California Penal Code 287(a) – Unlawful Oral Copulation

California’s sexual assault crimes are codified within Title 9 of the California Penal Code (PC). Section 287 punishes unlawful “oral copulation,” which is defined as the “the act of copulating the mouth of one person with the sexual organ or anus of another person.” Consensual oral copulation is not itself illegal in California; rather, penal code section 287 lays out specific circumstances under which oral copulation is prohibited. The section generally concerns oral copulation with a minor and oral copulation as a form of sexual assault. Unlawful oral copulation is an extremely serious sex crime, and a conviction can have life-altering consequences. Continue reading for details on the law and its application, and contact an experienced San Bernardino criminal defense attorney with any additional questions.

Prohibited Conduct Under California’s Penal Code 287

Pursuant to section 287, a person may not participate in the act of oral copulation under certain circumstances. Oral copulation is prohibited:

  • Where either participant is under the age of 18; or
  • Where the act of oral copulation is accomplished against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, menace, fear of injury against the victim or another person, or under threat of future retaliation.

Oral copulation requires only copulating the sexual organs or the anus of another person, and does not require any actual penetration of the mouth or sexual organ. This crime is typically connected to rape, sexual battery, or lewd acts with a minor.

Punishment for Violating PC 287

Section 287 lays out different levels of violation depending on the circumstances of the action, the victim, and the perpetrator. The base crime of copulation with a minor is punishable by up to one year in state prison. If the perpetrator is over 21 and the victim under 16, the perpetrator is guilty of a felony. If the act is committed by force or other threat, or if the victim is under 14 and the perpetrator is more than 10 years older than the victim, the punishment is three, six, or eight years in prison, depending on the aggravating and mitigating factors. If force is used and a minor is involved, the maximum punishment increases to 12 years, and if there are multiple perpetrators involved, the punishment range increases to 14 years. There are separate provisions that concern when a victim is unable to give consent due to intoxication, unconsciousness, or a mental or physical disability, as well as provisions specifically concerning oral copulation involving prisoners.

Sex Offender Registration

A person convicted under section 287 must register as a sex offender under CA Penal Code Section 290. Sex offender registry lasts for life. Failing to register as a sex offender is a separate crime punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year if the underlying crime was a misdemeanor and up to three years if the underlying crime was a felony.

The Law Offices of John D. Lueck is a trusted Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense law firm with more than 42 years of service to clients in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. These cases are highly sensitive and require experienced representation to ensure your rights are protected. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a crime, contact Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense lawyer John D. Lueck for a free initial consultation.


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