The Universe of Discourse

Fri, 13 Dec 2019

California corpse-tampering law

[ Content warning: dead bodies, sex crime, just plain nasty ]

A co-worker brought this sordid item to my attention: LAPD officer charged after allegedly fondling a dead woman's breast.

[A] Los Angeles Police Department officer … was charged Thursday with one felony count of having sexual contact with human remains without authority, officials said, after he allegedly fondled a dead woman's breast.

[The officer] was alone in a room with the deceased woman while his partner went to get paper work from a patrol car…. At that point, [he] turned off the body camera and inappropriately touched the woman. … A two-minute buffer on the camera captured the incident even though [he] had turned it off.


Chas. Owens then asked a very good question:

Okay, no one is commenting on “sexual contact with human remains without authority
How does one go about getting authority to have sexual contact with human remains?
Is there a DMV for necrophiles?

I tried to resist this nerdsnipe, but I was unsuccessful. I learned that California does have a law on the books that makes it a felony to have unauthorized sex with human remains:

DIVISION 7. DEAD BODIES [7000 - 8030]
CHAPTER 2. General Provisions [7050.5 - 7055]


(a) Every person who willfully mutilates, disinters, removes from the place of interment, or commits an act of sexual penetration on, or has sexual contact with, any remains known to be human, without authority of law, is guilty of a felony. This section does not apply to any person who, under authority of law, removes the remains for reinterment, or performs a cremation.

(b)(2) “Sexual contact” means any willful touching by a person of an intimate part of a dead human body for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse.

(California HSC, section 7052)

I think this addresses Chas.’s question. Certainly there are other statutes that authorize certain persons to disinter or mutilate corpses for various reasons. (Inquests, for example.) A defendant wishing to take advantage of this exception would have to affirmatively claim that he was authorized to grope the corpse’s breast, and by whom. I suppose he could argue that the state had the burden of proof to show that he had not been authorized to fondle the corpse, but I doubt that many jurors would find this persuasive.

Previously on this blog: Legal status of corpses in 1911 England.

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