Do you know the Arizona age of consent?
“Age of consent” refers to the age a person must reach before they can legally consent to sexual intercourse with another person. Every state’s age of consent law is a little different, but in every state, violating these laws has dire consequences. If you fail to follow the Arizona age of consent laws, you could face a sex crime conviction.
Arizona courts prosecute sex crimes doggedly. They are often crimes that evoke a strong emotional response in the public. Regardless of the actual circumstances of your offense, prosecutors will seek harsh punishment.
In this post, experienced Phoenix sex crimes attorney Belen Olmedo Guerra will answer all your questions about Arizona age of consent laws. We’ll talk about what these laws are, the potential repercussions, and possible legal defenses.
What is the Arizona Age of Consent?
According to A.R.S 13-1405, the Arizona age of consent is 18 years old.
Under this statute, it is illegal to knowingly engage in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with anyone under the age of 18.
This means that if you are 21 and your partner is 17, it is illegal for you to have sexual contact with your partner. Violation of these laws could saddle you with a statutory rape charge.
What are the Consequences of Violating the Arizona Age of Consent Laws?
Statutory rape is consensual sexual or oral intercourse who is below the Arizona age of consent.
Don’t let the term “statutory rape” fool you into thinking that consent will be a legal defense. The age of consent means that no one under the age of 18 can legally consent, at all. If you are in your 20’s and your partner is under 18, even if they consent to sexual contact with you, it is illegal. If a court charges you, they will charge you with statutory rape.
More than likely, it will be a felony charge.
The exact classification of felony ultimately depends on the other person’s age. Arizona law breaks statutory rape up into several categories, depending on the relative ages of the two people. The categories and penalties are as follows:
Sexual Conduct with a Minor
This simply refers to sexual contact between a defendant of any age, and a child younger than 18. It usually only applies when the defendant is more than two years older than the other party.
So if you are 17 and your partner is 14, you may face statutory rape charges if you have sexual contact with them.
This is a felony charge. If the other party is 15 or older, you may face up to a year in prison.
It becomes a class 2 felony under the following conditions:
- If the defendant is the guardian
- If the other party is younger than 15
This means that even if the minor is 17 years old, if you are their parent, stepparent, adoptive parent, foster parent, or legal guardian, Arizona courts will charge you with a class 2 felony for having sexual contact with them. This rule also applies to priests and teachers.
For a class 2 felony, you may be facing considerable prison time. If the other party is younger than 12, a court could give you life in prison. If the other party is between 12 and 14, the presumptive sentence is 20 years.
Molestation of a Child
Arizona law defines the molestation of a child as sexual contact without penetration between a minor under the age of 14 and a defendant of any age. Again, it usually only applies if the defendant is more than two years older than the other party.
This is a class 2 felony charge. If the minor is 14, consequences are potentially five years of prison. If the minor is younger than 14, the presumptive sentence is 20 years.
Sexual abuse occurs when there is consensual sexual contact between a minor who is 14 or younger and a defendant of any age. The exact type of sexual contact, as well as the ages of the two parties, will factor heavily in the penalties for this crime.
Exceptions to the Arizona Age of Consent
There are a few legal defenses to violating the Arizona age of consent laws. The most common are as follows:
The “Romeo and Juliet” Law
We already talked about how much the relative age of the two parties matters. Often, if they are particularly close in age, sexual contact is not illegal. Arizona also calls this the Age Difference Defense.
Your defense attorney can invoke the Romeo and Juliet law under very specific conditions. These conditions are:
- If the other party is 15, 16, or 17 years old
- The defendant is younger than 19, or
- The defendant is still attending high school, and
- The defendant is not more than two years older than the other party, and
- If the conduct is consensual.
So, an example of a situation where the Romeo and Juliet law applies:
The defendant is 18 years old, and their partner is 17. Sexual contact between these two does not violate the age of consent laws in Arizona, even though one of them is under the age of consent.
In many states, this is not a defense. It is viable in Arizona.
With this defense, the attorney will argue that the other party lied to the defendant about their age. They will argue that the defendant was not aware the other party was so young.
For this defense to be viable, the defendant has to make reasonable attempts to determine the other party’s age. The fact that the defendant lied about their age is not enough, even if it is true.
The Marital Exception
There is a marital exception to the Arizona age of consent laws.
This means that if, for instance, you are 20 years old but your husband is 17, sexual contact between the two of you is not illegal. It would be illegal if you were not married.
But marriage is not a catch-all defense for sex crimes. If a husband rapes his wife (forces her to have sex against her will) it is still rape.
Contact the Belen Law Firm
When a court charges you with a sex crime, the process is often highly emotional, especially if you are still a minor.
If you or someone you love is facing a sex crimes charge in the Phoenix area, contact the Belen Law Firm by calling 602.715.0908. You can also leave us a message on our site to schedule a free, confidential initial consultation.