7).
Sex Crimes – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 – Pre-Files/Early Dismissals
In many of these types of cases, the detective (typically from LAPD or LASD’s sex crimes units) will investigate to determine if a crime has actually been committed.
This is an excellent opportunity for your attorney – assuming he or she knows what they’re doing – to immediately step in, investigate for the purpose of compiling exculpatory and/or mitigating evidence, and thereafter use that evidence to convince the detective from either referring the case for prosecution.
Or, if that has already occurred, to convince the prosecutor either not to file charges or dismiss the case after doing so.
Applicable Statute(s) -- Sex Crimes – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18
To reiterate, under Penal Code section 647.6(a)(2)) you can be prosecuted for annoying or disturbing a child (or someone you think is a child) by words and/or actions that are sexually motivated.
Importantly, this crime does not include the actual crime of sexual molestation, which is always charged as a felony under other statutes, such as Lewd Acts with a Minor Child Under 14 (California Penal Code section 288) and Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child (California Penal Code section 288.5).
Nor does this crime require you to actually touch the child – your words alone can trigger a prosecution hereunder. See, e.g., People v. La Fontaine (1978) 79 Cal.App.3d 176.
However, this crime would by definition include verbal offers of sexual contact with the minor (or the adult whom you mistakenly believed was a minor).
Further, this crime only requires “general intent” (as opposed to “specific intent”), which simply means you need not have intended your conduct to be sexual in nature. Instead, you need only have intended to carry out the underlying act, or utter the underlying words, such that a reasonable child would have perceived to be irritating, offensive, or disturbing.
In other words, the purported victim him/herself need not actually be bothered or annoyed; the standard is that an objective child would have felt this way. See People v. Brandao (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 436.
Nor do you have to target any specific child; instead, you could have intended your words to be heard, or conduct to be seen, by a group of children (e.g., in a school yard).
Sex Crimes Convictions – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18
Regardless of whether you’re charged with a felony or misdemeanor, the maximum sentence you can receive upon conviction is one year in county jail, a $5,000 fine, or both. Pen. Code § 647.6(a)(1).
This is the case even if you allegedly committed this crime after breaking and entering (i.e., without lawful consent) into a residence, an inhabited portion of a building, or a trailer home. P.C. § 647.6(b).
However, if you’ve previously been convicted of this offense, your punishment will now guaranty at least three years in prison. P.C. § 647.6(c)(1).
In addition, if you were previously convicted of any “violent” sex-crime felony involving a minor, then even upon your first conviction for Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 will result in a low, mid, or high term prison of two, four, or half-a-dozen years, respectively. P.C. § 647.6(c)(2).
Further, any conviction for this charge that provides for probation (i.e., any non-prison sentence) will require you to complete sexual compulsion counseling (typically one weekly session for 52 weeks). P.C. § 647.6(d)(1).
Finally, you will also likely be ordered to stay away from, and otherwise refrain from contacting, the victim. P.C. § 647.6(d)(2).
Defenses to Sex Crimes Charges – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18
According to the Judicial Council of California’s Criminal Jury Instructions (“CALCRIM”), the following are all viable defenses to this criminal charge:
When you annoyed or molested the minor, you were not motivated by sexual desire;
When you annoyed or molested the adult, even if you were motivated by sexual desire, you never believed he or she was a minor;
No reasonable adult or minor (depending on the age of the purported victim) would have felt irritated, annoyed, or disturbed by your words or actions;
Even if you believed the purported victim was a minor, so long as he or she was an adult, and so long as he or she consented to your acts or statements, you cannot be criminally culpable;
The child only inadvertently saw or overheard the offending words or actions (i.e., you didn’t intend for him or her to do so).
See CALCRIM number 1122 (“Annoying or Molesting a Child”)
See also CALCRIM number 1121 (“Annoying or Molesting a Child in a Dwelling”).
Sex Crimes – Registration Requirements – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18
A first-time conviction under P.C. § 647.6 will also require you to register as a “Tier-I” offender for ten years, and a second for 20 years (Tier II). Your registration will be publicly available on the Megan’s Law website unless your conviction was for a misdemeanor only (although even a first-time misdemeanor conviction under this statute may nevertheless be a registerable offense).
See Sex Offender Registration (California Penal Code section 290).
Examples of Sex Crimes – Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 – Misdemeanors
Former Burbank High coach gets three months in jail for oral copulation with a student
According to Burbank authorities, beginning in 2010, Glendale resident and local high school coach Kyle Roach (then age 22) had oral sex with a 17-year-old girl at the school. In addition, during a five-month period in early 2015, he allegedly anonymously “sexted” two other girls (ages 16 and 17) whom he also coached on the school’s volleyball team (he allegedly requested they text him nude photos of themselves).
As a result, on July 10, 2010, he was arrested and charged with one felony count of Oral Copulation With a Minor (California Penal Code section 287) and two misdemeanor counts of Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 (for the texts). He therefore faced a maximum of three years in prison for the felony, plus two years in jail for the misdemeanors (i.e., one year for each misdemeanor).
Eleven days later, Roach pled not guilty but he changed his plea six months later (on January 25, 2016) to nolo contendre in regard to the felony. In exchange, the DA’s Office dropped the misdemeanor charges and agreed to a lenient sentence of three months in jail. He will also be required to attend a year of counseling, complete five years of formal probation, and to register as a sex offender for life.
Los Angeles man gets lifetime sex registration after bothering 14-year-old girl at a public library
On September 19, 2016, Angeleno Chris Cline (25) allegedly approached a 14-year-old girl who was working on a laptop at the Valencia public library, handed her a piece of paper with his contact information, and told her to call him. Shortly thereafter, he girl informed the librarian who immediately contacted the local sheriff’s department.
Later that same day, deputies arrested Cline, who was prosecuted for Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18.
On or about October 11, 2016 (approximately three weeks later), he pled nolo contendre to that same charge (as a misdemeanor, though it remains unclear if he was initially charged with a felony). He was sentenced to six weeks in jail, three years of informal probation, and one year of weekly counseling.
He was also prohibited from entering any of the local public libraries, and required to register as a sex offender for life (California Penal Code section 290).
Strategy Note from Ninaz Saffari: This was an abysmal plea for Mr. Cline. There was absolutely no indication in any of the media reports that he sexually propositioned her or otherwise was sexually motivated when speaking to the girl. A good attorney would have been able to case substantial doubt in regard thereto.
For example, perhaps he was friends with a casting agent who had told him he was looking to audition a girl who looked exactly like the purported victim. Or maybe he (mistakenly) believed she was a friend of his niece who had lost contact with her.
Regardless of what alternative scenario his lawyer could conceivably have presented, the burden of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) with the prosecution. In other words, without Mr. Cline confessing to his sexual motivation, the assigned Deputy DA would have had zero proof to that end.
Thus, at worst, I would have had Mr. Cline plea to a misdemeanor that did not include any jail time or any registration whatsoever.
Better yet, I would have pushed hard for trial until I got him a plea for a mere infraction for Disturbing the Peace (California Penal Code section 415) (aka, a “415 infraction”). And failing that, I feel confident I would have beaten this case at trial.
Former Novato PD officer receives three months in jail and probation in child pornography case
For two months in early 2015, Michael Ramirez (34), a former Novato PD officer, allegedly exchanged “sexts” with graphic sexual images from someone whom he believed to be a 12-year-old girl. Instead, the sender was actually a sex crimes detective, who had been contacted by the “true” adolescent’s mother after Ramirez allegedly met the girl online. Thereafter, the detective allegedly traced the texts to Ramirez’s Rohnert Park home (in Sonoma Co.).
In April 2015, Rohnert Park detectives accepted the case from the Texas investigator. The following month, these local detectives raided Ramirez’s home and seized his computer and iPhone.
For whatever reason (probably to investigate whether Ramirez had possibly targeted other purported victims and/or whether he was part of a network), it would take seven months for the Sonoma Co. DA’s Office to charge him (on December 29, 2015) with the following offenses:
felony Possession of Child Pornography (California Penal Code section 311.11(a));
felony Use of a Minor Under 18 to Assist or Perform Sexual Conduct (California Penal Code section 311.4(d)(1)); and
misdemeanor Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18 (California Penal Code section 647.6).
Almost nine months later, Ramirez pled nolo contendre to a new charge, felony Stalking (California Penal Code section 646.9), as well as misdemeanor Sending Obscene Material to Seduce a Minor (California Penal Code section 288.2).
On October 17, 2016, he was sentenced to three months in jail, three years of formal probation, and three years of sexual compulsion therapy.
Example of a Sex Crime – Felony Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18
On September 18, 2019 in the early evening, Victorville resident and registered sex offender Adam Moreno (twenty-five) allegedly accosted a sixteen-year-old boy who was walking home from school. According to authorities, Moreno repeatedly tried to grope the boy’s genitals while making sexual comments to him. Moreno allegedly continued harassing him until the latter reached a friend’s house.
Shortly thereafter, the boy apparently called the San Bernardino Co. sheriff’s department, whose deputies arrested Moreno while still allegedly walking in the same vicinity. He was thereafter charged with annoying or molesting a child under 18. Moreno had previously been convicted of the following registerable offenses (both felonies):
Possession of Child Pornography (California Penal Code section 311.11(a)); and
Indecent Exposure (California Penal Code section 314) for masturbating in public.
For those convictions, he had been sentenced to 16 months in prison. However, because of time served in jail while awaiting trial, coupled with good-time credits, he was immediately released following his sentencing hearing and placed on parole. In addition, Moreno had allegedly previously violated his parole on three occasions. Finally, he was alleged to be currently in such violation a fourth time for residing within two thousand feet of a high school.
According to California “Megan's Law” website, for this latest incident, he was ultimately convicted of annoying or molesting a child under 18, as well as indecent exposure with a prior conviction for the same. However, it remains unclear how much prison time, if any, he received as a result.
Two Examples of Sex Crimes Cases Involving Minors Handled by the Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)
Charges: Rape in Concert of Minor, Kidnapping, etc. & facing multiple life sentence. Result: all felonies dismissed
People v. J.C.: Our 19-year-old client was arrested, charged, and prosecuted for the following violent-felony sex crimes (all Strike Offenses -- California Penal Code section 667(a)&(b) and
California Penal Code section 1192.7);
“Gang Rape” (Rape Act in Concert) (California Penal Code section 264.1);
Aggravated Kidnapping – Robbery, Rape, Other Sex Offenses (California Penal Code section 209(b)); and
Oral Copulation by Force or Fear (California Penal Code section 287).
In total, he was charged with a dozen felony counts and was facing multiple life sentences. But after LADALF was hired, we conducted an intensive, months-long investigation, including with the help of our favorite private investigator.
As a result, we found that the purported victim had made similar false allegations in the past (including against one unfortunate individual who was convicted and incarcerated as a result). We also learned that her current false claims stemmed from her desire to cover her tracks when she ran away from home and spent the weekend with our client, as well as five of his friends (three adults – all in their late teens or early 20s – and two juveniles).
But our greatest discovery was video footage taken of the all-night-long incident which proved the accuser had flagrantly lied to police about what had transpired.
All of the foregoing came to light during the preliminary hearing when LADALF founder Ninaz Saffari cross-examined the accuser to devastating effect. More specifically, Ninaz carefully went over all of her prior statements and allegations to police and detectives, thereby nailing down every one of her lies.
Finally, Ninaz played the video for the court – the accuser was so humiliated, she refused to watch it or even make eye contact. When Ninaz repeatedly pressed her to admit she had been lying the entire time, the accuser refused to say another word until the judge excused her from the stand. Meanwhile, the other five defense counsel representing the other five defendants watch quietly and hopefully at this startling turn of events.
Result: Sure enough, immediately after the hearing concluded, the DA’s Office dismissed all the felony charges against our client, as well as against all the other defendants. Everyone went home within a day or two.
Charge: Lewd Acts on a Minor, facing ten years. Result: reduced to Unlawful Sex with a Minor, no more jail time
People v. J.G.: Our client had been charged with a dozen felony counts for Lewd Acts with a Minor Child Under 14 (California Penal Code section 288). If convicted, he would be sentenced to a decade in a state penitentiary. Aside from repeatedly continuing the case and taking the client’s money, his former lawyer failed to do anything for an entire year – while the client sat helplessly in jail.
But after we replaced his former counsel, we filed a Motion to Dismiss (California Penal Code section 995) based on the fact that his right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution had been violated because both the prosecutor and presiding judge had failed to push the case along as legally mandated. In addition, after preparing intensively for many weeks, we announced we were ready to immediately commence trial, thereby catching the prosecutor off guard and putting him on the defensive.
Result: The prosecutor made our client a highly favorable offer: Unlawful Consensual Sex with a Minor (California Penal Code section 261.5) with no jail time. The client went home free that same day.
The Los Angeles Defense Attorney Law Firm (LADALF)
Since March 2005, after she was admitted to the California Bar, LADALF leader Ninaz Saffari has defended many hundreds of clients, including juveniles, on sex crime cases involving purported victims who were minors.
Her reputation as one of the top sex-crimes defense and trial attorneys in Los Angeles County has spread primarily through word of mouth, including by virtue of her numerous outstanding court victories.