Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18 - 647.6 PC

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Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18 - (647.6 PC)

Penal Code 647.6 PC criminalizes the act of annoying or molesting a child under 18 years of age or an adult who is perceived to be under 18. This offense can be committed without physically touching the victim.

The offense is considered a "wobbler," giving the prosecution the option to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Under Penal Code 647.6 PC, annoying or molesting a child refers to behavior motivated by a sexual interest in a child or children that is likely to disturb, irritate, or be seen by a child or children. This can be achieved through words or conduct, without any physical touch being required.

The law reads:

“(a) (1) Every person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.

(2) Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, engages in conduct with an adult whom he or she believes to be a child under 18 years of age, which conduct, if directed toward a child under 18 years of age, would be a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(b) Every person who violates this section after having entered, without consent, an inhabited dwelling house, or trailer coach as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, or the inhabited portion of any other building, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, and by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000).”

What defines “annoys or molests”

Under Penal Code 647.6, it's a crime to annoy or molest a child under 18 or an adult who is believed to be under 18, without actual physical contact being necessary. This law applies to conduct that is:

  • motivated by a sexual interest in children or a specific child
  • intrusive and disturbing to a child's privacy and security.

This offense is considered a "general intent crime" meaning the intent to be sexually suggestive is not necessary. Conduct that is perceived as affectionate by the accused may still be considered a violation if it would irritate a reasonable person. The law applies regardless of whether a specific child or group of children was targeted and if the conduct actually irritated a child. The focus is on the conduct itself, not the outcome.

Words alone may also be considered a violation under Penal Code 647.6 and indirect sexual conduct such as masturbation when intended to be observed by a child, is also prohibited.

Penal Code 647.6 PC targets individuals who engage in behavior inspired by an unconventional or abnormal sexual desire for a child or children. It does not mandate that the individual must have aimed to entice a child.

Any conduct driven by motives that do not stem from a sexual interest does not fall under the purview of Penal Code 647.6. Moreover, behavior that a child unintentionally comes across or hears is also not considered a violation of this law.



Penal Code 647.6 PC may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances, if you engage in conduct that annoys or molests a child after entering, without consent, an inhabited dwelling, trailer coach, or the inhabited portion of another building. The decision on whether to charge it as a misdemeanor or a felony will be influenced by various factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the possibility of danger to other children. If convicted as a misdemeanor, the penalties may include jail time of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $5,000. If charged as a felony, a conviction may result in a prison sentence of 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years.


The initial violation of Penal Code 647.6 PC, without additional factors, is a misdemeanor with a potential punishment of a year in a local jail or a fine of $5,000, or both.


In California, if you have a previous conviction under Penal Code 647.6 PC for annoying or molesting a child, a second or subsequent offense for the same crime is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in state prison.

If you have a prior felony conviction for specified sex offenses, including but not limited to the rape of a minor under 16 (Penal Code 261), continuous sexual abuse of a child (Penal Code 288.5), lewd acts with a child (Penal Code 288), and child pornography (Penal Code 311.4), then a first-time violation of Penal Code 647.6 is also considered a felony. The punishment for such an offense is 2, 4, or 6 years in state prison.

Sex Offender Registration

A conviction under Penal Code 647.6 PC in California requires the individual to register as a sex offender.

A first-time offense is categorized as a tier-one violation and requires a minimum of 10 years of sex offender registration.

A second or subsequent conviction is considered a tier-two offense, which carries a minimum of 20 years of sex offender registration.

This information is made public on the Department of Justice's "Megan's Law" website.

Under Senate Bill 384, a three-tier system for sex offender registration was established in California. Previously, annoying a child carried a lifetime registration requirement, but now only tier-three offenses carry such a requirement.

If the violation of Penal Code 647.6 is a misdemeanor, the individual may request exclusion from the Megan's Law website. However, they must still continue to register as a sex offender unless they obtain a California certificate of rehabilitation or have successfully completed ten years of registration and have been permitted by the court to remove their name from the registry.

For more information, refer to our article on California sex offender registration and Megan's Law.

Legal Defenses

The most effective defense in a case involving Penal Code 647.6 depends on the specific circumstances involved. Each case and each individual involved, including the accuser and defendant, is unique.

Conduct was not motivated by sexual interest

In order to be considered a violation of Penal Code 647.6 PC, the conduct must have been motivated by a sexual interest in children. If the behavior is innocent in nature or driven by another motive, it is not considered a crime under this section.

Polygraph examinations

"Lie detector tests" or polygraph exams are often associated with law enforcement. However, in California criminal cases, the defense may conduct private polygraph exams to keep the results confidential unless the person passes the test.

Private polygraph exams are typically performed by a former FBI or police polygrapher with a credible reputation among district attorneys.

If the results indicate that the client is truthful, the defense may present them to the prosecutor. Although inadmissible in court, this evidence can sometimes be persuasive enough to convince the prosecutor to drop the case. Prosecutors aim to avoid prosecuting innocent individuals.

However, if the results suggest that the client may not be truthful, the defense will discard the results and no one else will be aware of the polygraph exam.

The credibility of the accuser 

In the absence of a confession, the credibility of the accuser and any potential witnesses is often crucial in a Penal Code 647.6 case. To this end, a defense lawyer may seek to:

  • Obtain the accuser's records, including their school, counseling, medical records, emails, and social media accounts
  • Interview the accuser's classmates, family members, friends, and social media friends

Conduct a comprehensive background check on both the accuser and any claimed witnesses

This information could reveal that the child has a past of being deceptive or that they had a pre-existing prejudice against the accused.

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