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What is Annoying or Molesting a Child?

Posted by Sam Israels | Nov 06, 2021

Annoying or Molesting a Child Law in California - Penal Code 647.6 PC

California Penal Code 647.6 PC makes it a crime to annoy or molest a child under 18 years old while motivated by an abnormal sexual interest of the minor.

This statute is commonly known as “child molestation.”

Child Molestation - Penal Code 647.6 PC

The meaning or annoying or molesting is to become engaged in conduct that will most likely disturb a child and your primary motivation was having a sexual interest in them.

You don't have to actually touch the minor to be arrested, charged, and convicted of PC 647.6 child molestation. 

The words you use and the motivation behind them could be enough to get charged with this serious sex crime.

Penal Code 647.6 PC is a California “wobbler” offense that can be filed as either a misdemeanor or felony by the prosecutor.

A common example of a child molestation case could include a scenario where a man makes explicit sexual related comments to a child letting them know what sexual act they would like to perform on them.

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing more detailed information below.

Describing Annoying or Molesting Conduct

It's generally believed that “molesting” someone involves some type of physical sexual act, but this is not always true under PC 647.6.

As stated, just the words used could be sufficient for child molestation charges under this statute because they can be considered an annoyance.


Further, even though masturbation can be indirect sexual behavior, it's also a violation of PC 647.6 if the act was done with intent to be observed by a child.

So, the description of annoying and molesting conduct in the context of California Penal Code 647.6 PC is behavior that is:

  • primarily motivated by an abnormal sexual interest in children, and
  • conduct that will likely to disturb or irritate a child.

In order for someone's conduct to be considered a criminal act under this statute, the child doesn't have to actually be disturbed, rather only the standard of would a reasonable child be disturbed under the same circumstances.

Further, a specific child does not have to be the target of the unlawful behavior, rather a general engagement of a group of children would be sufficient to be charged with child molestation under Penal Code 647.6 PC.

General intent crime 

Annoying or molesting a child in violation of PC 647.6 is a general intent crime, which means you do not have to have intent for your conduct to be lewd, or that you irritated a child.

This statute focus on the conduct of the defendant, not the end result.

Factors That Must Be Proven for a Child Molestation Conviction

To be convicted of violating Penal Code 647.6 annoying or molesting a child, the prosecutor will have to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, several factors which are called the “elements of the crime.”

These are listed under California criminal jury instructions (CALCRIM 1122):

  • defendant engaged in unlawful sexual conduct towards a minor who was under 18 years old at the time of the incident, and
  • defendant's behavior was motivated by an abnormal and unnatural sexual interest in the minor child,
  • a normal person would have been disturbed, irritated, or offended by the conduct of the defendant.

In order to be convicted of Penal Code 647.6, it does not have to be proven defendant had an intent to seduce the minor, rather only their motivation was primarily a sexual interest.

It should be noted, however, if it can be shown the defendant had a reasonable belief the minor was at least 18, then they can't be convicted of child molestation.

What are the Punishments for a Conviction?

If you are convicted of a first offense Penal Code 647.6 PC annoying or molesting a child, it will normally be filed as a misdemeanor crime by the prosecutor that is punishable by:

  • a maximum of one year in county jail,
  • a maximum fine of $5,000 fine, or both.

Inhabited dwelling wobbler 

The case could be filed as a “wobbler” that could be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony offense in a situation where you entered an inhabited home without consent during the course of the sex crime.

Punishment for PC 647.6 Child Molestation Conviction

If you are convicted of a PC 647.6(b) felony crime of annoying or molesting a child, you could receive a sentence of up to three years in state prison.

If you have a prior child molestation conviction, then a new PC 647.6 charge will always be filed as a felony crime.

Certain prior convictions for sex crimes 

In a situation where you have a prior conviction on your record for other specific sexual related crimes, then a conviction for violating Penal Code 647.6 as a felony offense carries a sentence of two, four, or six years in a California state prison.

The specific offenses for which you were convicted include the following:  

PC 290 sex offender registration 

If convicted of child molestation under this statute, you will typically be ordered by the judge to register as a sex offender defined under California Penal Code 290 PC.

Registration means your name and address will appear publicly on Megan’s Law website.

Defenses for Child Molestation Charges

If you have been accused of violating Penal Code 647.6, our criminal attorneys can use a range of defense strategies in an attempt to get the charges reduced or even dismissed, such as:

  • no sexual interest in the child;
  • credibility of witnesses.

Recall from the elements of the crime that the prosecutor has to basically prove your mental state by showing you were motivated by a sexual interest in the child.

This can be difficult to prove unless there was a confession of incriminating statements. We might be able to make an argument to create reasonable doubt.

This means a prosecutor will typically depend on the totality of all the circumstances to show your primary motivation was a sexual interest in minors.

Credibility of victim 

We might be able to make an argument that is credibility of the victim is not reliable. Perhaps the alleged victim was pressured by an adult to make false allegations due to anger, jealously, or revenge for a relationship that ended badly.

Defenses for Child Molestation Charges

We might be able to show either the victim or a witness has a bias or a history of being dishonest.  

If you are facing an accusation of annoying or molesting a child, then you need to protect yourself immediately.

Don't make any statements to police as you are at risk of making incriminating statements that will be used against you in court. Rather, contact our experienced team of criminal defense lawyers to closely review all the details.

If our law firm is able to get involved early in the criminal case process, we might be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avid the formal filing of charges through prefiling intervention.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-rated criminal defense law firm representing people in all Southern California courtrooms. We have two office locations in West Los Angeles County. Contact us for a free case consultation at (424) 372-3112.

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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