California Annoying Phone Calls Law & Defense
California Penal Code 653m(a) & 653m(b)
The laws on the crimes of annoying a person by phone (also known as annoying phone calls or harass by telephone) are found at California penal code sections 653m(a) and 653m(b).
A single incident of harassment by phone is sufficient to support a charge of annoying phone calls under PC 653m(a); if there are multiple phone calls that amount to repeated harassment by telephone then the criminal charge is usually filed under PC 653m(b).
For a single occurrence of a phone call there is no criminal charge unless the alleged victim can show that the phone call was placed to harass him or her or that the language on the phone call was of a threatening nature or obscene abuse. This can be difficult to prove in criminal court.
On the other hand, evidence of phone records (call logs) that show multiple phone calls can easily support a criminal charge of annoying phone calls filed under PC 653m(b). The number of phone calls, the relationship between the parties, and the length of phone calls becomes important evidence in these types of cases.
One of the most common ways to support a charge of either PC 653m(a) or 653m(b) is the use of voice recordings left on vioicemails. Note: it is illegal to record another pperson's voice without their express or implied permission and evidence of an illegal recording may not be used in court with very limited exceptions for evidence of imminent and major felonies.
To be found guilty of annoying phone calls under PC 653m(a) or PC 653m(b) the district attorney will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to contact the victim by telephone or other electronic means and that when the defendant contacted the victim he or she used obscene language, or threatened the victim with injury to person or property.
The language of PC 653m(a) reads: Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device, uses obscene language or addresses the other person with any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person, or any member of the other person's family, is guilty of a misdemeanor, Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith.
An electronic device is defined at California penal code secton 653m(g). Electronic devices include, but not limited to, telephone, cellular phones (cell phone), computers, video recorders, smartphone, or any device that transfers signals, writings, images, sounds, or data.
PC 653m(b) is described in very similar terms to the language of PC 653m(a) cited above but with the additional language of repeated harassment or annoyance.
As stated, annoying or harassing phone calls charged under PC 653m(a) or 653m(b) is classified as a misdemeanor. If found guilty of a violation of either PC 653m(a) or PC 653m(b) the defendant could face up to 180 days in the county jail.
In addition to any jail time ordered against the defendant, if found guilty of the crime of annoying phone calls the defendant could face heavy criminal fines, stay-away orders (from the victim), harsh probation terms, restitution, negative impact on immigration status, loss or suspension of professional license, and civil consequences from any subsequent civil lawsuit based on conversion, trespass to chattels, or invasion of privacy.
In many cases it may be possible to have the criminal charge of annoying phone calls dismissed completely. This of course depends on the facts of the case that allegedly support the PC 653m(a) or PC 653m(b) charges.
In other cases of annoying or harassing phone calls it may be possible to reduce the criminal charge to avoid the harsh penalties associated with PC 653m(a) and PC 653m(b) charges.
Common defenses to a criminal charges of annoying phone calls charged under either PC 653m(a) or PC653m(b) include insufficient evidence to prove that the crime was committed (the evidence might only support that many calls were made but that all of them were for legal purposes), intoxication, statute of limitations (1 year from the date of incident) and more.
Note: it is not a defense to a criminal charge of annoying phone calls to claim that the electronic device used to convey the harassment was not the defendant's. In fact, anyone who allows his or her phone to be used to annoy or harass another person may be charged with a crime (See PC 653m(e)). Furthermore, it is not a defense to show that the victim called the defendant (as opposed to the other way around) if the defendant actually requested a return call from the victim).
If you or a loved one is charged with the criminal offense of annoying or harassing phone calls under either PC 653m(a) or PC 653m(b) contact criminal defense attorney Christopher Dorado today. Our office handles post conviction relief for PC 653 charges as well, such as warrant recalls, violations of probation, or expungement of criminal record for prior convictions of PC 653m(a) or PC 653m(b).
Attorney Dorado commits 100% of his law practice to criminal defense and consultations are provided at no cost to he accused. Attorney Dorado has a successful criminal trial record and he has successfully negotiated hundreds of criminal cases, including criminal charges of annoying phone calls. All consultations are private and that privacy is protected by the attorney client privilege.
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