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Sodomy Laws & Defense
California Penal Codes 286

The laws on the crime of unlawful sodomy can be found at California penal code section 286. There are dozens of different chargeable sodomy offenses in California depending on the particular circumstances. For example, sodomy with a person under the age of eighteen is charged under PC 286(b)(1), whereas sodomy by force or fear against an adult is charged under PC 286(c)(2)(A). This article is intended to cover a general overview of sodomy crimes, defenses, and punishments. There is a list of the different sodomy charges and corresponding punishments at the end of this article. 

Sodomy is defined as sexual conduct that consists of contact between one person’s penis and another person’s anus. Any sexual penetration, however slight, is sufficient to qualify as sodomy [PC 286(a)].

All sodomy is not illegal in California. Only sodomy without consent is a crime. Minors, or persons under the age of eighteen, do not have the legal capacity to consent.

To be found guilty of the crime of sodomy the prosecution must prove there was penetration with a victim. Sexual penetration can be established by testimony of the victim or circumstantial evidence. For example, sperm in the victim's rectum or additional signs of trauma or injury can be circumstantial evidence of penetration. Also, the prosecution does not have to prove that there was skin-on-skin contact to prove sodomy. Therefore, if the victim is wearing a condom during anal penetration it will still be considered sexual penetration.

The prosecution must also prove that sodomy was accomplished by means of force, violence or fear, and/or performed on someone who is unable to give consent. The prosecution is not required to prove that the defendant intended to commit a precise harm or injury while committing sodomy.

Punishment for Sodomy

Almost all sodomy charges are filed as felonies. The most common sodomy charges and corresponding maximum sentences are as follows:

PC 286(b)(1) Sodomy against a minor. May be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Misdemeanor charges carry up to a one year jail sentence. Felony charges carry up to a three year prison sentence.

PC 286(b)(2) Sodomy against a minor under 16. This is a felony charge that carries up to a three year prison sentence.

PC 286(c)(1) Sodomy against a minor under 14. This is a felony charge that carries up to a eight year prison sentence.

PC 286(c)(2)(A) Sodomy by force or fear. This is a felony charge that carries up to a eight year prison sentence.

PC 286(c)(2)(B) Sodomy by force or fear against a minor under 14. This is a felony charge that carries up to thirteen years in prison.

PC 286(c)(2)(C) Sodomy by force or fear against a minor over 13. This is a felony charge that carries up to eleven years in prison.

PC 286(f) Sodomy of an unconscious victim. This is a felony charge that carries up to eight years in prison.

Sex Offender Registration

If found guilty of the crime of sodomy the defendant will be required to register as a sex offender pursuant to PC 290. Sex offender registration requires the defendant, among others things, to register with local law enforcement as a sex offender every year. Publication on California's the sex offender's website is mandatory for PC 286 crimes.

Three Strikes Sentencing

Most, but not all, PC 286 crimes, are considered serious and violent offenses as those terms are defined under California law. All felony serious and violent crimes, including most sodomy charges are considered strike offenses under California's Three Strikes Sentencing law. 

Immigration Consequences

Sodomy crimes are considered to be crimes of moral turpitude. Crimes of moral turpitude are crimes that are considered to be morally wrong. Non-U.S. citizens may deported, denied citizenship, or denied reentry into the United States upon any conviction for a crime of moral turpitude.

Professional Licensing

Licenses professional, such as doctors, dentist, lawyers, nurses, teachers, CPAs, etc, may be disciplined by his or her licensing agency (Bar, Board, Commission) upon conviction (or even before conviction) for sodomy crimes.

Collateral Punishment

As with other sex crimes, PC 286 convictions may carry additional criminal and civil punishments, including: fines, court security fees, restitution, victim restitution, restraining orders, civil lawsuits, loss of rights, and more.

Defenses to Sodomy

  • Consent: Consent means both individuals decided to partake in an act of sodomy of their own free will. Consent cannot be gained by fraud; therefore, if the defendant lied to the victim in some way that made the victim want to consent, the consent is not valid. Consent is not assumed merely because individuals have had previous sexual relations, or are currently dating or married. Additionally, minors are deemed incapable of giving consent, so this will not be a defense if the victim was a minor at the time of alleged sodomy.
  • Good Faith Belief: A reasonable good faith belief by the defendant that the minor was an adult at the time of the act of sodomy may be a defense to some PC 286 crimes.
  • Additional Defenses: Other common defenses to PC 286 crimes include: Insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, coerced confessions, extreme intoxication, insanity, statute of limitations, and more.

To learn more about the crime of unlawful sodomy, including PC 286(b), 286(c), and 286(d) charges, contact our successful and experienced California sex crimes criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation.


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PC286(b)(1)-F, PC 286(b)(2)-F, PC 286(c)(1)-F, PC 286(c)(2)(A)-F, PC 286(c)(2)(B)-F, PC286(c)(2)(C)-F, PC 286(f)-F

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