What Is “Child Annoyance” In California, and What Are the Penalties?

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In California, the “child annoyance” definition refers to sexually motivated acts directed at a child under 18.

These are serious charges that could result in going to jail if you are convicted. Convictions could also have severe secondary consequences with life-altering effects. 

What can you do to avoid a negative outcome if the State charges you with child annoyance? The first step you should take is to contact The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC.

Kerry Armstrong is one of the select few attorneys in San Diego to whom the California Bar has given the prestigious designation of criminal law specialist. 

Sex crimes lawyer Kerry Armstrong and his impressive team are always ready to provide you with aggressive advocacy and support as we work to help you overcome these accusations. 

Contact our office today for a free consultation.

What Are the Key Terms of Penal Code Section 647.6?

California Penal Code section 647.6 prohibits any conduct that annoys or molests a child under 18 if the conduct is motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the minor.

Annoying or Molesting a Child

Annoying or molesting a child means any behavior directed at a minor that a reasonable person would find disturbing, irritating, burdensome, offensive, or harmful. Some examples of such behavior include:

  • Making lewd gestures or comments;
  • Exposing oneself or asking a child to expose themselves;
  • Following or stalking the child with sexual intent;
  • Sending sexually suggestive messages or images;
  • Engaging in inappropriate touching or fondling, even over clothing; and
  • Exposing the child to pornography.

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it includes common forms of molestation under the statute.

Motivated by Sexual Interest

A vital component of this offense is your motivation. An adult’s unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child must primarily drive the conduct.

This means that your main intention for the conduct is sexual, not just playful or affectionate. Behavior that is not sexual in nature, even if it bothers the child, does not fall under this law.

Unnatural or Abnormal Sexual Interest 

While not defined in the law, unnatural or abnormal sexual interest generally means any sexual interest in a child that is significantly different from what is normal for someone of your age or position of authority.

It’s important to note that the law does not require physical contact for this offense. The prosecution can convict you under this law for words, gestures, or online interactions that annoy or molest a child—so long as you commit these acts motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child.

What Must the Prosecution Prove to Convict You Under Penal Code Section 647.6?

To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all of the elements of the crime are present.

We covered some in the previous section where we discussed the terminology of the law, and we’ll use many of these terms when describing exactly what elements the prosecution must prove.

  • Directly targeting a child. The alleged conduct must be directed at a minor under 18.
  • Reasonable person’s perception. The conduct must be such that a reasonable person, faced with the same circumstances, would perceive it as disturbing, irritating, annoying, offensive, or even harmful.
  • Motive of predatory intent. An unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child must be the driving force behind the behavior.
  • Timing of the Offense. The child must have been under 18 when the alleged conduct occurred.

Understanding the specifics of Penal Code section 647.6 is crucial for anyone facing such accusations. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help navigate the complexities of the legal system and protect your rights throughout the process.

What Is the Misdemeanor Sentence for Child Molesters?

A misdemeanor sentence is usually reserved for first-time offenders who did not cause much harm to the child. You could spend up to one year in county jail, pay a fine of up to $5,000, or both. 

What Felony Penalties Do You Face for Annoying Or Molesting A Child Under 18?

You could face up to three years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This is more likely if any of these factors apply:

  • You have a previous conviction for child molestation or another sex crime involving minors, such as rape, lewd acts, or child pornography;
  • You committed multiple acts of child molestation against the same or different children;
  • You used force or violence against the child or threatened them with harm;
  • You caused significant emotional distress to the child; and
  • The child was under 14 at the time of the offense.

Aside from incarceration and fines, child molestation charges carry personal and financial repercussions affecting reputation, career, and family:

  • Registration as a sex offender. Conviction under Penal Code section 647.6 will necessitate sex offender registration. Such registration could impose limitations on your freedom and job opportunities.
  • Civil liability. Victims or their families can file civil lawsuits for damages, covering emotional distress and medical expenses.

Given the gravity of such charges, seeking legal advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kerry L. Armstrong is wise. 

What Are Some Defenses to Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18?

Being accused of annoying or molesting a child under 18 is a serious matter that requires the help of a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can use several possible defenses to fight the charges, depending on the facts of your case. Some of these defenses include:

  • You did not target a minor with your actions;
  • You did not have an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the minor;
  • You reasonably thought the victim was 18 or older; or
  • Your conduct would not have bothered, upset, or harmed a reasonable or average person.

These defenses can challenge the prosecution’s evidence enough to cast reasonable doubt of your guilt in the minds of the jury. Or, if the holes in the prosecution’s case are big enough, your lawyer might succeed in persuading the prosecutor to lower or dismiss your charges. 

Protect Your Future with Representation from Award-Winning Defense Attorneys

Do you face allegations of child annoyance or molestation in California? If so, you need a competent and experienced defense team that knows how to handle such cases and safeguard your rights and future.

At The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we have a proven track record of exonerating clients and getting weak charges dropped. We serve residents in San Diego County and the surrounding areas. 

Contact us today to understand your legal rights, clear your name, build your strongest defense, and protect your future against these serious allegations. 

Where You Can Find Our San Diego, CA Office Location

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Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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