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Annoying Phone Calls

In the state of California, the Penal Code § 653m PC encompasses the criminalization of irritating and bothersome phone calls, i.e., annoying calls. This particular legislation establishes the classification of a misdemeanor offense for individuals who engage in the act of harassing or annoying others through phone conversations or electronic communications that are deemed obscene, threatening, or characterized by repetition. Upon conviction, the offender may be subjected to a maximum penalty of six months of incarceration along with a fine of up to $1,000.00.

Within the confines of this code section, it is specified that the utilization of offensive or obscene language, as well as the formulation of threats towards another person with the explicit intent of causing annoyance, constitutes a criminal act. Furthermore, the act of repeatedly initiating phone calls or making contact with an individual with the purpose of harassment is also considered a punishable offense. It is important to recognize that these transgressions can be carried out through various forms of electronic communication devices, including telephones, cell phones, computers, and smartphones.

It is crucial to note that the aforementioned law does not extend its reach to encompass telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or that occur during the ordinary course of business. Additionally, in cases where probation is granted, the court reserves the right to impose counseling as a condition of probation.

It is worth highlighting that for a phone call to be classified as an annoying or harassing act, it must involve the usage of obscene language, the formulation of threats, or be part of an ongoing series of harassing calls. It is common for charges under Penal Code 653m to be filed in conjunction with cases involving domestic violence or stalking.

The interpretation of what constitutes obscene language or threats can prove to be challenging, as California courts are continuously working towards establishing definitive definitions for these terms. Consequently, individuals may find it challenging to pre-determine whether their actions can be considered criminal in nature.

Under the jurisdiction of Penal Code 653m, it is important to note that accusations of making annoying phone calls can be directed at individuals who did not personally initiate the call or send the communication. Even if you allowed someone else to utilize your phone or communication device to engage in an annoying call or communication, you may still face criminal charges if you were aware of their intent.

Within the realm of Penal Code 653m, three distinct categories of annoying or harassing phone calls have been identified:

1. Phone calls or communications that employ obscene language.
2. Phone calls or communications that incorporate threats to harm the recipient, their family members, or their property.
3. Repeated phone calls or communications, irrespective of the content of the communication.

It is essential to acknowledge that for a phone call or electronic message to be classified as obscene, it does not necessarily have to contain sexually explicit content. Instead, it can be deemed obscene if it consists of offensive language or if it violates established standards of decency and appropriateness. Profanity or graphic descriptions of violence are also deemed as obscene within the context of this legislation.

When determining whether language is obscene, the nature of the relationship between the caller and the recipient is taken into account. If the individuals involved have a history of utilizing strong language with each other, what may appear obscene in other circumstances may not suffice to classify a call or communication as annoying.

In situations where the recipient of the call holds a public position, such as a customer complaint line, it is less probable for the caller to be convicted solely based on the usage of obscene language, as the expectation of privacy for the recipient may differ.

Understanding the intricacies of what constitutes an annoying or harassing communication can be a complex endeavor. If you find yourself facing charges under Penal Code 653m, we extend an invitation for you to reach out to us at Second Chances Law Group. Our team of knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorneys is readily available to provide you with a free evaluation of your case and to guide you through the legal process.

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