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North Carolina's 'Crimes Against Nature' law still in play in 'sleep sodomy' case

I have been asked by quite a few people about North Carolina's Crimes Against Nature law, which one would think was struck down with SCOTUS's decision in Lawrence v. Texas.  Blender and Q-Notes editor Matt Hill Comer takes a look at a case in Raleigh that illustrates how CAN is still being used. A member of the NC State tennis team, Dejon Bivens, was charged with CAN after he allegedly performed oral sex on a teammate who had passed out in a closet after a night of partying.

In North Carolina, a person can be charged with a “crime against nature” if he or she engages in anal sex, oral sex, oral-to-anal sex or practically anything other than missionary style between a man and woman (oh, and bestiality can get you charged with a “crime against nature,” as well).  The statute is designed to limit and punish a type of sexual behavior or the specific sexual acts, not the motivation or intent behind those actions. In other words, the CAN law punishes gay sex or non-procreative straight sex based on those criteria alone; it doesn’t punish on the merit of whether an action was rape or a sexual assault (at least, not in how it is enforced anyway).

Charging Bivens under the CAN law does nothing to punish him for the action he is actually alleged to have committed. Yes, Bivens did perform “oral sodomy,” but the crime he is alleged to have committed is a sexual offense. A charge more representative of the actual crime should have been used, not a charge describing the particular sex act that took place.

The outrage of CAN is it minimizes the sex crime that occurs by focusing on the act. What a slap in the face it is to a victim of such an assault, since if one is convicted of CAN and has no prior record, they can receive as light a punishment as community service.

It is easy to understand why law enforcement officials want to use the CAN statute. Give as much punishment as possible, right? Yeah, that would make sense if a person was being charged under the CAN statute and with a sexual offense, as is the case in most sex offense crimes.

But, that isn’t happening in this situation.Instead of facing any real consequences for his alleged assault, Bivens will get a little public humiliation and then move on.  I really don’t believe the CAN statute is doing any person in this state a favor. In fact, it is giving criminals an easy way out on charges that should really be more severe. We also have to consider that victims aren’t getting the justice they rightly deserve.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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