It is illegal to have sexual contact with anyone under 18 in California. In cases where a person is found to have had oral sex with someone 17 or younger, they can be charged with “Oral copulation with a minor.”

The penalty for oral copulation with a minor depends on the ages of the people involved. Less serious infractions can be tried as misdemeanors, which carry a maximum sentence of a year in county jail. Felony convictions can range up to 8 years.

In all cases, the person convicted will have to register as a sex offender in California.

Facing accusations for a crime like oral copulation with a minor can be difficult. Not only can penalties be serious and far-reaching, but it can lead to fallout in your personal and professional life as well. Don’t go it alone. A skilled sex crimes attorney can help you fight the charges against you.

What is ‘Oral copulation’, and when is it illegal?

California law defines oral copulation as any contact between the mouth of one person and the sexual organs or anus of another person. In other words, oral sex.

Oral copulation in California is perfectly legal, with three exceptions:

  1. When it’s done in public
  2. When it isn’t consensual
  3. When it’s done with a minor

We’ll describe the third case below.

What is ‘Oral copulation with a minor’ in California?

California Penal Code 287 PC defines oral copulation with a minor as any incident in which two things happened:

  1. The defendant engaged in “oral copulation” with another person.
  2. The other person was under the age of 18 at the time of the incident.

According to California law, a person is a minor up until the first minute of their 18th birthday, and it is a still a crime if the oral sex is consensual. Let’s consider these two situations:

Situation 1: Mike, 18, is dating Melissa, 16. While “fooling around” one night, Mike briefly kisses Melissa on the genitals with her consent. This is oral copulation with a minor.

Situation 2: Cindy, 19, is dating Tom, 17. For Tom’s 18th birthday, she decides to give him a “blow job.” It takes place at 12:02 a.m. This is not oral copulation with a minor.

In cases where the oral sex was not consensual, this can be tried under the more serious “Oral Copulation by Force or Fear” charges.

Late September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB-1145. This bill clarified that sexual assault does not include consensual anal or oral sex between minors unless the minor is 15 or younger and the other person 21 or older.

Penalty for oral copulation with a minor

Oral copulation with a minor in California carries a maximum penalty of 8 years in prison as a felony or up to 1 year of county jail time as a misdemeanor.

It depends on the ages of the people involved:

  • Under PC 288a, if the victim is 16 or older and the defendant is 21 or younger, this can be tried as a “wobbler,” meaning it can be a felony or misdemeanor. The maximum misdemeanor sentence is 1 year county jail time, while the maximum felony term for this is 3 years in state prison.
  • If the victim is under 16 and the defendant is older than 21, this must be charged as a felony. The maximum sentence here is 3 years in state prison.
  • If the victim is under 14 and the defendant is more than 10 years older than them, the maximum penalty now rises to 8 years in prison.

In all of these cases, the defendant is required to register as a sex offender in the State of California.

California sex offender registry

California’s sex offender registry has three tiers, which require different lengths of registration:

  • Tier 1: Misdemeanor cases of oral copulation with a minor fall into this category, as well as some felonies. This requires a minimum registration of 10 years on the California sex offender registry.
  • Tier 2: This covers cases where the victim is younger than 14 and the defendant is more than 10 years older and there is no force. This requires a minimum registration of 20 years.
  • Tier 3: This requires lifetime registration. This covers all situations where there is force, when the oral copulation was done in concert and/or when the victim couldn’t consent because of intoxication or unconsciousness.

Sex offenders in California are required to register with the police in the city and county where they live. It has to be renewed every year, within 5 days of the person’s birthday, and every time they move.

Expungement of oral copulation with a minor charges

If you have been convicted of oral copulation with a minor, you can have your conviction expunged if:

  1. You did not serve time in state prison from the conviction,
  2. You successfully completed probation, and
  3. You are not currently being charged with, on probation for, or serving a sentence for a criminal offense.

NOTE: While you can have the conviction expunged from your record, you will still be required to fulfill all of your responsibilities as a sex offender.

Defenses against oral copulation with a minor charges

The best way to fight an oral copulation with a minor charge is to attack it from the outset. If you have been accused, it is sometimes possible to prove that:

  1. You reasonably believed that the other person was over 18, or
  2. The accusation is false

A skilled Los Angeles sex crimes attorney can help you build your defense. If the person said they were over 18, dressed or wore makeup consistent with an older person, or if you met them at a venue where you would expect to see adults (21+ bar, concert, etc.), it is possible to build a solid defense that you reasonably believed the other person to be 18.

In cases of false accusations, it’s possible for your attorney to use investigative tools to uncover the truth in interviews.

Robert M. Helfend is a specialist in sex crimes cases, practicing in the Los Angeles area since 1984. Call today for a free case evaluation – 800-834-6434.