Child Trafficking Charges in Arizona
Child sex trafficking is among the most serious sex crimes with which you can be charged. Because of the vulnerability of child trafficking victims, Arizona has instituted severe penalties for people who are convicted of this offense.
If you have been charged with child sex trafficking, Gurion Legal has provided this overview of the Arizona laws, penalties, and defenses that might apply to these types of cases.
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Arizona’s Child Trafficking Laws Explained
Child trafficking is prohibited by ARS 13-3212. Under this statute, you can be charged with child sex trafficking for engaging in a wide variety of activities, including the following:
- Knowingly causing someone younger than age 18 to participate in prostitution
- Using someone younger than age 18 for prostitution
- Allowing someone younger than 18 who is in your control or custody to engage in prostitution
- Receiving a benefit by procuring a minor or placing him or her in the custody of someone who will cause them to engage in prostitution
- Receiving a benefit by agreeing with someone else that you will receive some of the proceeds of a minor’s prostitution
- Controlling, owning, supervising, managing, or financing child prostitution activities
- Transporting a minor or paying for his or her transportation while intending that the minor will participate in prostitution
- Providing the means to a minor for him or her to engage in prostitution
- Harboring, enticing, transporting, recruiting, or providing a minor with the intent or knowledge that the minor will participate in prostitution or a sexually explicit performance
An explicit performance includes any demonstration that is designed to arouse another person and could include a strip show or other performance of a sexual activity.
An adult who is 18 or older knowingly engages in child trafficking when he or she does any of the following things:
- Engages in prostitution with someone younger than 15
- Engages in prostitution with someone who the person should or does know is between the ages of 15 and 17
- Engages in prostitution with someone aged 15 to 17 without knowing that he or she is a minor
Under the statute, you cannot defend against a child trafficking charge by arguing that the child was actually an undercover officer pretending to be a minor or someone who is helping the police by pretending to be younger than age 18.
Child Sex Trafficking Police Sting Operations
Sex crimes units of various law enforcement agencies sometimes establish sting operations to try to catch people involved in child trafficking. The police might have undercover officers who look very young pose as minors to try to get adults to offer money for sex. The police do not use real children in sting operations, but people can still be charged even though no children were involved.
Even though minors are never involved and defendants only talk to adults the entire time, defendants can still convicted.
What Are the Penalties for Child Trafficking?
Other than engaging in prostitution with a minor who is 15, 16, or 17, most child trafficking offenses are classified as Class 2 felonies. Engaging in prostitution with a minor who is 15, 16, or 17 is a Class 6 felony.
The penalties you might face if convicted of child trafficking will depend on the child’s age and your criminal record.
If you are convicted of a first offense under ARS 13-3212(B)(3) for engaging in prostitution with a minor who is aged 15, 16, or 17, it is a Class 6 felony carrying the following potential penalties:
- Prison from four months to two years, or
- A mandatory minimum of 180 days in jail with up to three years of probation
- Felony fine up to a maximum of $150,000 plus a surcharge
- Registration as a sex offender up to the judge
This is the only child trafficking charge that is not a Class 2 felony. You could be charged with the Class 6 felony if you engaged in prostitution with a minor age 15 to 17 when you did not know that he or she was underage.
If you engage in prostitution with a minor aged 15, 16, or 17 and know or should know that he or she is under the age of 18, it is a Class 2 felony with the following potential punishments:
- First conviction – Prison from 10 to 24 years
- A second conviction with one prior allegeable felony – Prison from 17 to 31 years
- A third conviction with two prior allegeable felony convictions – Prison from 24 to 38 years
If the minor or purported minor is younger than age 15, child trafficking is a DCAC Class 2 felony subject to the enhanced punishments in ARS 13-705. Under this statute, the penalties for child trafficking include the following:
- First conviction – Prison from 13 to 27 years
- Second felony with a prior allegeable felony – Prison from 23 to 37 years
These offenses require flat time, meaning you serve every day of the sentence.
A conviction for any class 2 Child Sex Trafficking requires mandatory sex offender registration.
Arizona Mandatory Sex Offender Registration
Under ARS 13-3821, people who are convicted of any child trafficking offense after Aug. 9, 2017, other than for engaging in prostitution with a minor age 15 to 17 without knowing that he or she is underage, must register as sex offenders on the state’s sex offender registry. The latter may be required to if the judge decides it is appropriate.
If you are convicted of one of these offenses, you will be required to report to the sheriff’s office within your county no later than 72 hours after your conviction or after your release from custody. Your photo, address, offense information, and other details will be published on the sex offender registry website, which is accessible to the public.
If you are convicted of child trafficking as a DCAC offense, you will also have restrictions placed on where you can live. You will not be able to reside within 1,000 feet of a private, parochial, or public school or the residence of your victim.
If you violate the sex offender registration requirements, you can be charged with another felony for failing to register as a sex offender. This offense carries additional serious penalties.
What are the Defenses to Child Trafficking?
The defenses that might be available will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of your case. Some of the potential defenses are briefly described below.
In every trafficking case, the prosecutor must prove that your actions were knowing. This means that the prosecutor must present evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you either knew or should have known that you were committing the offense. Your attorney will carefully review the evidence to determine how to attack the prosecutor’s evidence about your mental state.
Another potential defense might exist if nothing of value was exchanged or promised. If nothing was promised or exchanged for sex, prostitution has not occurred.
If the alleged victim was 15 to 17, your defense attorney might present evidence showing that you did not know and could not reasonably have known that he or she was a minor.
For example, if the alleged victim was originally contacted online and stated in a text message that he or she was 18 or older, this might be enough evidence to get an offense reduced from a Class 2 felony to a Class 6 felony with lower penalties and no requirement for sex offender registration.
Other defenses that might be available to you include the following:
- The police conducted an illegal, warrantless search and seizure.
- You asked for an attorney but were denied.
- The police interrogated you without reading to you your Miranda warnings.
- The police used coercive or intimidating tactics to secure a false confession.
Immediately Talk a Sex Crimes Attorney at Gurion Legal
Child trafficking charges are serious and should not be taken lightly. If you are facing this type of offense, you should consult an attorney at Gurion Legal as soon as possible.
Contact us today at (480) 800-0020 to learn more about your rights and the options that might be available to you. We are here to fight for you, Period.
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