Do you know the age of consent in Arizona?

“Age of consent” refers to the age a person must reach before they can legally consent to sexual intercourse with another person.  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. You might need to consult a Phoenix criminal defense attorney.

In this post, experienced Phoenix sex crimes attorney Belén 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?

Age of consent refers the legal age at which someone is able to engage in consensual sexual intercourse. It does not matter whether both parties verbally agree to consensual sex. If one party falls below the Arizona consent laws age, they may be held criminally liable. 

Each state has different laws that determine the age at which a person becomes legally able to consent to sexual relations. As such, every state’s age of consent law may be a little different, but in every state, violating these laws still results in a criminal offense. According to A.R.S 13-1405, the age of consent in Arizona is 18 years old. Under this statute, it is illegal to knowingly engage in consensual 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 perform sexual activity, whether it be vaginal, anal, or oral sex, with your partner. Violation of these laws could land you with a statutory rape charge

What are the Consequences of Violating the Arizona Age of Consent Laws?

As we mentioned, statutory rape is defined as consensual sexual activity or oral intercourse with someone who is below the 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 in Arizona 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 and is considered statutory rape in the eyes of the law. 

More than likely, it will be a felony charge and result in mandatory Arizona sex offender registry. However, the exact classification of a felony in Arizona 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, under Arizona’s statutory rape laws, if you are 17 and your partner is 14, you may face statutory rape charges if you have sexual contact with them. 

This is considered a felony charge in Arizona. 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 victim’s guardian 
  • If the victim 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, the consequences are potentially five years of prison. If the minor is younger than 14, the presumptive sentence is 20 years.

Sexual Abuse

When it comes to Arizona’s age of consent laws, sexual abuse (or sexual assault) may occur when there is consensual sexual contact between a minor who is 14 years 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 into the penalties prescribed for the sexual abuse or sexual assault crime in Arizona

Exceptions to the Arizona Age of Consent 

There are a few legal defenses to violating Arizona’s age of consent statutes. 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. In some cases, Arizona may allow a close in age exemption.

Your defense attorney can invoke a close in age exemption, also known as an Age Difference Defense or 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 in Arizona 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. 

Mistaken Identity

In many states, this is not a defense. However, 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

In Arizona, there is a marital exception to these 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 considered rape. 

If You’ve Received a Statutory Rape or Other Sex Crime Charge in Arizona, Call Belén Law Firm TODAY!

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 our criminal attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona at 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. We offer 24/7 legal services, meaning our phone lines are open at all hours of the day.