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Annoying and Harassing Phone Calls

Many people have at one time or another made a “prank” phone call. However, many people do not know that certain types of “annoying” phone calls are illegal in California. California Penal Code Section 653m PC, makes specific types of annoying phone calls a misdemeanor offense.

In order for an annoying phone call to qualify under California Penal Code Section 653m PC three elements must be met. First, you must make or permit a telephone call or electronic communication. Second, there must be obscene language threats, or repeated calls. Third, there must be intent to harass or annoy.

This penal code section includes electronic communications, meaning that using a phone, cell phone, computer, fax machine, video game console, pager, or any other electronic communication for the purpose of harassing someone in punishable under this penal code section. An example would be harassing text messages or emails. If you contact someone and they do not answer but they call you back and you use obscene or harassing language toward them, this still violates the code section because you requested that the person call you. Furthermore, even if you were not the one who made the contact, but you let someone use your phone knowing they were making a harassing or annoying phone call you can still be charged under this code section.

The maximum potential penalty for this misdemeanor offense is six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Having a skilled attorney to defend you, like those at Hoffman & Associates, can help get your case reduced to an infraction or even dismissed. The attorneys at Hoffman & Associates, with over 30 years of courtroom experience, will demonstrate either that you did not make the communication; that the language in the communication was not actually obscene; or that you did not possess the intent to annoy or harass.

California Penal Code Section 653m provides:

  1. Every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith.
  2. Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device, or makes any combination of calls or contact, to another person is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device, guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.
  3. Any offense committed by use of a telephone may be deemed to have been committed when and where the telephone call or calls were made or received. Any offense committed by use of an electronic communication device or medium, including the Internet, may be deemed to have been committed when and where the electronic communication or communications were originally sent or first viewed by the recipient.
  4. Subdivision (a) or (b) is violated when the person acting with intent to annoy makes a telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device requesting a return call and performs the acts prohibited under subdivision (a) or (b) upon receiving the return call.
  5. Subdivision (a) or (b) is violated when a person knowingly permits any telephone or electronic communication under the person's control to be used for the purposes prohibited by those subdivisions.
  6. If probation is granted, or the execution or imposition of sentence is suspended, for any person convicted under this section, the court may order as a condition of probation that the person participate in counseling.
  7. For purposes of this section, the term "electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular phones, computers, video recorders, facsimile machines, pagers, personal digital assistants, smartphones, and any other device that transfers signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, or data. "Electronic communication device" also includes, but is not limited to, videophones, TTY/TDD devices, and all other devices used to aid or assist communication to or from deaf or disabled persons. "Electronic communication" has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

If you have found yourself charged with this offense, call the experienced attorneys at Hoffman & Associates today to start to prepare your legal defense.