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The Consequences of Making Annoying Phone Calls in California

To you making an annoying phone call might not seem like a big deal. In fact, it’s something many of us did when we were bored teenagers. If you did, hopefully, you outgrew the prank because in this day and age, making an annoying phone call in California is a misdemeanor. That’s right! Each time you pick up the phone and place an annoying call, you’re breaking the law.

California’s Penal Code 653m PC

The topic of annoying phone calls is addressed in California’s Penal Code 653m PC. It states:

“(a) 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.
(b) 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.
(c) 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.
(d) 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.”

Charges for California’s Penal Code 653m PC

Most of the annoying phone call incidents that generate police attention are either obscene or threatening, the victim is truly threatened and/or terrified. That doesn’t mean prank calls are allowed. A person is free to contact the police if they are getting irritating phone calls when those calls happen over and over again.

According to California law, the following three types of calls violate Penal Code 653m PC:

  • Calls that include unmistakable threats
  • Calls that are riddled with unwanted obscene language
  • Repeated/frequent calls (in this case, it’s all about repetition, not content)

It’s important to understand that making annoying phone calls in California isn’t an infraction. It’s a misdemeanor, which means a conviction will result in you getting a permanent criminal record. If you’re convicted, you could be sentenced to spending six months in jail and/or charged a $1,000 fine.

Phone calls aren’t the only way you can violate Penal Code 653m PC. Other things that fall into the category of annoying phone calls include:

  • Text messages
  • Unwanted emails
  • Letters sent via fax
  • Unsolicited smartphone photos

The best way to avoid getting charged with annoying phone calls is to stop and consider if you would consider the call annoying, threatening, or repetitive. If you would, don’t make the call.