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Penal Code 286 PC | Sodomy

Sodomy Laws in California – Penal Code 286 PC

Sodomy, as defined legally in California, refers to a sexual act involving penetration between the penis of one person and the anus of another[1]. While consensual sodomy between adults is legal, California Penal Code 286 PC criminalizes sodomy under certain circumstances, such as when it occurs through the use of force or with a minor.

A sodomy conviction can have severe consequences, including years in prison and mandatory sex offender registration. However, the laws surrounding sodomy in California are complex, and there are defenses that a skilled criminal defense attorney can use to contest the charges.

What is Sodomy Under California Law?

California Penal Code 286 PC defines sodomy as “sexual conduct consisting of contact between the penis of one person and the anus of another person.” The statute further clarifies that “Any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the crime of sodomy.”[1]

The key elements of sodomy under California law are:

  • Contact between the penis of one person and the anus of another
  • Any degree of anal penetration, no matter how slight

Sodomy does not require ejaculation. The length of time of the contact is also irrelevant. As long as there is evidence of penetration, the legal definition is met.

When is Sodomy a Crime in California?

Sodomy between consenting adults is legal in California. However, there are certain circumstances in which sodomy becomes a criminal offense[2]:

Sodomy with a Minor

  • Penal Code 286(b)(1) – Sodomy with a person under 18 years old
  • Penal Code 286(b)(2) – Sodomy with a person under 16 years old by a defendant over 21
  • Penal Code 286(c)(1) – Sodomy with a person under 14 years old by a defendant more than 10 years older

Minors under 18 are legally unable to consent to sexual activity. Therefore, sodomy with a minor constitutes a crime regardless of whether the minor seemingly consented.

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Sodomy by Force or Fear

  • Penal Code 286(c)(2)(A) – Sodomy accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace or fear
  • Penal Code 286(c)(2)(B) – Sodomy with a minor under 14 against their will by force, violence, duress, menace or fear
  • Penal Code 286(c)(2)(C) – Sodomy with a minor 14 or 15 against their will by force, violence, duress, menace or fear

Any form of non-consensual sodomy through the use of force, threats, or placing the victim in fear constitutes a crime.

Sodomy of an Incapacitated Person

  • Penal Code 286(f) – Sodomy with a victim who is unconscious or otherwise unable to legally consent
  • Penal Code 286(i) – Sodomy where the victim is prevented from resisting due to intoxication

Engaging in sodomy with someone who is unable to resist or give legal consent due to being unconscious, heavily intoxicated, or mentally incapacitated is illegal.

Sodomy in Detention Facilities

  • Penal Code 286(e) – Any sodomy between inmates in prison or jail

Sodomy between inmates of detention facilities is prohibited, even if seemingly consensual.

Penalties for Sodomy in California

Sodomy laws in California classify the offense as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances of the case[3].

Misdemeanor Sodomy

Sodomy with a minor when charged as a misdemeanor under Penal Code 286(b)(1) carries the following penalties:

  • Up to one year in county jail
  • A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Mandatory counseling
  • Sex offender registration for 10 years

Felony Sodomy

When charged as a felony, sodomy offenses carry stiffer penalties[4]:

  • Sodomy with a minor under 16 – up to 3 years in prison
  • Sodomy with a minor under 14 by a defendant over 10 years older – 3, 6 or 8 years in prison
  • Forcible sodomy – 3, 6 or 8 years in prison
  • Forcible sodomy with a minor under 14 – 9, 11 or 13 years in prison
  • Forcible sodomy with a minor 14 or 15 – 7, 9 or 11 years in prison
  • Sodomy of an unconscious or intoxicated victim – 3, 6 or 8 years in prison
  • Inmate sodomy – 16 months, 2 or 3 years in prison

All felony sodomy convictions require mandatory registration as a sex offender under Penal Code 290.

Defenses to Sodomy Charges

While sodomy charges should always be taken seriously, there are defenses that can be effective in fighting the charges[5]:

  • Lack of penetration – The prosecution must prove anal penetration occurred. A defense focusing on lack of evidence of penetration or contact can defeat a sodomy charge.
  • Consent – Consent is a valid defense to forcible sodomy charges. Evidence showing the alleged victim willingly participated can show lack of force or fear.
  • Mistake of age – For sodomy with a minor charges, the defendant can argue they had a good faith and reasonable belief that the minor was over 18 based on their appearance and/or false statements about their age.
  • False accusations – Especially in custody or divorce cases, false accusations of sodomy occur and can be challenged.
  • Mental incapacity – The defendant can argue they were so extremely intoxicated or mentally ill that they were unable to form the intent to commit sodomy.

Related Offenses

Other sex crimes related to unlawful sodomy include[3]:

  • Rape – Penal Code 261 PC
  • Lewd acts with a minor – Penal Code 288 PC
  • Oral copulation by force – Penal Code 288a PC
  • Sexual penetration by force – Penal Code 289 PC

Consulting an Experienced Sodomy Defense Attorney

Allegations of sodomy should never be ignored. The potential criminal penalties and lifelong stigma of being convicted are too severe. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your rights and work to get the charges reduced or dismissed. They can also represent you in court and build an aggressive legal defense to the charges if necessary.

With so much at stake, contacting a defense lawyer promptly for a free case evaluation is critical when facing sodomy ch.arges in California. An attorney may be able to get weak charges dropped early, saving you the stress and expense of a trial. For stronger cases that must go to trial, skilled legal advocacy can make the difference between conviction and exoneration

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