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Annoying Phone Calls Law & Defense

PC 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). For multiple phone calls that amount to repeated harassment the criminal charge is filed under PC 653m(b).

For a single occurrence of harassment by phone (PC 653m(a)), there is no crime unless the alleged victim can show that the phone call was placed with the intent to harass or that the language used by the defendant on the phone was of a threatening nature or obscene. This can be difficult to prove in criminal court.

Evidence of phone records or call logs that show multiple phone calls can support a criminal charge of annoying or harassing phone calls filed under PC 653m(b). The number of phone calls, the relationship between the parties, the length of phone calls, and the credible testimony of the alleged victim 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 usually illegal to record another person's voice without their express or implied permission (See PC 632); however, there is an exception to this rule that allows victims of annoying or harassing phone calls to record another person's voice for the limited purpose of proving that the harassment is actually taking place (See Illegal Recordings).

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 section 653m(g). Electronic devices include, but are not limited to, telephone, cellular phones (cell phone), computers, video recorders, smart phone, 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.

Sentence for PC 653m Crimes

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.

Probation Sentence: Probation is a period of supervision in lieu of an actual jail sentence. Probation sentences carry terms of probation that must be followed in order to avoid an actual jail sentence. A probation sentence may be available in some PC 653m cases depending on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.

In addition to a possible jail sentence, if found guilty of the crime of annoying or harassing phone calls, the defendant could face any of the following: criminal fines, stay-away orders, harsh probation terms, restitution, negative consequences for immigration status, loss or suspension of a professional license, civil lawsuits, mandatory anger management classes, and more.

Defense to PC 653m Crimes

Common defenses to a criminal charge of annoying phone calls include, but are not limited to: insufficient evidence to prove the charge, mistake of fact, statute of limitations, intoxication, insanity, coerced confessions, illegal search and seizure, 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.

For more information on the common defenses to PC 653m crimes, please visit defenses.

If you or a loved one is charged with the criminal offense of annoying or harassing phone calls charged either as PC 653m(a) or PC 653m(b), contact our criminal defense attorney today for a free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys are always available and have successfully handled hundreds of misdemeanor and felony cases, including criminal charges of annoying phone calls and PC 653m crimes. Call today!

909.913.3138 

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Criminal Defense Attorneys


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Annoying Phone Calls: PC 653m

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Free Consultations 24hrs / 7days

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Harass by Telephone: PC 653m(a), & 653m(b)

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