M was juvenile attending high school in California who just went through a tough breakup with his ex-girlfriend, S. Following their breakup, M sent two text messages to S . in the first he threatened to come to school with a gun and kill half the school before committing suicide in front of S. In the other, he used expletives including “F___,” “B____”, and “C___”. M was charged with a violation of California Penal Code 653m which reads:
653m. (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.
At M’s trial in juvenile court S testified that the words were commonly used at their high school and that she was not offended by the language. Another student testified that the above language was commonly used by their peer group. The court sustained the petition which is akin to a finding of guilt.
In reversing the trial court’s finding, the appellate court found that neither text communicated a physical threat to the recipient, S. The court also found that while the texts might be “upsetting”, neither text was obscene, lewd as used, or offensive to prevailing notions of modesty or decency in the context of the law.
This case illustrates how a competent criminal defense attorney can fight for a client’s rights and get a positive outcome despite a prior court’s mistake in applying the law. If you or your child are facing criminal charges don’t hesitate to contact the experienced and aggressive attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. We’ll be there when you call or you can visit www.wklaw.com.