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California Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

It is well-known that non-consensual sexual activities, like rape and sexual assault, are prohibited by law. It is not as well-known that states prohibit certain consensual sexual activities, as well.

Throughout history, states have used anti-sodomy laws to criminalize sexual activity between same-sex partners. However, that changed in 2003.

In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Lawrence v. Texas.

In that case, a man challenged his conviction in Texas for violating an anti-sodomy law in that state. For having sex with another man in the privacy of his own home, he was convicted of having violated that law. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional. In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision, all anti-sodomy laws in all other states, as they apply to consenting adults, became unconstitutional and unenforceable.

While California's anti-sodomy law is still in effect, it can't be used to criminalize sexual activity between consenting adults, regardless of sexual orientation. The state's anti-sodomy law defines the prohibited acts as:

  • Sodomy with someone who is under the age of consent (18), or
  • Sodomy against someone's will by means of force, violence, duress, etc. (which is non-consensual)

In California, prohibited consensual sexual activity laws are mostly limited to statutory rape (sex with a minor), public displays of indecent exposure, and mandatory testing if the spread of HIV is suspected.

California Laws Related to Sexual Activity

Details of California laws pertaining to consensual sex are listed below. Also consider reviewing Details on State Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws for a general overview, as well.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to Under California Penal Code Section 286, it is a crime to engage in an act of sodomy with someone under the age of consent, with a child, or by force.
Penalty for Sodomy Under the same section of the California Penal Code, a person faces a variety of different punishments, depending on the specifics of the offense. For example, for forcing someone to engage in an act of sodomy, the offender faces imprisonment for three, six, or eight years. For more information, consider reviewing the statute linked immediately above.
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders Under California Penal Code Section 1202.1, any person convicted of a sexual offense must submit to testing for HIV.
Public Indecency & Other Related Offenses Under California Penal Code Section 314, public indecency is a crime. Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor. Under California Penal Code Section 372, engaging in an act of public nuisance is a crime. Public nuisance can refer to sexual behavior in public. Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor. Under California Penal Code Section 647, it is a crime to engage in an act of disorderly conduct. This includes lewd or sexual conduct in public. Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor.
Prostitution & Other Related Offenses Under California Penal Code Sections 653.20 thru 653.28, it is a crime to engage in acts of prostitution or to solicit prostitutes. Offenses are treated as a misdemeanor.
Age of Consent Under most circumstances, the age of consent is 18 in California. The offense of engaging in sexual activity with someone under the age of 18 is referred to as statutory rape in most states.For more information about statutory rape, consider reviewing FindLaw's page on the subject.

Note: State laws are constantly changing. Contact a California sex crime attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law:

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about laws related to sexual activity in California:

  • At California Law, you'll find links to all laws in the state, including those related to sexual activity.
  • At Official State Codes, you'll find links to the official online statutes (laws) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Related Resources for Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws:

Consider reviewing the following, as well, for more information about laws and legal issues related to sexual activity:

Need More Help? Contact an Attorney Today

If you've been accused of a sex crime or are facing charges for one, it's important that you contact an attorney. Consider speaking with a qualified sex crimes attorney near you today.

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