Oral copulation, or oral sex, is a crime in California when it occurs without consent from one or both parties. Oral copulation is the act of one person’s mouth coming into contact with the genitals or anus of someone else.
Unlawful oral copulation is generally processed under California Penal Code 287. However, those guilty of forcing another person into the act of oral copulation will likely face charges under multiple other statutes as well.
California Penal Code 287: Unlawful Oral Copulation
Oral copulation is illegal anytime that the act is performed without consent. Not having consent from the victim is not simply when the victim says no. There are many situations involving oral copulation where a victim is unable to say no, is unaware of what is happening, or is not considered to be capable of giving consent.
Oral copulation is illegal under California Penal Code 287 when the act is performed:
- Against the victim’s will with the use of force or fear
- Against the victim’s will with threats of future retaliation
- Against a victim who is incapable of giving legal consent due to being under 18 years of age
- Against a victim who is incapable of giving legal consent due to mental illness
- Against a victim who is incapable of giving legal consent due to a physical disability
- Against a victim who is incapable of giving legal consent due to unconsciousness
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Penalties for Unlawful Oral Copulation in California
Under California Penal Code 287, unlawful oral copulation is typically processed as a felony. However, under certain conditions, this offense is considered a wobbler. A wobbler can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged with a misdemeanor, a defendant may face:
- Up to $1,000 in fines
- Up to one year in jail
- Summary probation
When processed as a felony, the penalties rise steeply. In the most severe cases, unlawful oral copulation can result in:
- Up to $10,000
- Up to eight years in prison
- Formal probation
Sex Offender Registration
In addition to fines, incarceration, and probation, those convicted of an offense under PC 287 are likely to be required to register as sex offenders. In some misdemeanor cases, the judge is not required to force a defendant to register. However, they may still do so at their discretion.
The duration of sex offender registration will depend upon the tier. A tier-one sex offender must register for ten years, while a tier-three offender must register for life.
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Common Defenses Against PC 287 Charges
Many different defenses can be used against Penal Code 287 charges. Because there are so many different ways this law can be violated, the defenses can vary significantly. However, there are some arguments that are commonly used to beat a conviction. Some of the most used are:
- False accusations
- Reasonable belief the victim was over 18
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for accusations to be made against innocent people. False accusations most often occur due to anger, jealousy, or greed on the part of the accuser.
However, it can also happen due to mistaken identity. The accused may look like the perpetrator, or the witness may have simply seen the accused in another context and got confused.
Reasonable Belief the Victim Was Over 18
In cases where oral copulation was unlawful due to one of the participants being underage, this is often a valid defense. This defense likely will not work simply based on the statement that you believed the victim to be 18 or older.
However, if you met the minor at an establishment that was 21 and over, you would be able to argue that you reasonably believed them to be of legal age.
Having consent from the other party will only work against some PC 287 charges. If the victim is determined to have been incapable of giving consent, as in the case of a minor, this defense will be deemed invalid. However, in cases where oral copulation was performed as a result of implied force, this could certainly be a valid defense.
Arguments surrounding consent can often be tricky to deal with, as it is usually just the victim’s word against the defendant’s.
When building any legal defense, it is important to consult with an experienced legal professional. A sex crimes lawyer can help to make sure you have chosen the best option for your situation. Additionally, they can assist you in building a strong defense to fight the charges brought by the prosecution.
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Hiring a California Sex Crimes Lawyer
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have plenty of experience helping protect our clients against charges of unlawful oral copulation as well as other sex crimes. We fight hard for our clients to ensure the best possible outcomes.
Give us a call today or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation with a member of our legal team. We will review your case and advise you of all your options for fighting an unlawful oral copulation charge.