California Penal Code 653m PC

PC 653m – Annoying Phone Calls

PC 653m - Annoying Phone Calls

Criminal Threats – Table of Contents

Penal Code 653m – The “Annoying Phone Calls” Law

Are those annoying phone calls from your ex-boyfriend who won’t stop calling breaking the law? What about a threatening call from a bill collector? Keep reading to learn more about California Penal Code 653m PC, or the “Annoying Phone Calls” Law.

What is the Annoying Phone Calls Law?

Penal Code 653m PC is a California statute prohibiting phone calls, electronic messages, or emails that are:

  1. Obscene
  2. Threatening
  3. Repeated

In order to break the law, the calls must be made with the intent to harass or annoy the recipient. It also needs to involve obscene language and/or threats or be one of a series of repeated harassing calls.

Punishment for Penal Code 653m

The offense is a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

Proving the “Annoying Phone Call”

Let’s dig a bit deeper now into the burden of proof the prosecutor has to show that the calls were, in fact, “annoying.” The prosecutor must prove the following in order to convict someone annoying or harassing phone calls, including:

1. Making/Permitting a Telephone Call or Electronic Communication

The first element the prosecutor has the burden to prove is that you made the phone calls or another form of contact to the person you are charged with annoying or harassing, using an electronic communication device. That includes a regular phone, a mobile phone or smartphone, a computer, a pager, a fax machine, or a video recorder — and basically any other electronic device you can contact someone else with. The following count as violations of the law:

  1. Harassing text messages
  2. Harassing emails
  3. Harassing letters sent via fax
  4. Disturbing photos that were taken on and transmitted directly from a smartphone

Even if you call or contact someone who doesn’t pick up initially and then returns your call, at which point you use obscene or threatening language toward them is a violation of PC 653m.

What’s more, you can be accused of making annoying calls under the law even if you did not make the call or send the electronic communication yourself. If you let someone use your phone or communication device to make the annoying call, that also counts as a violation of Penal Code 653. But, in order to be convicted for somebody else’s call or communication from your device, you must have known they were using your property for such purposes.

2. Obscene Language, Threats, or Repeated Calls

As we mentioned, a phone call or electronic communication must qualify as “annoying” or “harassing” to violate PC 653m. In California, there are three types of criminally annoying phone calls:

  1. Calls or electronic communication with obscene language
  2. Calls or electronic communication involving a threat to injure the recipient, their family members, or their property
  3. Repeated calls or communication (regardless of what’s said during the call)

3. Intent to Harass or Annoy

Finally, you cannot be convicted of making annoying calls or electronic communications unless the prosecutor is able to prove you actually intended to harass or annoy the recipient.

Fighting “Annoying Phone Call” Charges

If you’ve been accused or charged of making an “annoying” phone call under California PC 653m, a skilled defense attorney will help you fight your case. Common defense are:

Lack of Intent to Annoy or Harass

This is one of the strongest legal defenses against charges that you made annoying or harassing phone calls under PC 653m is that you didn’t actually intend to harass or annoy the recipient. If you had good-faith intentions or a business purpose behind making the calls or sending the communication, there’s a good chance the prosecutor will not be able to prove you had mal intent in making the calls.

The Language Was Not Obscene

If the prosecution’s theory is that you used obscene language in your communication, which is why they’re charging you with a violation of PC 653m, you can fight the charge by arguing the content was not actually obscene.

We Want to Help

Proving violations of Penal Code 653m is challenging, and there are many loopholes. This is why, if you or a loved one has been charged with PC 653m, you must find an experienced criminal defense attorney ASAP. At Esfandi Law Group, our team is dedicated to fighting for your clients and bringing them justice.

Don’t attempt to navigate the choppy legal waters alone. Count on the expertise and experience of our skilled staff. Contact us today for a free consultation. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Seppi Esfandi has been defending clients for over 20 years. He is ranked among the top Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorneys in the state of California.

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We cannot stress enough that you read, understand and follow these 10 basic rules if you are criminally charged or under investigation:

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