The California criminal justice system takes sex crimes very seriously, and it moves especially aggressively in cases of “Oral copulation by force or fear.”

Oral copulation by force or fear is a specific charge relating to non-consensual contact between someone’s mouth and another person’s anus or genitals. Penalties can range as high as 12 years in state prison, including lifetime registration as a tier three sex offender.

If you or someone you love has been accused of oral copulation by force or fear, it’s important to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction could strip away years of your freedom, while the mandatory sex offender registration could have lifetime personal and professional repercussions. 

What Is ‘Oral Copulation By Force or Fear?’

California Penal Code 288a defines “Oral copulation by force or fear” as non-consensual contact between someone’s mouth and another person’s anus or genitals, when force, violence, duress, menace, fear or threat is used.

In order to convict you of oral copulation by force or fear, a prosecutor must move that a certain number of facts were true in the incident. These are known as the “elements of the crime.” 

Oral copulation by force or fear has three elements:

  1. You committed an act of oral copulation on someone else. As we mentioned above, this refers to any case of contact between someone’s mouth and another person’s anus or genitals.
  2. That person did not consent to the act. This applies in situations where the victim resisted the act, as well in situations where the victim was legally unable to consent (for example, if the victim was intoxicated, unconscious or disabled).
  3. You used force, violence, duress, menace, fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury to someone, or a threat to retaliate against someone. In short, this includes any situation of physical force or psychological duress to make someone do something they otherwise wouldn’t do.

Let’s use this example:

Example: Mary leaves a nightclub alone, and Tom corners her in an alley. He pulls a knife and orders her to perform oral sex on him. Even though Tom didn’t use any physical force to coerce Mary into oral sex, his act of drawing the knife at her produced a fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury. In this case, he could be guilty of violating PC 288a.

Penalties for ‘Oral Copulation By Force or Fear’

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As we mentioned above, the penalties for an “Oral copulation by force or fear” are steep. It is always charged as a felony, and punishments usually include:

  • 3, 6 or 8 years in California State Prison, and/or
  • Fines of up to $10,000

In cases where the victim is a minor under 18, prosecutors can seek steeper penalties:

  • 6, 8 or 10 years in California State Prison if the victim is 14 or older
  • 8, 10 or 12 years if the victim is younger than 14

If convicted, the defendant is required to register as a lifelong tier three sex offender. This means that every year, you must re-register with the state or face additional charges for failure to register as a sex offender.

Appearing on the California sex offender registry can lead to loss of professional licenses, and it can limit the jobs you’re able to take and neighborhoods where you can live. Because of the stigma of a sex crime conviction, it can also lead to consequences in your personal life.

Defenses Against ‘Oral Copulation By Force or Fear’ Charges

Because the penalties for an “Oral copulation by force or fear” charge are so steep, it’s important to work with a defense attorney who specializes in sex crimes cases.

Often times, these cases involve incomplete evidence, unreliable witness testimony or mistaken identification. A skilled criminal defense attorney will work with you to thoroughly examine all of the facts of the case and develop a defense to protect your constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Robert M. Helfend has practiced in the Los Angeles area since 1984, developing a reputation in the courts as an expert in sex crimes cases. Call today for your free case evaluation — 800-834-6434.