Charges of sex crimes against a minor, like annoying or molesting a child under 18, attract a lot of judgment and stigmatization on the accused person. While a significant number of the suspected persons in the case are often innocent, the evidence in court may be enough to warrant arrest. With a constant rise in reported cases of annoying or molesting a child, the authorities take allegations very seriously. So you need to find an expert criminal lawyer like the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer who will give you the best approach to handle the allegations you are facing. He/she could be pivotal to your acquittal or conviction, depending on the defenses that he/she presents in the trial.
The Legal Definition of Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18
There are several definitions of annoying or molesting a child, but the most credible legal description is found in the California Penal Code. Section 647.6 gives the essential elements and actions that accused persons take part in, amounting to the crime. The offense includes two terms that can be used interchangeably; annoy or molest a child. The act of annoying a minor under eighteen years may involve several offensive actions like touching the child inappropriately or suggesting sexual activities like taking pornographic images of the minor. Additionally, some suspects find themselves guilty of the offense if they proceed to initiate activities like oral sex with the minor, with or without the child’s consent.
An essential factor to note with the provisions in the definition given under section 647.6 is that you do not have to make any physical contact with the child to be guilty. Thus, even acting in suggestive ways that make the child uncomfortable is enough to warrant charges against you for annoying or molesting the minor. Moreover, the section states that intention is not essential in prompting your arrest concerning the crime. Consequently, you may lack the criminal plan to seduce or physically molest the child, and still face legal repercussions of your actions. By extension, you could, therefore, face charges for activities you may have undertaken in good faith. The crime lies more on the reaction of your actions against the child and will often leave the suspect in a disadvantaged position, especially when he/she did not intend to offend the minor.
Elements of The Crime that the Prosecutor Must Prove
After facing an arrest for annoying or molesting a minor, the trial process follows soon after, where you get to present your case in court. Since the offense is a crime against the state, a prosecutor is assigned to act for the claimant who may be the child or the child’s parent. A prosecutor works closely with the aggrieved party to collect enough evidence to prove your guilt, and secure your conviction. However, the prosecution team must follow a set of guidelines that require extensive proof of your criminal activity before convincing the judge to issue penalties. Thus, the prosecutor must follow the rule of law and ensure you face a fair trial by proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As a result, he/she carries the burden of proof on the case and must link you to all the evidence and statements presented in court. Here are the elements of the crime that the prosecutor must prove:
The Child in Question was Below Eighteen Years
Regardless of the seemingly obvious assumption of the claimant’s age, the prosecutor has to produce all evidence that validates and verifies the age of the minor in question. Some of the requirements that the judge must receive are the child’s birth certificate. The document plays a vital role in proving that the child was born on the alleged date and is, therefore, below eighteen years. Additionally, the birth certificate is essential in showing that the parent or guardian who may be acting on behalf of the minor is the legal custodian who has a valid right to be a party.
Sometimes, the prosecutor may also opt to include further documented evidence to strengthen the claim that the child is a minor. For example, he/she may present school records that contain the minor’s details, proving that the child is still in school and is under eighteen at the time. Medical information may also come in handy for the prosecutor, especially if they contain essential details like age on the appointment forms. If the minor is prone to making consultations or appointments often, evidence displaying constant tracking of the minor’s age helps the prosecutor to prove further that the child is underaged.
Despite the numerous affidavits and documents presented in court, your criminal lawyer may raise any concern that he/she may have regarding the validity of the evidence. For example, if you suspect that the prosecutor presented a non-original birth certificate, your attorney may request for orders that require further scrutiny of the form to ensure that you do not face unfair accusations.
You Subjected the Annoying Actions to the Child
The prosecution team should also demonstrate that you targeted the minor and subjected him/her to the irritating sexual actions. While this element may seem easy to prove to form the witness statements and possible video evidence, the prosecutor will have to present lines of argument that remove any other potential receptor of your actions within the vicinity. Therefore, if you and the child were in a place with several other people, there must be evidence that proves you only went for the child and engaged him/her in irritating actions. For example, on a bus, you could have taken a seat in between the minor and another commuter and began to conduct questionable activities on yourself, making the two passengers irritated. It may be difficult for the prosecutor to show that you only targeted the child because the action was in the public where anyone might have seen it. Nevertheless, you may face separate charges related to indecency because your actions are still wrong.
Additionally, when the prosecutor has evidence that you have been following or planning to meet the minor, he/she could prove that you specifically targeted your actions to the minor. For example, if you stalk the child and visit his/her school often or frequent the minor’s home, the information may be enough to conclude that you have an interest in molesting the child. Often, surveillance footage of your movements around the child’s residence and school area will pivot the case and present persuasive evidence against you.
However, you may counter the evidence by providing valid reasons for frequent visits to areas where the minor is prone to be. It may be coincidental or based on unrelated reasons that your criminal lawyer will help present in court.
You Were Sexually Interested In the Minor
On top of proving your actions were directed to the minor, the prosecutor should establish that you harbored a sexual interest in the child. The evidence may arise from how you speak to the child, mainly if you have used inappropriate language towards the child. Typically, the prosecution will rely on statements from the aggrieved minor that record all the things you said. Also, other witnesses who have heard you engage the child in inappropriate discussions that portray sexual interest will bring the information forward. The conversations may range from seductive statements that lure the child into spending more time with you requesting the child to visit you to engage in sexual activities.
Secondly, your actions may also become essential evidence to the prosecutor’s team, mainly if they cross the line on personal boundaries. For example, if you are a teacher, there are several rules concerning your students’ own space that you should not cross. Therefore, if you touch a student’s body or lean in too close when speaking to the person, he/she has a valid reason to assume that you may have some sexual interest towards him/her. Consequently, the minor will mention such actions that you take part in when giving statements to the prosecutor, even if you had no intention of causing annoyance or discomfort to the child.
The Minor’s Annoyance or Irritation was Valid
Here, the main point that the prosecutor must prove is that anyone who is of sound mind would have found your actions irritating and uncomfortable to watch or partake in. The main agenda with this element is to demonstrate that the minor has a right to present the claim against you because it is a violation of universal rights and freedoms that protect citizens from predatory behavior. Commonly, the prosecutor creates a line up of witnesses who give their statements in court and offer their take in the kind of reaction they would have against your sexual actions. Moreover, the prosecutor may also compile medical reports from certified psychologists. They study human behavior that indicates a generally adverse reaction to the kind of activities you are accused of doing. For example, a significant majority of people find it disturbing to see a person pleasuring himself/herself in public. With such information, the prosecutor will have shown that your actions were criminal.
Penalties to The Crime of Annoying or Molesting a Minor
The offense falls under the wobbler crime category, meaning that you may face misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the circumstances of your case.
As a misdemeanor, you will face a $5000 fine or up to one year in jail. The crime may attract lesser penalties than this, especially if you do not partake in any aggravating activities that heighten the consequences of your actions.
As a felony, you face up to three years in state prison, with no guaranteed parole option.
Moreover, you also face additional consequences for your choices that will create consequent disadvantages to your life. For example, you must register as a sex offender after a conviction, that may take a minimal ten-year duration to clear off your record. Also, if you are a second-time sex offender, the period that the sex-offender record appears in your data doubles to twenty years.
Actions that Attract More Significant Penalties
Apart from the elements that the prosecutor must prove, several actions you may take part in may aggravate the circumstances of your case and warrant higher penalties than anticipated. However, the prosecutor must successfully prove that you are involved in these activities to ensure that you receive higher penalties. Some of the actions include:
Breaking Into the Minor’s Home
If you forced entry into the child’s dwelling place, you could face additional charges or receive more significant penalties that convert the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony. The minor’s dwelling place may be a house, a trailer, or any other construction that serves as a home. Naturally, a break-in proves that you had no consent to access the premises, and you, therefore, attract more punishment.
Previous Criminal Violations
When you have a previous criminal record that involves felonies like rape or conducting lewd acts with a minor or with any other person, the judge will inevitably consider your past activities to determine the kind of penalties you will receive. Thus, if past convictions taint your criminal record, you may stand in a more disadvantaged position than another accused person.
Using Violence and Threats to Coerce and Silence the Child
Once you engage the minor in sexual actions and then opt for violent means to silence the child or threaten him/her to remain quiet on the issue, you will receive additional penalties to the charges you face. Most of the means used by suspects include threatening to harm the minor, subjecting violence force on the child, or even threatening to lock him/her up. After the prosecutor collects statements proving you resulted in violence, the judge may consider adding extra punishment upon your conviction.
Defenses for the Crime of Annoying or Molesting a Child Under 18
Your criminal lawyer will work with you to come up with the best defenses available to your case to ensure that you avert an unfair conviction. Commonly, most suspects charged with annoying or molesting a minor do not undergo a fair trial because of the heavy emphasis laid on the minor’s statement. However, a diligent criminal lawyer will ensure that you do not face any unwarranted penalties by presenting some of these defenses:
There Was a Mistake of Fact
You may find yourself the victim of a well laid-out plan that involves tricking you into believing false information about the minor. For example, if you enter into a sexual relationship with the minor without knowledge that he/she is not an adult, you may avert any liability placed on you. However, it is not enough to prove that you were unaware of the minor’s young age. Instead, your criminal lawyer will help you strengthen your defense by establishing that the minor fabricated an identification card to further deceive you into thinking that he/she is of legal age. If the claimant took part in deceiving you, his/her actions would reduce the blame on your case.
You Face False Allegations
If you are sure of your innocence and have never crossed paths with the child in question, you can bring forth the claim of false allegations. In the modern world, personal vendettas are common, often resulting in planting evidence on an innocent party. Your criminal lawyer may request a polygraph exam if you have suspicions concerning the motive behind your alleged criminal behavior. The lie detector examination serves as relevant evidence that proves a party’s guilt or innocence by bringing out any lies. Thus, if a guilty party trained the child who is the claimant party in your case to give false information against you, subjecting both the minor and the perpetrator to the polygraph test will help prove your innocence.
Moreover, your criminal lawyer will challenge the evidence presented by the prosecutor and question its validity. If he/she makes a successful case rebuttal, you will be sure of an acquittal.
You Lacked Sexual Motivation
While the prosecutor is under no obligation to prove your intentions to seduce the minor, you may raise the defense of lack of sexual purposes. For example, if you only touched a minor to avert him/her from oncoming danger like traffic, or slipping and falling, you have a valid claim to disprove any sexual allegations. However, you have to be tactical with your approach to prevent offering the prosecutor a chance to take advantage of your defense. Thus, avoid mentioning sentimental reasons to help the minor, because the prosecution can easily twist your words and shift the blame to you.
Contact a Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Facing criminal charges may be stressful for you, especially when they involve severe allegations like molesting or annoying a child under 18. That is why you should hire a reputable lawyer like the Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer to help you fight the charges. If you want to talk to one of our sex crimes defense attorneys, call us at 310-502-1314.