The new legislation marks the culmination of a two-year drive to outlaw necrophilia in the state and will help prosecutors who have been stymied by the lack of an official ban on the practice, according to experts.
"Nobody knows the full extent of the problem. ... But a handful of instances over the past decade is frequent enough to have a bill concerning it," said Tyler Ochoa, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law who has studied California cases involving allegations of necrophilia.
"Prosecutors didn't have anything to charge these people with other than breaking and entering. But if they worked in a mortuary in the first place, prosecutors couldn't even charge them with that," Ochoa said.
The state's first attempt to outlaw necrophilia, in response to a case of a man charged with having sex with the corpse of a 4-year-old girl in Southern California, stalled last year in a legislative committee.
Lawmakers revived the bill this year after an unsuccessful prosecution of a man found in a San Francisco funeral home drunk and passed out on top of an elderly woman's corpse.
The new law makes sex with a corpse a felony punishable by up to eight years in prison.