Luring A Minor Charges in Arizona
Luring a child for sexual exploitation in Arizona is a serious sex crime carrying severe penalties. People who are convicted of luring or aggravated luring will face multiple penalties, including lengthy prison sentences, substantial fines, and lifetime registration as sex offenders, among other penalties.
If you face this type of charge, here is some information about the offense, the potential penalties, and some possible defenses that might be available to you from the Phoenix sex crimes attorneys at Gurion Legal.
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Luring a Child for Sex
Luring of a minor for purposes of sex is defined in ARS 13-3554 and can be charged when a person solicits or offers sexual conduct from or with someone younger than age 18 when they know or should know that the younger person is under the age of 18.
This offense is commonly charged after law enforcement officers conduct online sex stings and might involve an adult sending or exchanging sexually explicit images and messages with minors on the internet or via text messages. In many cases, the messages are ongoing until the adult in the conversation asks to meet the minor in person for sexual purposes.
In a sex sting operation, an undercover officer will pretend to be a minor on the internet and attempt to engage in conversations with adults and see whether the adults start soliciting sex or offering it to the purported minor.
To be charged with this offense, the adult does not have to meet the minor in person or directly ask to meet them for sex. Police officers often attempt to convince the adults to arrange in-person meetings so that they can arrest them upon their arrival at the pre-arranged locations.
When a luring a minor case goes before a jury, the jury normally looks at the entire situation to determine whether the adult is guilty of luring a child to exploit them for sex.
This offense is classified as a Class 3 felony when the minor or purported minor is between the ages of 15 and 17. If the minor is under the age of 15, luring is a Dangerous Crime Against Children (DCAC) subject to the enhanced sentencing scheme in ARS 13-705.
DCAC Penalties for Luring Minors Younger than 15
Certain offenses against child victims are designated as dangerous crimes against children or DCACs. These offenses carry enhanced penalties above what a defendant would otherwise face for the specific felony classification.
Under ARS 13-705, luring a minor to exploit them for sex is a DCAC when the child is under the age of 15. A conviction of luring as a DCAC will result in a prison sentence, even if it is your first criminal conviction. The first luring DCAC offense carries a minimum prison term of 5 years with a presumptive sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of 15 years.
If you have a prior allegeable felony conviction, you will be sentenced as a second offender. A second conviction of luring a minor as a DCAC offense carries a prison sentence from 8 to 22 years.
A DCAC luring conviction will also mean that you will be ineligible for parole or a suspended sentence. Instead, you will remain in prison until you have served the entire sentence you receive from the judge.
Penalties for Luring Minors Age 15 to 17
Luring a minor who is from 15 to 17 years old is a Class 3 non-DCAC felony. For a first conviction, the penalties for luring a minor in this age group include the following:
- Prison from a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 8.75 years
- Up to $150,000 fine
- Registration as a sex offender
- Probation up to lifetime
If you have one prior allegeable felony offense, the penalties for a second conviction will include the following:
- Prison from a minimum of 3.25 years to a maximum of 16.25 years
- Up to $150,000 fine
- Registration as a sex offender
If you have two prior allegeable convictions, a third conviction for luring will include the following penalties:
- Prison from a minimum of 7.5 years to a maximum of 25 years
- Up to $150,000 fine
- Registration as a sex offender
Luring a Minor vs. Aggravated Luring a Minor
Aggravated luring of a minor carries even more severe penalties and is a Class 2 felony. This offense is found in ARS 13-3560 and can be charged when an adult sends a sexually explicit image or video to a minor while knowing that the content is harmful to minors and simultaneously solicits the minor for sex.
This might be charged when an adult sends a photo of their genitals or a video of them masturbating while asking the minor to engage in sex with them.
Class 2 felony offenses carry more serious penalties than Class 3 felony offenses. For the first conviction of aggravated luring involving a minor between the ages of 15 and 17, the adult will face prison time of 3 years to 12.5 years.
If the adult has one prior allegeable felony, a second offense will result in prison from 4.5 years to 23 years. A third conviction will result in a prison sentence ranging from 10.5 years to 35 years.
Aggravated luring of a child younger than 15 is a DCAC. For a first aggravated luring DCAC conviction, you will face a mandatory sentence to a prison of 10 years to 24 years.
The prison sentence for a DCAC aggravated luring charge will be 21 years to 35 years for a second conviction.
What if the Person was an Undercover Police Officer Instead of a Minor?
Some people mistakenly believe that it is a defense to luring or aggravated luring charge when the purported minor is actually an adult undercover officer.
ARS 13-3554 specifically states that you cannot defend against this charge based on the fact that the purported minor was actually an adult.
If a police officer engaged in sexually explicit conversations with you online while posing as a minor, this means that you cannot defend against your charge based on the fact that he or she was not really a minor. The key factor the court will consider is whether or not you believed that the person you were communicating with was a minor.
Sex Stings Operations Conducted by Police
Sex stings are conducted by sex crimes units of various law enforcement agencies. The purpose of these stings is to attempt to get adults online who are looking to solicit minors for sex or offer it to engage with the undercover officers online and try to get them to agree to meet in public.
Typically, an undercover police officer will pretend to be a young boy or girl on the internet. Someone older than age 18 will then begin posting or sending messages to the purported minor via text or in chat rooms. The conversation will turn to sexual topics, and photos will be exchanged. The police might even send photos of minors to attempt to convince the target that he or she is communicating with a young boy or girl.
Eventually, a meeting will be suggested by the officer with a specific address and location. If the adult arrives at the pre-arranged location, he or she will be swiftly arrested for luring a child for sexual exploitation.
A meeting is not necessary for luring charges, however. The prosecutor can also charge separate counts for each text or message sent. The jury will then determine whether each individual message represented luring a minor based on the context as a whole.
Potential Defenses to Luring a Minor Offenses
While luring and aggravated luring are serious felony charges, it is possible to defend against these types of allegations. Some of the potential defenses include the following:
- You believed you were communicating with an adult instead of a minor.
- You were younger than age 19 and only had an age difference with the minor of less than 24 months.
- You were falsely accused of luring.
- You were coerced into falsely confessing.
- There is no physical evidence.
- The police conducted an illegal search and seizure.
While it is no defense to a luring charge that a purported minor is an adult, you can defend against a luring charge if you had a reasonable belief that you were communicating with an adult instead of a minor.
For example, if the person claimed to be 18 or older in a message before you engaged in explicit conversation, you can defend against a luring charge.
Arizona also has a Romeo and Juliet law found at ARS 13-1407(E). Under this law, it is a defense to aggravated luring of a minor if you were in high school or younger than 19 and engaged in sexting with a minor who otherwise consented and who was less than 24 months younger than you.
Some luring cases involve false allegations by the purported victims or their parents. For example, a vengeful ex might falsely accuse their former partner of luring to try to get revenge. In this type of situation, a defense lawyer will investigate to find evidence to show that the allegations are false.
Police officers sometimes use coercion to attempt to get confessions from people they suspect of committing crimes. If the police coerced you into falsely confessing, your attorney might file a motion asking for your statements to be declared inadmissible by the court.
In some cases, a luring charge will only be based on the testimony of an alleged victim or witness. When there is a lack of other evidence, an attorney might challenge the accusation and the credibility of the alleged victim or witness.
Finally, if the police searched your home, computer, or phone and seized evidence without a warrant, you might be able to get the search and seizure suppressed along with any evidence that might have been gathered by the police to use against you.
If the evidence is suppressed, this might result in a dismissal of your luring charge.
Get Immediate Help from a Sex Crimes Attorney
If you are facing luring or aggravated luring charges, you should retain an attorney as soon as possible. You should look for a defense attorney who is experienced in handling sex crimes cases.
The sex crimes attorneys at Gurion Legal have represented many people accused of sex offenses and are prepared to explain your charges and the defense strategies that might be the most appropriate under the facts of your case. Contact us today to request a free, confidential consultation.
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