Virginia’s law barring sex with an animal was upheld by the Virginia Court of Appeals on Tuesday in a case appealed from Pittsylvania County Circuit Court.
A three-judge panel of the court affirmed the 2017 conviction of Arthur Anderson Warren for soliciting another person “to carnally know a brute animal or to submit to carnal knowledge with a brute animal.”
According to the appeals court’s 13-page ruling, in October 2016, Warren used his cellphone to record video of encounters he had with a woman and her dog.
In 2017 while Warren was talking to a deputy sheriff about another matter, he asked the deputy if “bestiality type stuff” was legal and described the cellphone videos. The deputy contacted an investigator and a search warrant was obtained before the videos were removed from Warren’s phone.
He was convicted in an August 2017 trial before Judge Stacey W. Moreau. Online court records show he was sentenced to four years with three years and 10 months suspended.
Warren appealed, arguing the Virginia law is unconstitutional because it violated his due process rights. He argued that the videos showed nothing more than “private sexual conduct of consenting individuals.”
The law in question states: “Crimes against nature; penalty. A. If any person carnally knows in any manner any brute animal or voluntarily submits to such carnal knowledge, he is guilty of a Class 6 felony.”
Warren said the law was unconstitutional in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case that challenged a Texas law against same-sex sodomy. The appeals court panel disagreed.
The judges also found that while Warren characterized a claimed right of adults to engage in consensual private conduct without government intervention, “We conclude that the right he actually asserts is a right to engage in bestiality.”
“The conduct at issue here involved something other than ‘only’ consenting adults — it involved sexual activity with a dog. The addition of the dog fundamentally alters the equation,” held the judges, adding there is no fundamental right to engage in bestiality.
The General Assembly has a legitimate interest in, among other things, preventing cruelty to animals and in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, wrote Judge Wesley G. Russell Jr. for the panel.
The appeals court held the state ban on bestiality is related to legitimate state interests and does not intrude upon a fundamental right violating the due process clause, the judges concluded.