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Oral Copulation By Force/Fear

Engaging in oral copulation against someone's will by force or fear is a serious offense under California law (Penal Code Section 287). A skilled and aggressive criminal defense attorney is essential if you are charged with this crime. The penalties are severe, and a conviction can significantly impact your life. You can rely on criminal defense attorneys at Pasadena Criminal Attorney to defend your rights and mount an effective defense if you face oral copulation by force/fear charges in Pasadena. Below, we explain in detail what PEN 287 defines the crime as, as well as the penalties and the defenses we can use to challenge the charges.

What is Oral Copulation By Force/Fear?

Oral copulation is a sexual activity where one person's mouth stimulates another person's genitals or anus using the tongue or mouth. This intimate act often entails direct contact between the mouth and the genitals or anus, aiming for sexual gratification.

Consent is key to all sexual activities, including oral copulation. Engaging in these acts will lead to criminal prosecution without mutual agreement from all parties involved. Everyone involved must freely and willingly agree to participate in the sexual act.

Penal Code 287, at its core, prohibits oral copulation without consent. When force, fear, menace, or coercion is present, it removes any sense of voluntariness from the act. This indicates a clear violation of the victim's will and the law.

Furthermore, Penal Code 287 outlines additional situations where consent is not valid. These include cases where the victim:

  • Is underage
  • Is intoxicated, unconscious, or
  • Lacks the mental or physical capacity to give consent

PEN 287 also covers instances where the victim is deceived into giving consent. All these situations underscore the very nature of consent and its importance. Apart from being freely given, consent also involves understanding the nature of the act. This means having the capacity to comprehend the implications and consequences of the actions being agreed to. Valid consent requires individuals to fully understand what they are agreeing to, including the nature and potential outcomes of the sexual activity.

Some individuals try to allege that the victim consented to the act using particular excuses. These could include claims that the victim:

  • Requested the defendant use a condom or
  • And the defendant was dating, had a prior relationship, or
  • The victim was married or had been married to the defendant.

These excuses are insufficient grounds to establish consent. Merely making a request or having a relationship history does not automatically imply consent to the sexual activity. Consent must always be freely given without coercion or ambiguity. Any attempt to use these excuses to justify non-consensual sexual activity will likely not hold up legally.

The Elements Prosecutors Must Prove in an Oral Copulation By Force/Fear Case

Prosecutors can only secure a conviction for oral copulation by force or fear under Penal Code 287 if they prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You engaged in oral copulation — They must show that you participated in oral copulation. It should be clear to the jury that your mouth made contact with the sexual organ or anus of another person.
  • Lack of consent — Prosecutors must demonstrate that the oral copulation occurred without the victim's consent.
  • Use of force, menace, fear, or coercion — They must establish that you used force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate bodily harm to compel the victim into the sexual act against their will.

The statute’s use of force, menace, fear, or coercion is particularly interesting. Though all terms refer to methods used to compel or manipulate a victim to engage in sexual acts against their will, they all have different definitions.

  • Force — This occurs when you use physical strength or violence to coerce someone to engage in oral copulation against their will. Use of force could involve restraining or overpowering the victim. It could also involve the use of physical violence.
  • Menace — This involves instilling fear in the victim through threats or intimidation. Whether it is verbal threats or other forms of intimidation, the goal is to create a sense of fear. In turn, the victim is coerced into sexual activity.
  • Fear — The emotional state of fear or intimidation. It often arises from threats, menacing behavior, or coercion. Fear can be psychological or emotional. It can be triggered by perceived threats to the victim's safety or well-being.
  • Coercion — This involves using pressure, manipulation, or persuasion to force someone into sexual activity. Tactics could include blackmail, emotional manipulation, and promises of reward or punishment.

Other Situations that Could Result in Oral Copulation Charges

Earlier in the article, we mentioned that oral copulation charges under PEN 287 do not only arise when conducted through force or fear. You could face charges under PEN 287 if the act were done in the following circumstances:

     a) Oral Copulation of a MInor

A minor is an individual who is yet to attain the legal age of adulthood, 18 years old. Because of their age and presumed lack of maturity, minors are generally seen as unable to legally consent to sexual acts. The law operates on the idea that minors do not fully grasp the nature of sexual activity, its risks, or the outcomes of their choices. So, even if a minor seems to agree, engaging in sexual activity with them is often viewed as exploitation or abuse.

     b) Oral Copulation of a Disabled Person

Disabled people cannot legally consent due to a mental disorder, developmental disability, or physical impairment. PC 287 safeguards individuals who lack the cognitive or physical ability to understand the nature of the sexual act or to provide consent.

Prosecutors only need to prove you knew or should have reasonably known that the victim was disabled. This awareness or reasonable expectation is crucial in establishing knowledge of the victim's inability to provide legal consent.

     c) Oral Copulation of an Unconscious Person

Unconscious people cannot understand what is happening or resist any actions taken against them. Being unconscious means lacking awareness and the ability to make informed decisions or communicate approval or disapproval of the act.

The law still applies even if the victim is not physically unconscious. Unconsciousness here covers a few scenarios, namely:

  • The victim is physically unconscious or asleep
  • The victim does not know the sexual act is happening
  • The victim is not aware of the critical details of the act because the perpetrator deceived or lied to them

In all these cases, the victim cannot fully understand or agree to the sexual activity because they are not aware, do not understand, or cannot resist.

You will also face charges under PEN 287 for engaging in oral copulation with an intoxicated individual. When someone is intoxicated, they cannot legally consent to engage in oral copulation or any other sexual activity. Intoxication interferes with judgment and decision-making. This makes it impossible to provide meaningful consent.

The Penalties You Could Face if Convicted

Oral copulation is a felony. Once you are found guilty, you will face the following penalties as punishment for the offense:

  • 3, 6, or 8 years in prison and
  • A fine of up to $10,000

You could face formal probation. However, probation is only likely if the victim in the oral copulation case is disabled.

For oral copulation cases involving minors, the judge can impose the following penalties:

  • 8, 10, or 12 years in prison — These penalties are likely if the victim was younger than 14 years old at the time the incident occurred
  • 6, 8, or 10 years in prison — These penalties are likely if the victim was 14 years old or older at the time the incident occurred

There are situations where an offender commits oral copulation in concert. Put simply, an offender may team up with or collaborate with another person to commit oral copulation. In these cases, you will face enhanced penalties if you are found guilty of engaging in the crime with another. They include:

  • 10, 12, or 14 years in prison — You will serve these terms if the victim was a minor below 14 years of age
  • 8, 10, or 12 years in prison — This sentence is issued for offenses involving victims who were at least 14 years old or older
  • 5, 7, or 9 years in prison — This prison sentence applies if the victim was an adult (above 18 years)

However, these penalties apply if you participated in committing the crime and you aided and abetted the actual offender. The crime in this scenario should involve the use of force or fear. Aiding and abetting means knowingly encouraging, helping, or facilitating someone else in committing a crime. It could involve providing resources, advice, or support to the perpetrator or actively planning or carrying out the criminal act.

Sex Offender Registration

A conviction for oral copulation in violation of Penal Code 287 in California can land you on the sex offender registry. Certain sex offenses, like oral copulation by force, fear, or involving a minor, typically require individuals convicted of them to register as sex offenders under Megan's Law. This means you must:

  • Provide personal information to law enforcement
  • Keep it updated. You will be expected to renew it annually within five days of your birthday, and
  • Have your identity and whereabouts publicly disclosed for community safety.

Failing to comply can lead to more legal trouble.

Under California’s sex offender registry system, offenses are ranked into tiers based on their severity and the potential risk they pose to public safety. Oral copulation is labeled as a Tier 3 offense in the sex offender registry, and it comes with a lifelong registration requirement. Tier three offenses are considered the most serious. Individuals convicted of this crime face the strictest registration rules. You will remain on the sex offender registry for life.

What Defenses Could You Use in an Oral Copulation Case?

You are innocent until proven guilty. This principle gives defendants the chance to challenge allegations brought against them. You can present evidence, question witnesses, and argue their case before a judge or jury. The following are the best defenses you can use to fight off the charges:

     a) The Victim Consented

Consent is paramount in sexual interactions. Yet, ambiguity often arises from unclear communication or pressure to agree. Factors that contribute to this uncertainty include:

  • Differing understandings
  • Cultural norms
  • Power dynamics, or
  • Intoxication

Despite this, your attorney could argue that you reasonably believed the alleged victim consented to the act. This argument relies on demonstrating genuine belief based on circumstances like verbal or non-verbal cues. However, proving consent beyond a reasonable doubt is challenging. This is especially true in cases that rely on conflicting testimonies or lack physical evidence or witnesses. In these situations, establishing consent is crucial. The burden is on the prosecution to prove its absence. When they fail to do so, the judge or jury could find you not guilty of the crime.

     b) You Were Falsely Accused

Charges of sexual crimes often originate from accusations made by alleged victims. It is not uncommon for false accusations to surface from these allegations. These false accusations can arise from various factors, including misunderstandings, mistaken identities, personal vendettas, or malicious intent. While genuine victims deserve justice and support, false accusations can have serious repercussions for the accused. It could tarnish their reputations, cause emotional distress, and have legal consequences.

Your defense attorney could fight the charges by asserting that you were falsely accused. This strategy involves presenting evidence and arguments that cast doubt on your accuser's credibility. It also provides an alternative explanation for the alleged incident. Your attorney could:

  • Highlight inconsistencies in your accuser's story
  • Present alibi evidence or
  • Demonstrate a lack of motive or opportunity on your part

     c) The Case Lacked Sufficient Evidence

Most oral copulation cases have insufficient physical evidence. Some crucial evidence that could lead to a conviction includes bruising and eyewitness accounts. It is possible to contest the allegations based on insufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

Without solid evidence backing the claims, the prosecution could face the daunting task of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Defense attorneys can capitalize on this lack of evidence. They can cast doubt on the accuser's credibility by offering alternative explanations for the allegations.

Statute of Limitations Related to Oral Copulation by Force/Fear

Victims of sex-related crimes aren't bound by strict deadlines to report offenses. The law recognizes the difficulty victims face in speaking up after trauma and allows them more time to heal. California Penal Code 801.1 extends the statute of limitations for certain offenses, like oral copulation through fear or force. If the victim was under 18 at the time of the offense, they have until they turn 40 to file a case. This provision ensures victims have adequate time to seek justice. Adult victims have up to ten years.

Irrespective of the victim's age during the offense, the district attorney can bring charges within one year after establishing the suspect's identity through DNA testing.

PC 8039(g) carves an exception to the standard statute of limitations for certain crimes, particularly those where DNA evidence is pivotal. It enables filing a criminal complaint within one year of definitively establishing the suspect's identity through DNA testing. However, this exception is contingent upon two key conditions:

  • The crime should fall under Section 290(c), which oral copulation does.
  • The offense must have transpired before January 1, 2001. Biological evidence must also be analyzed for DNA type by January 1, 2004, or on or after January 1, 2001. The biological evidence must have been analyzed for DNA type within two years of the date of the offense.

Can I Be Sued by the Victim in an Oral Copulation by Force/Fear Incident?

Victims of oral copulation have the right to pursue compensation through a civil case. Civil proceedings enable people to seek financial redress for various damages resulting from oral copulation. Some of the notable damages include the following:

Physical Injuries

A victim would seek compensation for physical injuries related to oral copulation. They can present evidence of the harm suffered during the assault. This includes medical records detailing injuries like cuts, bruising, or other trauma to the mouth and throat. The victim can also share their firsthand account of the pain endured and any ongoing medical treatments needed.

Emotional Trauma

For emotional trauma, the expected evidence that victims could file with the lawsuit includes testimony from mental health professionals documenting the psychological impact of the assault. This could involve the diagnosis of conditions like:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression, or
  • Other mental health disorders resulting from the traumatic experience.

The victim may provide their testimony. They will detail the emotional distress, fear, and suffering they have endured since the assault. The goal is to secure financial damages to cover therapy expenses, lost wages due to an inability to work, and other losses stemming from the emotional trauma inflicted by the oral copulation.

Loss of Consortium

Loss of consortium is the deprivation of benefits from a family relationship due to an injury or harm caused by another party's wrongful actions. Victims experience the loss of companionship, moral support, affection, and sexual relations between spouses or partners due to a partner's injury or suffering.

The victim will be expected to show the impact the incident had or continues to have on his/her relationship(s).

Medical Expenses

The courts will expect evidence that the victim paid for medical treatment to treat any injuries that resulted from the incident. Any compensation awarded will cover any psychiatric treatment to deal with the trauma the incident caused.

Loss of Income

Following an oral copulation incident, a victim may suffer a loss of income. This is especially the case if they are unable to work due to physical or emotional injuries resulting from the assault. The civil lawsuit aims to seek compensation for this loss.

In these lawsuits, the courts will expect evidence of the loss. This includes:

  • Medical records
  • Employment history and
  • Expert testimony - Experts could be called upon to illustrate the extent of the financial impact caused by the assault.

The objective of this evidence, which the courts expect, is to award damages that adequately reflect the wages or earning capacity lost due to the oral copulation assault.

Civil lawsuits are distinct from criminal prosecutions. They involve the victim initiating a lawsuit against the perpetrator to claim monetary damages. Criminal proceedings, though based on a victim’s report, originate from the district attorney. They aim to impose prison terms and fines as punishment for the offense.

If you are sued for oral copulation, seek the services of a defense attorney with civil litigation experience.

In an oral copulation lawsuit, a victim has the right to pursue both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages cover the victim's financial losses and expenses arising from the oral copulation incident. The damages mentioned above fall under this category. In contrast, punitive damages aim to penalize the perpetrator for their misconduct and deter others from similar behavior. These damages are granted in cases where the defendant's actions are exceptionally malicious or egregious. This means that the defendant’s behavior was notably harmful, reprehensible, or wrongful.

Find a Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Near Me

Amidst the MeToo movement, even seemingly minor allegations of oral copulation can ignite serious legal battles. Heightened public awareness and scrutiny surrounding sexual misconduct have compelled authorities to approach these claims with heightened gravity. The resulting charges underscore the complexity and significance of oral copulation by force/fear accusations. This necessitates the presence of a seasoned criminal defense attorney by your side. A legal expert will help you navigate the legal intricacies. He/she will also tailor a defense strategy and represent you in court. They will leverage their expertise to scrutinize evidence, grill witnesses, and fiercely advocate for your rights. This will enhance your odds of a favorable outcome. An attorney’s guidance can profoundly shape your future in these high-stakes scenarios.

For legal representation in oral copulation cases in Pasadena, contact the Pasadena Criminal Attorney at 626-689-2277. We are dedicated to giving our clients the best services in pursuit of the best outcome.

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