Under California Law, Even a Comment Can Be a Crime: Penal Code 647.6 Makes it a Crime to “Annoy” or “Molest” a Child Under 18

August 13, 2013
California Sex Crime Defense
California law is especially vigilant when it comes to protecting minor children. Under California Penal Code 647.6, annoying or molesting a child under 18, something as seemingly innocent as a comment can be a crime. All it takes is a prosecutor convincing a jury that the purpose of the remark was sexual arousal or gratification.

Penal Code 647.6 also applies to adult victims, as long as you thought they were under 18. The fact that your “victim” was actually an adult is not a defense to this crime.

Under this law, “annoy” and “molest” both refer to conduct or speech that could reasonably be expected to annoy a child. You violate it when such a comment or act was motivated by sexual interest in a child, or in children generally.

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Travel Restrictions for a Felony Conviction

Travel restrictions are often one of the consequences of a felony conviction in California. These can occur a number of ways.

First, a judge may directly impose travel restrictions as a condition of probation. This may also include restrictions on going to certain types of places – such as schools or shopping malls – even within the city where the defendant is living.

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New York City Cop May Have Coerced Confessions

Many people think that everyone who confesses to a crime is guilty. But coerced, involuntary and false confessions can lead to wrongful conviction and grave injustice. And some cops will go to unscrupulous lengths to make a case.

As a case in point, the Brooklyn district attorney’s office is reviewing 50 homicide convictions to see whether the convictions were based on coerced confessions, The New York Times reports.

The office’s Conviction Integrity Unit plans to reopen every murder case that resulted in a guilty verdict after being investigated by Detective Louis Scarcella, a discredited police detective who handled some of Brooklyn’s most notorious crimes during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

New York Involuntary Confessions

The Times examined a dozen cases involving Scarcella and found what it called “disturbing patterns,” including the detective’s reliance on the same eyewitness, a crack-addicted prostitute, for multiple murder prosecutions, and his delivery of confessions from suspects who later said they had told him nothing.

In five cases, suspects questioned by Scarcella began their confessions with either “you got it right” or “I was there.”

“It’s hard to imagine all five people used the same exact words,” the Times was told by Richard Leo, a University of San Francisco law professor who specializes in confessions. “It almost sounds like a template.”

Scarcella’s name surfaced in March after a judge freed David Ranta, who had spent 23 years in prison after being convicted of murdering a rabbi. Prosecutors determined that Ranta’s conviction resulted in large part from flawed police work.

Among the alleged misdeeds committed by Scarcella and a partner are failing to pursue a more logical suspect, and the removal of violent criminals from jail to let them smoke crack cocaine and visit prostitutes in exchange for incriminating Ranta.

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People v Beltran: CA Supreme Court Clarifies "Voluntary Manslaughter" Law

In the case of People v. Beltran, the California Supreme Court said that provocation is adequate to reduce an unlawful killing from murder to voluntary manslaughter. However it must be one that would cause an emotion so intense… that an ordinary person would simply react, without reflection.

California Voluntary ManslaughterIn order for a crime to qualify as voluntary manslaughter in California law, Penal Code 192(a) PC requires that it be committed during a sudden quarrel or “in the heat of passion.”

The proper standard, the justices held, is to focus upon whether a person of average disposition would be induced to react from passion rather than from judgment. The jury must consider whether a person of average disposition would have been provoked and how such a person would react in the same situation knowing the same facts.

A jury does not need to find, as the prosecution claimed, that the provocation would cause an ordinary person of average disposition to kill.

The whole notion of a “heat of passion” killing arises from California’ legal requirement that in order to convict someone of murder, a jury must find that a defendant acted with “malice” in the form of either an intent to kill or a conscious disregard for human life.

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California Supreme Court Overturns Three-Strikes Sentence Enhancement

California Supreme Court RulingThe California Supreme Court has overturned a defendant’s five year sentence enhancement under California Penal Code 667(a), California’s “three strikes” law. ” The enhancement was based upon the defendant having been previously convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.

A unanimous court held that since a judge had reduced the earlier crime from a felony to a misdemeanor before the defendant had committed his most recent crimes, the offense no longer qualified as a prior serious felony within the meaning of 667(a), and could not be used to enhance his sentence.

In the earlier case, the defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of felony assault with a deadly weapon under California Penal Code 245(a)(1). The judge in that case suspended imposition of sentence and placed the defendant on three years’ probation.

After the defendant successfully completed the terms of his probation, the judge reduced the offense to a misdemeanor in accordance with the procedures of California Penal Code 17(b)(3).

In the later case, a jury found the defendant guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm.

During sentencing, the prior conviction was revealed. Despite the court being told that the earlier offense had been reduced to a misdemeanor, the judge sentenced the defendant to a total term of 24 years, which included a second-strike sentence of 12 years for the assault conviction and a five-year sentence enhancement under 667(a), based on the defendant having been previously convicted of a serious felony.

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Deceived, Deported and Dejected: Supreme Court Will Not Apply Padilla Retroactively for Countless Immigrants

February 25, 2013

The United States Supreme Court 2010 decision in Padilla v. Kentucky held that the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires criminal defense attorneys to advise non-citizen clients about the deportation risks of a guilty plea. Under Padilla, the lack of such advisement may render an individual’s guilty plea invalid and therefore potentially allow it to be withdrawn.

However, just this past week, the Supreme Court elaborated on the Padilla ruling by handing down its decision in Chaidez v. United States. In this case, the Supreme Court held that Padilla does not apply retroactively and therefore immigrants convicted of certain crimes before 2010 cannot appeal their cases even if their lawyer did not properly warn them of deportation at the time of their guilty plea.

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“Lifting Liberty”: California Lawmakers Amend C.P.C 666 (Petty Theft with a Prior)

February 18, 2013

Prior to September 9, 2010, the law in California dictated that if an individual had once been convicted of any theft offense, and had served at least a day in jail, any subsequent convictions for petty theft could be prosecuted as a felony, rather than a misdemeanor. The pertinent statute, California Penal Code Section 666, “Petty Theft with a Prior.”

However, On September 9, 2010, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1844, which drastically changed how countless petty theft crimes are charged in California. Specifically, under the new law, the petty theft with a prior statute cannot be alleged unless the accused has been convicted of a theft related offense three or more times (at least one of which included jail time).

There is, however, one important exception. This exception provides that only one prior theft conviction is required if the defendant is a registered sex offender (pursuant to California Penal Code Section 290), or if he or she has a prior conviction for a serious or violent felony (i.e., a “strike” under California law pursuant to California Penal Code Section 667.5).

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The Prosecution of Cop Killers: Who Will Handle the Case Against Christopher Jordan Dorner?

February 12, 2013

The manhunt for Christopher Jordan Dorner continues to receive world headlines. Although it is pretty clear among the public that Dorner will likely not surrender without a fight, one key question remains up in the air: what will happen to Christopher Jordan Dorner if captured alive?

At this point, assuming that Dorner is captured alive, either the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office or the Orange County District Attorney’s Office would likely get to prosecute him first. This is because Dorner is suspected of killing Riverside police Officer Michael Crain and as well as a college basketball coach and her fiance in Irvine.

Although both the Riverside and Orange County District Attorney’s Offices are certainly qualified to handle Dorner’s prosecution, don’t think for one second that Dorner’s attempted murder of two LAPD officers in Corona will go unnoticed, let alone unpunished.

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Courts Must Prepare for Proposition 36 Cases

November 19, 2012

Amidst budget cuts, layoffs, attrition and the closure of courthouses and courtrooms, California is struggling to accommodate the volume of litigation on court dockets.

The passage this month of Proposition 36 is only going to add to that challenge.

Proposition 36 reforms California three strikes law so that defendants whose third strike is a nonserious or nonviolent felony cannot be sentenced to life in prison. Moreover, the amendment applies retroactively, so that many life prisoners are eligible to be re-sentenced under the new California three strikes law to a reduced prison term.

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Fighting for Freedom: Families of Three-Strikers Race for Their Release

November 14, 2012

November 6, 2012 will long be remembered among countless Californians as a day that brought renewed faith and belief in the California criminal justice system.

On this day, Proposition 36 passed thanks to overwhelming support from the voters of California.

With this measure’s passage, the state’s stringent and highly detested Three Strikes Law has finally been reformed in favor of more fair, sensible, and humane sentencing practices.

While Proposition 36 has certainly made landmark changes in the law by prohibiting judges from imposing a life sentence on most repeat offenders who commit minor crimes, this only tells half the story.

In fact, the greatest blessing from the measure’s passage undeniable relates to the nearly 3,000 inmates and their countless family members who now have a renewed sense of hope and faith in the state’s criminal justice system.

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Three Strikes and You're [Possibly?] Out: California Voters Reform the Three Strikes Law

November 8, 2012

The historic passage of Proposition 36 this week has signaled a momentous change in California’s Three Strikes Law.

The measure, which passed easily with nearly 70% of the popular vote, will revise the Three Strikes Law so as to impose a life sentence only under two circumstances:

  1. When the third felony conviction is "serious or violent,'' or

  2. For a minor felony crime if the perpetrator is a murderer, rapist or child molester.

As a result of California’s existing Three Strikes Law, which allows a third strike for any felony, there have been numerous cases involving sentences arguably in violation of the 8th Amendment constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

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Wiretap Orders Harder for Police to Get than Search Warrants

October 29, 2012

wiretap.jpgWe all know the police generally must get a warrant before they can search someone’s home and seize property. This means going before a judge and demonstrating “probable cause” that criminal activity is taking place at the location.

But judges have wide discretion in granting search warrants, and the criminal activity in question can be practically anything.

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