California Child Molestation Law

Was I Molested as a Child?

When we talk to people who were likely exposed to a child molester when they were young, we typically get one of three different answers.

  1. Nothing ever happened to me.
  2. They put their hand on me in this or that way, but they didn’t “molest” me.
  3. Yeah…something happened.

But as our questioning continues, it’s common for repressed memories to begin to surface.  In our experience as child sexual abuse lawyers, we have come to realize that most people don’t understand what “child molestation” is according to California law.

Most people assume that child molestation only happens when an adult makes inappropriate physical contact with a child.  However California child molestation law offers a broad definition about what child molestation really is.  A lot of child sexual abuse often begins with sexual grooming, a type of psychological preparation that child molesters use to normalize their perverse behavior.

What Is Sexual Grooming?

California child molestation law, however, is designed to catch child molesters before harmful, more sexually deviant behavior escalates.  And so, it’s common for us to find that someone was, in fact, molested by a pedophile even though no overt lewd acts occurred.

California Child Molestation Law: PC 647.6

Annoying or Molesting Children

In California, an adult can be found guilty of child molestation when all of the following conditions apply:

  1. The behavior in question is directed at a minor OR is directed at a person who the suspect believed to be a minor at the time of the offense.
  2. The suspect’s behavior is motivated by unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children.
  3. The behavior in question would cause a normal person to be unhesitatingly disturbed, irritated, offended, or injured, provided the acts are motivated by a sexual interest in the child victim.
  4. The victim was, in fact, under 18 years-old at the time of the offense.

What’s important to understand is that California’s child molestation laws are not limited to blatant sexual touching.  Some child molestation convictions have been based only on verbal communication.  Other molestation convictions have been based on an accumulation of perverse behaviors (a.k.a. course of conduct) over time.  Even in cases where physical touch does occur, if the interaction was motivated by the suspect’s underlying sexual interest in children, then the touch–no matter how insignificant it may seem to the child–is child molestation.

The crime of child molestation, according to California penal code 647.6, is not concerned with the state of mind of the child.  But rather, on the defendant’s intent and on an objective assessment of the defendant’s sexually motivated conduct.

Examples of Child Molestation in California

Child Molestation Does Not Require Physical Contact

A photographer was convicted of child molestation when he intentionally positioned the young girls that he was photographing to expose their panties and crotch area.  The man was criminally charged with child molestation because his conduct went beyond the nature of a simple photograph.  His intention was to serve his own private sexual interest and ultimate pleasure.  Thus the children were molested as unwilling participants in the man’s perverse interests. At the time, however, the girls did not know that his interests were sexually motivated.

Lewd or Obscene Talk Can Be Child Molestation

Lewd or obscene words can qualify as child molestation.  Adults who talk about sex or masturbation with children while motivated by a sexual interest in them, are breaking California child molestation law.  Likewise, adults that coerce children to talk about sex without parental permission may be guilty of molestation in California as well.

Sexually Motivated Behavior Is Child Molestation

A given course of conduct, however, does not necessarily have to be lewd or obscene to be considered molestation. Adult interactions with a minor that are simply found to be bothersome by a normal person may be child molestation.

This happened in the case where a man repeatedly drove past a young girl who was walking down the street.  The man, a stranger, continuously stared at her while he drove by her, blowing kisses and winking in her direction.  The man drove slowly along side her as she walked.  He eventually parked in such a way that she would have to pass by him as she was walking.  The man was convicted of child molestation.

Lewd Acts Involving Children


Many more legal examples of child molestation in California exist.  In our work as child molestation lawyers, we continue to help define what types of actions and behaviors actually constitute child sexual abuse.  What is certain, is that the law applies differently in different situations.

Maybe you don’t feel like you were molested as a child when that creepy or overly childish adult touched you.  But, according to California child molestation law, you may have been sexually abused .

Was the intent of the adult who performed the act based in a sexual interest in children?  Would a normal person be unhesitatingly offended if they knew the adult had a sexual interest in the child?  If so, then the actions of that creepy adult may qualify as child molestation according to California law.

Contact a Child Molestation Lawyer

If you or someone you know has ever been in contact with a known child molester, it’s best that you seek the advice of a lawyer who specializes in child molestation.  An expert child molestation lawyer can help you make sense of the questionable interactions that you or your child had with an adult.