Any kind of sexual behavior with a child is considered a severe crime in Arizona, attracting a lengthy prison term and hefty penalties to those found guilty. Children are protected by the law and are regarded incapable of granting consent, especially to sexual acts. That is why Arizona laws are pretty strict on anyone found guilty of engaging in sexual acts with a child. A conviction for any sex-related offense comes with life-altering consequences, like the inability to find suitable employment and mandatory registration as a sex offender. Your social life will be significantly impacted too.
That is why it is advisable to find the help of a competent sex defense attorney if you face charges for sexual conduct with a minor. An experienced attorney will advise you on the proper steps to take for a favorable outcome of your case. He/she will also prepare a solid defense against your charges to compel the court to either drop or reduce your charges. The Arizona Sex Defense Attorney team is ready to help.
The Legal Definition of Arizona Sexual Conduct With a Minor
Sex-related crimes are considered especially heinous in Arizona, which is why they are highly punishable. The gravity of the offense increases if it involves an individual of below 18 years. Arizona laws consider children incapable of giving sexual consent. Thus, anyone found guilty of engaging in sexual acts with a child can be severely punished. The punishment for sexual offenses involving minors goes beyond time behind bars and monetary fines. A conviction will impact several aspects of your life, including your ability to find suitable employment and your relationship with family and others.
Therefore, if you face charges for sexual misconduct with a minor in Arizona, it is advisable to find the best legal help available. A highly skilled and experienced sex defense attorney will do everything in their power to protect your rights and ensure that you are acquitted. But first, he/she will ensure that you understand your charges’ gravity and provide the best way out of your situation.
Sexual act with a minor legally means willingly engaging in performances like sexual intercourse and oral sexual interaction with an individual below eighteen. The details of this offense are provided under ARS 13-1405. A sentence under the law could carry a prison sentence of up to twelve years.
The gravity of the offense is determined by the circumstances of the crime and the offender’s criminal history. For instance, you are likely to face heftier penalties if the minor is below fifteen years.
For the judge to find you guilty under ARS 13-1405, the prosecutor must demonstrate the following facts of the case beyond a reasonable doubt:
That you willfully engaged in oral sexual contact or sexual intercourse with another person
That the person was an individual of below 18 years
This offense involves the following two main elements:
The court will require sufficient proof to demonstrate that you willfully engaged either in oral sexual contact or sexual intercourse. Willful conduct is done willingly or on purpose.
Sexual Act With a Minor
Again, you must have willfully conducted the sexual act on a person below 18. Like most states, Arizona has clear age of consent laws that must be adhered to, especially when it comes to sex-related acts. Children below 18 are not considered capable of granting consent. Therefore, any sexual act with a child will be viewed as a serious offense, even when you believed that the minor permitted you.
Arizona laws have set the age of consent at 18 years. It means that anyone aged 17 or younger is legally considered a minor and incapable of giving consent to any sexual behavior. If there is sufficient proof to show that you had sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with a child, you could be charged under ARS 13-1405 and convicted for so many years behind bars.
Note that most sex-related crimes involving minors are prosecuted as felonies.
The age of consent law in Arizona aims at protecting minors from sexual misconduct. Children are not considered mature enough to understand the gravity of sex-related behavior. They are also not able to appreciate the long-term consequences of sexual intercourse. By establishing a minimum age of consensual sex, the Arizona age of consent law aims to achieve the following:
Reducing unwanted pregnancies among teens
Preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases among young people
Deterring adults from sexually preying on younger people or sexually abusing children
Sexual Intercourse/Oral Sexual Contact
You could be charged with sexual behavior with a minor if you engaged in sexual intercourse with a child. As used under this law, sexual intercourse involves a sexual activity accomplished by penetration into the vulva, penis, or anus using any part of your body. The use of an object could also accomplish penetration. Sexual intercourse could also involve masturbatory contact with the vulva or penis.
On the other hand, oral sexual contact occurs when a person establishes oral contact with another’s vulva, penis, or anus.
You cannot avoid a conviction under this law by claiming that you believed that the alleged victim was an adult over 18 years.
Penalties for a Conviction for Sexual Conduct with a Minor in Arizona
As mentioned earlier, sex crimes are highly punishable in Arizona. Penalties are likely to be graver if the offense involves a minor. Therefore, you can expect to face severe penalties if found guilty of having sexual acts with a child.
Based on the facts of your case, you could be charged with a Class 2 or Class 6 felony as opposed to a misdemeanor if accused of sexual misconduct with a child. A conviction under ARS 13-1405 is convicted as follows if you are found guilty:
Class 2 felony if you are accused of having sexual conduct with a child below fifteen years of age— Having sexual acts with a child of below 15 years is listed under dangerous offenses against children in Arizona. Thus, you can expect a severe penalty if found guilty, of a minimum of thirteen years and a maximum of twenty-seven years in prison.
Class 6 felony if the alleged victim is at least fifteen years — Penalties for class 6 felony could include probation or a two-year prison term. A conviction will carry a mandatory requirement to register yourself as a sex offender. It could also prevent you from ever coming into contact with children, even your children.
If the alleged minor is at least fifteen years of age, and you (the offender) are the minor’s biological parent, adoptive parent, stepparent, foster parent or legal guardian, or the minor’s priest, clergyman, or teacher, the offense will be charged as a Class 2 felony. The violation is considered severe because you were in a situation of trust with the child. The punishment for this offense will be 12 to 35 years in prison. It also carries a mandatory requirement to register yourself as a sex offender.
Note the following:
If you face charges for multiple accounts of sexual behavior with a child, every charge carries a separate sentence, and all sentences must run consecutively. For instance, if you face charges for engaging in sexual conduct with two minors below 15 years, you will likely face a mandatory prison sentence of 27 to 54 years.
If the alleged victim is a child below 12 years of age, and the offense involves sexual penetration or oral sex, you could face a life sentence. You will only be eligible for parole after serving 35 years of your prison time.
Arizona Dangerous Crimes against Children
Arizona laws have a separate law under ARS 13-705 that provides consequences for people who are found guilty of committing dangerous offenses against children of fifteen years and below. While the law highly protects all minors below 18, children below 15 are considered more susceptible to abuse, hence the need to heighten sentences for offenders who commit certain offenses against them. Typically, anyone found guilty of committing an offense listed under dangerous crimes against children is subject to a harsher and longer prison sentence than the one who commits the same or identical offense against an adult.
As mentioned above, sexual conduct with a child below 15 is among the offenses listed under dangerous crimes against children. Thus, you are subject to a longer prison term of up to 27 years if you are sentenced under ARS 13-1405. You could receive an additional ten years of prison time if you have a prior conviction of the same or similar offense in your criminal history. But if you have two prior felony convictions in your criminal record, you could face life in prison without parole until you serve at least 35 years of your prison time.
In addition to criminal penalties, dangerous offenses against children carry other severe consequences that could affect various aspects of your life. Some of them are:
Mandatory registration as a sex offender
Difficulties in finding a suitable employment
A strained family and social life
Loss of friends and associates
A damaged reputation
Challenges in finding an apartment to live in
After conviction, you will be required by law to notify organizations or businesses of your prior conviction when volunteering or applying for employment, especially if the company or organization offers activities in which employees must supervise children. Failing to do this is a Class 5 felony, punishable by a maximum of 2.5 years in prison.
Arizona Registry for Sex Offenders
The sex offender registry in Arizona is a listing for everyone that has been sentenced for serious sex crimes and is publically available. It means that anyone who searches your name in the registry will know your previous conviction for having sexual acts with a child. Once you are convicted under ARS 13-1405, the judge will order you to register your name for a particular period, within which you will renew your registration yearly.
Arizona register for sex offenders has three tiers, determined by the offender’s risk of repeating the offense. Failing to register as ordered by the judge is a crime. Not registering from the beginning is a Class 4 felony, punishable by a maximum of three years, nine months in prison. Failing to re-register yourself is a Class 6 felony, punishable by a maximum of two years behind bars.
You start registering within ten days of your conviction. Once you are released from prison, the state Department of Corrections will transfer your details to the Department of Public Safety in the place you intend to live. Then you will be required to appear in person every year to register and pay the registration fee.
Legal Defenses to Charges of Sexual Conduct with a Minor in Arizona
Sexual conduct with a minor is among the most severely punished offenses in Arizona. Other than its criminal implications, a conviction under this law is life-altering. Therefore, it is advisable to do your best to fight your charges to avoid these and many other unforeseeable consequences. To do that, you’ll need the help of an experienced sex defense attorney. Besides helping you navigate the legal process, your attorney will employ the best legal defense strategies to compel the court to drop or reduce your charges. Some of these strategies are:
That the Victim is Not a Minor
Among the main elements of this offense is a requirement that the victim of the crime is a minor. As previously mentioned, the age of consent is 18 in Arizona. Therefore, anyone below 18 years of age is considered a minor and incapable of giving consent.
If you are sure that the alleged victim is not a minor, as stated, the judge might reconsider and reduce or drop your charges. The basis of the judge’s decision will be on the facts of your case.
However, stating that the alleged victim is an adult is not enough to have your charges dropped or reduced. You must provide sufficient proof in court to support your defense. Remember that a mere belief that the minor was an adult is not adequate to have your charges dropped.
An experienced attorney will work within strict court deadlines to ensure that you have all the proof you need to strengthen your case. Documents like a copy of a government-issued birth certificate or Social Security documents are quick to find by experienced lawyers. They can provide the actual age of the alleged victim.
No Sexual Act Occurred
Criminal charges under ARS 13-1405 occur when there is sufficient proof that the defendant engaged in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with the alleged victim. Each of these sexual acts is clearly defined under this law. In the absence of sexual acts, the prosecutor will not prove his/her case beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are sure that you did not engage in any sexual acts with the alleged minor, you can use this defense to have your charges dropped or reduced. Again, the judge’s decision will be based on the facts of your case.
An experienced sex defense attorney might challenge the prosecutor’s case, making it hard for the prosecutor to prove all the offense elements. This is just what is needed for the court to find you not guilty as charged.
People falsely accuse others of severe crimes like sex crimes all the time for various reasons like a desire for revenge, jealousy, or to get even. Thus, it is not unusual for the defense to cite false accusations when defending a client against charges like having sexual misconduct with a child.
The alleged victim could have accused you of the offense to get even for something you did/failed to do in the past. Some adults lodge false accusations against people they want to seek revenge against. The good news is that Arizona criminal court judges have encountered similar cases in the past, and the judge might be willing to listen to your account of what might have transpired before announcing his/her verdict.
A competent sex defense attorney will know the proof to table in court to support this defense. It could be that you were nowhere around the scene where the alleged offense took place. Your attorney could also provide a clear background of your relationship with the alleged victim to demonstrate in court why the victim could have lied to the police.
If, in the end, the court determines that you were indeed accused falsely, all your criminal charges will be dropped.
Arizona Sexual Conduct with a Minor and Related offenses
Arizona law has several other crimes often charged alongside or in place of sexual acts with a minor. Some of these offenses are:
Sexual Exploitation of Minors
Sexual exploitation of children, also called child pornography, is covered under ARS 13-3553. The offense occurs when a person knowingly films, records, photographs, duplicates, or develops a visual depiction of a child engaged in sexual conduct. You could also commit child pornography if you knowingly transport, distribute, sell, receive, transmit, purchase or possess depictions like those.
For example, you could be arrested and charged with child pornography if you were found guilty of filming children engaging in sexual acts or sending sexual images to a child through the internet.
The offense is a Class 2 felony, punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison. However, if the offense involved a child below 15, it will be convicted as a dangerous crime against a child, attracting an even heftier penalty of up to 24 years in prison. Additionally, you will be required to register as a sex offender every year.
Luring a Child for Sex Exploitation
The law against luring children for sexual exploitation is provided under ARS 13-3554. The offense occurs when a person asks or offers another person sexual favors, knowing or having reasons to know that the person is a child below 18 years of age. This offense has two main elements which the prosecutor must prove in court for you to be found guilty:
That you offered or engaged in soliciting for sex with another person
That you were aware or should have known that this other person was a child
The offense is prosecuted as a Class 3 felony, carrying a maximum of seven years in prison. The sentence can increase if aggravating factors are involved in the case. For instance, if the alleged victim is a child of below 15 years, the offense is treated as a dangerous crime against children. Its penalties are graver and carry a mandatory requirement for you to register yourself as a sex offender.
Arizona law against molesting a child is provided under ARS 13-1410. The offense is committed when a person knowingly and intentionally engages in or causes another to engage in sexual contact with a child below 15 years of age. As defined under this law, sexual contact involves any direct or indirect touching, manipulating, or fondling of the genitals or anus using any part of your body or an object. Child molestation could also occur if you caused another person to engage in the same contact.
The offense is a Class 2 felony, punishable by a maximum of 24 years in prison. It is also listed among dangerous crimes against minors. Second offenders are subject to an even harsher penalty of up to 35 years behind bars.
Find a Sex Defense Attorney Near Me
If you face charges for sexual conduct with a minor in Arizona, it is advisable to find a competent and reliable attorney to help you plan a strong defense against your charges. It is the only way you could avoid a conviction. An experienced attorney will also use the best defense strategies available to compel the court to either reduce or drop your charges. He/she will guide you through the legal process until you obtain a favorable outcome of your case. At Arizona Sex Defense Attorney, we have a team of reliable and experienced attorneys whose advice and help you can trust. Call us at 602-922-3272, and let us hear the details of your case.