Social media platforms and news are full of child molestation cases executed by people that range from relatives to neighbors to coaches to the clergy. The increased awareness and outrage result in child protections and defendants being identified and punished. Regrettably, it can lead to the community and police becoming more sensitive to the likelihood of child molestation that they may make unverified accusations.
A child molestation charge carries severe penalties alongside stigma and people always doubting your innocence. That is why compassionate legal assistance is paramount. Arizona Sex Defense Attorney is a skilled and experienced sex defense law firm in Phoenix, AZ, and can review your case to determine the most effective defense for your case and fight for your rights.
Understanding Child Molestation in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statute 13-1410 defines child molestation as knowingly or intentionally having sexual contact with a child below fifteen years of age.,
The legal phrase "sexual contact" refers to manipulating, rubbing, or touching the anus or genitals.
Please note that sexual contact in child molestation doesn't include the female breast. Arizona Revised Statute 13 1404 (sexual abuse) makes touching the female breast a crime. Additionally, sexual contact with a minor fifteen or older is illegal under the sexual abuse statute.
Penalties, Sentencing, and Consequences for Arizona Child Molestation
A child molestation charge is classified as a class 2 felony and is a Dangerous Crime Against Children offense (DCAC) under Arizona Revised Statute 13 705.
Incarceration for child molestation charges is mandatory since the crime is a class 2 felony. Although the sentencing law for class 2 felony would carry a prison sentence that ranges between three and 12.5 years, child molestation laws state that you'll be charged under Arizona Revised Statute 13 705 (DCAC).
If sentenced for child molestation for the first time, the court will subject you to the following penalties for every count of your conviction:
At least ten years for every count in prison
A presumptive prison sentence for seventeen years for every count
Up to twenty-four years in prison for every count
Since the crime is Dangerous Crime Against Children, you cannot qualify for parole or early release until you finish your time in prison.
If you've been found guilty of one previous DCAC or another predicate felony, the court will enhance the penalties upon your child molestation conviction. A second-time conviction carries the following consequences:
Up to twenty-one years in prison for every count.
A presumptive prison sentence for twenty-eight years for every count
Up to thirty-five years for every count in prison
If a defendant is sentenced for two separate child molestation counts, they'll serve the prison sentence consecutively. That means that the minimum sentence they could receive for their first-time crime for two (2) convictions will be twenty years instead of ten. All of the sentencing will be twice.
If found guilty of Arizona child molestation and have two previous historical convictions, you'll serve life imprisonment.
What Occurs After Serving Time
If you complete your sentence and are discharged, you should register as a sex offender for life. Moreover, you won't be permitted to contact any minor child, including your own, unless you undergo several testing procedures and have the probation officer's consent.
Per Arizona Revised Statute 13-3727, dangerous crimes against children defendants also face several residency limitations. If convicted of child molestation, you cannot reside within one thousand feet from the alleged victim's residence or a school.
Other effects of having an Arizona felony child molestation conviction on the criminal record include:
Humiliation and stigma
Loss of your loved ones
Challenges finding lucrative employment
Difficulties finding proper housing
Publication of your name, photos, and address on the sex offender registry
How to Fight Child Molestation Charges
Depending on your criminal history and age, a child molestation conviction could imply that you'll never be discharged from prison. Consequently, child molestation charges are aggressively prosecuted, and hiring an experienced and skilled sex defense attorney is essential. The attorney will identify and develop the best legal strategy for your case. Some of the typical child molestation legal defenses include:
If you have minor children, have contact, work, or live with children, it is possible that at some point, you might be accused of child molestation. A false accusation is an allegation based on a mistake or a deliberate false accusation by a child or an adult. It can stem from somebody else misinterpreting your relationship with a juvenile or lying about your relationship. It can also be because the child misunderstood something you did or somebody else misunderstood a minor's description of events.
A false accusation can also happen in child custody and divorce cases, babysitting and daycare scenarios, in families, coaching or student-teacher relationships, between strangers, and among neighbors and friends. Finally, a minor might accuse a person they don't know and who has no interactions with them because the individual resembles or reminds the juvenile of their abuser.
If charged with the offense in question, it's to your utmost advantage that you've your criminal charge immediately reviewed and challenged. One of the ways your attorney will do this is by assessing how your charge was initially received, like through a Child Protective Service report. Other steps to strengthen your defense case include the following:
Acquiring a polygraph from you to demonstrate your innocence
Speaking with forensic experts involved in your case
Acquiring divorce paperwork, including your current paperwork and paperwork you might have previously filed
You should submit your DNA test to the police within five days of release/bail. Your sample might be used for identification purposes, and the results presented as evidence in the court. The sample might be erased or expunged if the criminal charges are dismissed, the statute of limitations expires, or there is an acquittal at trial.
Technical Legal Deficiencies
Child molestation charges may involve charges that might have been filed under the wrong statute, with incorrect aggravating factors or inaccurate allegations. Your defense attorney should analyze the case circumstances and collect evidence to learn the truth.
Sometimes, a child molestation case involves a victim unknown to the accused. Proving and eroding the alleged victim's credibility or witness testimony forms an essential part of a viable legal strategy.
Another legal defense that can challenge child molestation charges is that the alleged contact wasn't sexual. What counts as child molestation could often be accidental and not sexual in intent or nature. There are numerous situations in which incidental contact might be made when it comes to children, but that was not supposed to be considered a sex crime. Therefore, it is a viable legal defense to prove that you didn't sexually contact the minor.
Absence of Physical Proof
There might be no physical proof of the molestation, meaning the case depends on the child's testimony. Sometimes it could be the child's fabrication or forced by a guardian or parent.
Unlawfully Acquired Evidence
When police officers collect physical proof like trace materials, clothing, or DNA, they should have a search warrant. Your competent sex defense attorney should carefully scrutinize the circumstances, procedural requirements, and legal basis of the search warrant. Failure to obtain the evidence appropriately can result in credibility issues of the prosecutor's case under illegal search and seizure law.
Typically, child molestation cases depend on the defendant's confession. Often the confessions are acquired after intense interrogations. Therefore, challenging the reliability of the confession is key to a strong defense strategy.
Miranda Rights Violation
The police's failure to advise you of your Miranda rights before questioning you could result in suppression of statements or confessions you make.
The Minor Was at Least Fifteen Years
One of the elements of the crime that the prosecutor must prove beyond any reasonable doubt is that the alleged victim was below 15. Therefore, it is a defense for you to assert that you made sexual contact with an individual that was fifteen years or older.
Discussed below are offenses that are charged alongside or in place of child molestation in Arizona.
ARS 13-1405 (Sexual Contact with a Minor)
Under Arizona Revised Statute 13-1405, it is a crime to engage in sexual conduct with a child if:
You knowingly or deliberately engage in oral sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an individual, and
The individual is below 18.
Unlike child molestation, when it comes to this statute, sexual contact is a non-issue. Instead, it pays attention to oral sex and sexual intercourse.
Child Pornography (Sexual Exploitation of a Child) — Arizona Revised Statute 13-3553
You violate child pornography law when you sexually exploit a child by intentionally:
photographing or recording a minor child while they are engaging in a sexual act, or
transporting, receiving, distributing, electronically transmitting, exchanging, possessing, buying, or selling a visual depiction in which a child is engaged in an exploitive exhibition like nudity, among other sexual acts.
Unlike child molestation, a defendant is guilty of this statute even without having sexual contact with the alleged victim. A visual depiction or recording is enough.
ARS 13-3554 (Luring a Minor)
Under ARS 13-3554, it is illegal when you:
lure sexual conduct with somebody else, and
act so knowing or reasonably ought to have known the other party is a minor.
Please note this applies to all persons below eighteen.
What to Do If You are Being Investigated for Child Molestation
Even when you know that you're innocent, you can't assume that the charges will be dismissed if you collaborate with law enforcement agencies. You might find yourself prosecuted for an offense you didn't commit. Should the cops reach you about an investigation, you should exercise the following constitutional rights:
Entitlement to Leave
If you aren't detained and haven't been given the Miranda Rights per the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you should and can leave. If a police officer stops you, the issue could be that you might not be sure if you're being arrested or questioned. The practical thing is asking the police officer. If they say that you aren't under arrest, you should leave and consult with a skilled sex crime defense lawyer immediately to assist you in deciding on the next move.
Entitlement to Privacy
The entitlement to privacy per the Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution protects your person and your property from unreasonable seizes and searches. Unless a law enforcer has a search warrant, you can refuse to permit him/her to search you, your computer, your home, or your motor vehicle.
Right to Legal Representation
Per the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you are entitled to legal counsel. If you cannot afford one, the state should appoint a public defender at no cost.
Hiring the defense attorney does not mean you are guilty. The legal expert acts as a shield between you and the prosecution team, and you're protecting your constitutional rights. Your lawyer should guide you on what degree of cooperation is suitable for your charge and is well-positioned to say no to police attempts to collect evidence.
The legal expert can also help you understand what is at stake.
Collect and Preserve Exculpatory Proof
Preserve all records linked to the alleged crime like calendars, communications, diaries, and videos. Things that don't seem essential at the beginning might turn fundamental when fighting your criminal case.
Avoid deleting any social media posts or emails related to the allegation. Not only might you be prosecuted for tampering with proof, but it also makes you look guilty.
Turn Down All Voluntary Testing or Searches
Don't provide any of the records to any person, including the police, before the arrest. Unless it's court-ordered, you are entitled to decline all tests or searches. It might require the cops to get a search warrant. The police should also follow all rules.
You should not:
Turn over any written records
Give out your computer's user credentials
Submit to cheek swabs among other genetic proof gatherings
Avoid Contacting Witnesses or the Alleged Victim
It is best to assume that any communication you have might be recorded or reported to the police. Your contact could be misunderstood as an attempt to intimidate the victim, interfere with evidence, or formulate a story to defend yourself. It is not uncommon for the alleged victim or their loved one to make recorded calls to provoke you to make an apology or admission.
Right to Remain Silent
Most people think that they can establish their innocence by talking to the police without legal assistance. Unfortunately, allowing the police to search you, your home, or your car or saying anything could haunt you later.
In all criminal investigations, police use tactics and tricks to set the suspect for a conviction. They are trained to elicit oral and written statements that could damage your ability to defend yourself. They will convince you that it's in your best interest to save yourself by speaking with them. However, the opposite is true.
Most people also believe that they'll get credit for cooperating with the law enforcement agency by giving them information about the investigation. That might be true, provided you retain a criminal defense lawyer who takes steps to see that you get credit.
What to Do If a Cop Wants to Interrogate You
If the law enforcers want to question you, this isn't the time to be alone. You should exercise the entitlement to legal counsel and consult with a qualified lawyer immediately. You need to remain firm and insist that an attorney be there before discussing with the police.
Here are some of the tips you can follow:
Stay collected and calm
Don't obstruct investigation or lie
Don't waive your constitutional rights
If arrested, avoid discussing the case with other defendants
Avoid discussing the charge on a jail telephone since the law enforcers might record your conversation
What it Means When the Police Officer Stops Questioning You
If the cops stop questioning you, it doesn't mean that you're no longer a suspect. They might be working on other leads or proof in the investigations or acquiring your arrest warrant.
Can Your Minor Child be Charged with Molestation of Another Juvenile?
Yes. These child molestation cases are common when there are allegations of sexual contact with an alleged victim below 15 when the juvenile offender is above 15 but not yet eighteen. These charges are a class 2 felony but aren't tried in the juvenile court under Arizona Revised Statute 13 705. If you learn of the crime as a parent and fail to report it, you could be charged with the offense of failing to report per Arizona Revised Statute 13-3620.
Child Molestation and Sex Offender Registry
The sex offender registry is the database of persons living, studying, or living in Arizona who have been found guilty of specific sex offenses.
A defendant accused of child molestations should register as sex offenders if he/she is either:
Found not guilty because of sanity
Adjudicated guilty except insane
You should register within ten days of your conviction. After your release from detention, the Department of Correction will forward your criminal record to the sheriff of your county of residence and the Department of Public Safety.
The registration should be made in person. It carries a fee of two hundred and fifty dollars. You should also provide the following:
Your name and aliases
Your latest photograph
A mailing addresses
Your blood samples for deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence
Online usernames or identifiers, such as email addresses
You should re-register every year following your initial registration. Re-registration entails confirming your information submitted during your initial registration.
Additionally, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department issues the sex offender a distinct driver's license. The license and the photo are renewed each year instead of five years and twelve years, respectively. The sex offender also has to provide evidence of his/her address when renewing the driver's license.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety maintains the sex offender database. The registry aims to:
Permit law enforcers to monitor sex offenders
Notify members of the public of the sex offenders' location
If child molestation occurred in another state, the defendant should register as a sex offender once they move into Arizona.
Various Levels of Sex Offenders
Generally, there are three categories of sex offenders, namely:
Depending on your tier, some of your information on the sex offender registry can be:
accessed by the public online or
is disseminated through community notification.
Defendants are placed into any of these categories based on the assessment screening. The risk assessment considers nineteen factors when determining your risk level. Some of these factors include:
Your previous criminal history
Your relationship with the alleged victim
The gender and number of the alleged victims
Any drug or alcohol use
Circumstances surrounding the case like whether you applied force
Whether you have mental health issues or your IQ
Your employment history
Discernable conduct, including fetishes, pedophilia, voyeurism
Conduct while in custody, including whether you completed substance abuse or sex offender treatment
The public can access the details for the Level 3 and Level 2 sex offenders online. Moreover, details for Level 1 sex offenders are available if the children molested were below twelve years.
Some of the information available online include:
Your name, address, and age
Your latest photograph
The crime that triggered the sex offender registration
Your sex offender tier
The state also limits where a Level 3 sex offender lives.
Community Notification Requirement
When a registered sex offender moves to another location or is released from detention, the law requires the public to be advised of their existence. The community notification's degree depends mainly on your level.
If you are a Level 1 sex offender, your local law enforcers will maintain your record. They might notify the persons in your residence.
For Level 3 and Level 2 offenders, the police will disseminate physical notifications to your local community, employers, and schools. It can also be posted online and printed in newspapers.
What Happens If You Change Your Name or Move?
If you change your name or move, you should update your information on the sex offender database by informing your county sheriff within three days. It would be best if you did it by mail and in person.
Please note that legal holidays and weekends are excluded.
What Takes Place When Fail to Adhere?
If you register as a sex offender and fail to register, renew your registration, or update your information, you could be accused of an offense.
Failing to register in the first place is charged as a Class 4 felony. A conviction is punishable by a maximum prison sentence of three years and nine months.
Failing to re-register is prosecuted as a Class 6 felony. A conviction attracts the following penalties:
An additional assessment fee of $250
A maximum two-year prison sentence
Find a Competent Sex Defense Attorney Near Me
Child molestation is aggressively prosecuted in Arizona, and prosecutors are zealous to acquire convictions. Nevertheless, most cases are founded on the testimonies of children who might or might not understand the consequences of the charge. Child molestation penalties are incredibly harsh. Additionally, you will be labeled a sex offender, finding employment and housing will be almost impossible, and it carries stigma.
If you have been accused of child molestation in Phoenix, AZ, you should secure the services of an experienced attorney. The earlier you consult with Arizona Sex Defense Attorney, the more chances we can build a strong defense. We can pursue all avenues of investigation, challenge witnesses' credibility, and leave no stone unturned to offer you an aggressive and thorough defense. Call us today at 602-922-3272 to book your initial consultation. Your freedom, future, and reputation depend on it.