Charges of Sexual Misconduct in Arizona

The criminal justice system within the state of Arizona treats sex offenses severely. Two different sexual offenses that can have serious consequences include sexual misconduct with a minor and child molestation. While these two offenses both involve children, they are different sex crimes.

However, both carry severe penalties that will depend on the age of the victim, your past criminal history, and the circumstances of your case. Both offenses also have several similar defenses that might help you to fight your charges.

Below, Gurion Legal has outlined information about both offenses, the penalties that you might face, and some defenses that might apply in your case.

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Sexual Conduct with a Minor Defined

Sexual conduct with a minor, which includes conduct commonly called statutory rape, is found in ARS 13-1405. This offense can be charged when someone who is older than age 18 has sexual intercourse or oral sex with someone under the age of 18.

Under Arizona law, minors who are younger than age 18 are considered to be legally incapable of consenting to sex, so you can be charged with this offense even if the minor otherwise consented to have sex with you. If the minor involved in your case is between the ages of 15 and 17, it is a Class 6 felony.

If the victim is younger than 15, sexual conduct with a minor is a dangerous crime against children or DCAC. DCACs are punished using the enhanced sentencing scheme in ARS 13-705. Sexual conduct with a minor who is 14 or younger is also a Class 2 felony.

Child Molestation Defined

Child molestation is prohibited in ARS 13-1410. Child molestation can be charged when a person knowingly or intentionally sexually contacts someone younger than 15 or causes another person to engage in sexual contact with someone 14 or younger.

If you only contacted the breasts of a female, you will not be charged with child molestation. However, sexually contacting the breast of a female who is younger than 15 can be charged as sexual abuse under ARS 13-1404.

Child molestation is a Class 2 felony DCAC offense and can lead to a lengthy prison sentence, even if it is your first conviction.

Penalties for Sexual Conduct with a Child

The penalties you might face for sexual conduct with a minor will depend on the victim’s age and your criminal record. If the alleged victim is aged 15 to 17, sexual conduct with a minor is a Class 6 felony.

If you are convicted of sexual conduct with a minor as a first offense, the following penalties will apply:

  • Jail from zero days to one year with probation for up to life
  • Prison sentence ranging from four months to two years
  • Felony fine of a maximum of $150,000 plus a surcharge depending on the year of the crime
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender

If you have one previous allegeable felony and are convicted of sexual conduct with a minor who is 15, 16, or 17 as a second offense, the following penalties will apply:

  • From nine months to 2.75 years in prison
  • Felony fine up to a maximum of $150,000 plus an 84% surcharge
  • Sex offender registration

If you have two previous allegeable felonies and are convicted of sexual conduct with a minor aged 15 to 17 as a third offense, the following penalties will apply:

  • From two-and-one-fourth to five-and-three-fourth years in prison
  • Felony fine up to a maximum of $150,000 plus an 84% surcharge
  • Sex offender registration

If the victim was 12, 13, or 14, sexual conduct with a minor is a Class 2 DCAC felony offense. For a first offense, the following penalties will apply:

  • Prison from 13 to 27 years
  • Felony fine of up to a maximum of $150,000 plus an 84% surcharge
  • Sex offender registration

For a second offense involving a child between the ages of 12 and 14 with one prior allegeable felony, the following penalties will apply:

  • Prison from 23 to 37 years
  • Felony fine up to a maximum of $150,000 plus a surcharge
  • Sex offender registration

The penalties are even more severe if the victim is a child younger than age 12. A conviction for a first offense involving a child under the age of 12 will result in the following penalties:

  • Life imprisonment
  • Felony fine of up to a maximum of $150,000 plus surcharge
  • Sex offender registration if ever released from prison

If you are charged with multiple counts of sexual conduct with a minor and are found guilty of them all, the sentences for each count must be served consecutively.

People convicted of DCACs are also ineligible for parole or suspended sentences, which means you will have to serve the entire sentence you are given before you can get out of prison.

If you are convicted of multiple counts of Dangerous Crimes Against Children, this means that you could potentially spend the rest of your life in prison.

Penalties for Child Molestation

Child molestation is a DCAC Class 2 felony offense. The first conviction will result in a minimum sentence of 10 years to 24 years per count with a presumptive sentence of 17 years.

If you are convicted of child molestation as a second offense with a prior allegeable felony, the following penalties will apply:

  • Prison for a minimum of 21 years, a presumptive term of 28 years, or a maximum of 35 years per count
  • Felony fine of up to a maximum of $150,000 plus a surcharge
  • Sex offender registration if ever released from prison

If you are convicted of multiple counts of child molestation, the sentences for each count must be served consecutively to all other sex offenses except molestations of the same victim or sexual abuses of the same victim. If you have two prior allegeable felonies, you will be sentenced to life in prison.

Registering as a Sex Offender and Other Collateral Consequences

If you ever get out of prison after being convicted of sexual conduct with a minor or child molestation, you must register as a sex offender for the remainder of your life.

If you’re on lifetime probation you will likely not be allowed to have contact with anyone younger than age 18, including your minor children or grandchildren, without undergoing tests and receiving approval from your sex offender probation officer.

Under ARS 13-3727, you will also face restrictions on where you can live. You will be prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, a child care facility, or the residence of your victim.

Convictions of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor will also cause ongoing collateral consequences. You will be required to continue registering as a sex offender and will have your name, picture, and address published on the sex offender registry, which means your neighbors, friends, and family will know about your conviction. You will also likely have trouble finding a good job and might lose some of your family members and friends.

Defenses to Sexual Conduct with a Minor or Child Molestation

Several statutory defenses to sexual conduct with a minor are listed in ARS 13-1407 as long as the victim is 15 or older. If the victim was between the ages of 15 and 17 and otherwise consented to having sex with you, it is a defense to the charge if you could not reasonably know that the victim was a minor.

For example, if you met the victim online, and they told you that they were 19, you could assert this defense.

Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet law is found at Arizona Revised Statute 13-1407 (E). This law operates as a defense to sexual conduct with a minor if you are younger than age 19 or are still in high school when the victim was less than two years younger than you and otherwise consented to sex.

You can also defend against a charge of sexual conduct with a minor if the alleged victim was your spouse when the sex occurred.

There are no statutory defenses to child molestation. However, the following defenses might apply to either a charge of sexual conduct with a minor or child molestation:

  • False accusations
  • Misidentification
  • Analytical errors in the forensic analysis
  • Coerced confessions

In some cases, an estranged partner or spouse will accuse their ex-partner of statutory rape or child molestation of a child to try to get revenge or to gain an advantage in a child custody or divorce proceeding. Young children might be coached to make allegations, and young teens might sometimes lie about a stepparent to try to end their marriage.

If you have been falsely accused, your attorney will carefully analyze the reports, any divorce or child custody paperwork, and any video of a forensic interview. This information might allow the attorney to challenge the witness during cross-examination to point out holes in their story.

In cases involving strangers, misidentification can be a real problem. Police sometimes use flawed lineup procedures or try to get victims to pick out the person the police believe has committed the offense. Misidentification has resulted in numerous wrongful convictions. Your sex crimes lawyer at Gurion Legal might file a motion to challenge a flawed lineup to prevent this from happening to you.

Mistakes when gathering, transporting, or testing forensic evidence are also ripe for challenges. If errors occurred, or there is a break in the chain of custody, the forensic evidence might be inadmissible in the prosecutor’s case against you.

Finally, the police are not allowed to coerce people or intimidate them into incriminating themselves. They must also read the Miranda warnings to suspects prior to interrogating them and must stop questioning them immediately if the suspects assert their rights to remain silent and ask for an attorney.

If the police violated any of these rights, your lawyer might file an evidentiary motion asking the court to suppress your statements, and any evidence gathered as a result of them.

Speak Immediately to Gurion Legal Team & Protect Your Freedom

Being accused of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor are extremely serious. If you have been charged or in the initial pre-charge stages with one of these offenses, retaining a sex crimes attorney should be your first step in building a strong defense.

Give us a call immediately, and we’ll discuss all available options to protect your freedom – (480) 800-0020.

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