Sexual Conduct with a Minor Defense Attorney

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Sexual Conduct with a Minor Defense

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sexual conduct with a minor defense attorney phoenix

In Arizona, sexual conduct with a minor, also known as statutory rape, is an extremely serious crime. In addition to a variety of other penalties, a conviction frequently involves mandatory prison time. Needless to say, if you’ve been suspected of committing sexual conduct with a minor in Arizona, you’re likely in for a lot of trouble.

To safeguard your freedom and your future, you must devise the most effective defense plan imaginable to combat your accusations. To familiarize yourself with the legal resources that are available to you and the common strategies used to oppose such serious allegations, it is important that you consult with a Phoenix criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Speaking with an experienced attorney like the ones at Belén Law Firm is the only way to truly know which technique is most likely to succeed in your case.

If you or a loved one have been charged with statutory rape, call Phoenix sex crimes attorney Belén Olmedo Guerra right away.

What Age is Considered a Minor in Arizona?

Like most other states, Arizona considers 18 years of age as the “age of majority,” or the age at which someone is legally considered an adult. As such, a minor is someone who is under the age of eighteen. This means that a person under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse with an adult. The act does not require forcible sexual contact with the minor to be penalized under the law.

What is Sexual Conduct with a Minor?

Sexual conduct with a minor is knowing an individual is under the age of 18 and having sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with them. In contrast to rape or sexual assault, this crime does not require committing any type of force or violence. The sexual act itself and the fact that an underage participant is involved are the only requirements.

ARS 13-1405

Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 13-1405 defines sexual conduct with a minor. According to this legislation, a person commits sexual conduct with a minor by:

Intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is under eighteen years of age.

ARS 13-1401 defines sexual intercourse as masturbatory contact with the penis or vulva or penetration of the penis, vulva, or anus by any body part or object.

Romeo and Juliet Law

As you now know, Arizona’s age of consent is 18 years old. However, there are several exceptions for minors between the ages of 15 and 19. As long as the age difference between two partners is 2 years or less, the Romeo and Juliet law in Arizona allows for consensual intercourse between those aged 15 to 19.

Keep in mind, sex with a minor younger than 15 years or an age difference between partners that is greater than two years is not protected by the Romeo and Juliet law.

Dangerous Crimes Against Children Statute

Arizona’s mandatory sentencing regulations are particularly severe regarding Dangerous Crimes Against Children, or DCACs. This pertains to certain criminal offenses involving victims younger than 15 years of age. Convictions for a dangerous crime committed against a child see lengthier and much more severe jail time than the same crime committed against an adult.

All of the following criteria constitute a DCAC:

  • The crime committed is an eligible offense
  • The defendant was 18 years old or older or was tried as an adult for the act
  • The victim was 15 years old or younger or an unborn child and the defendant had reasonable knowledge of their age

DCACs are similar to crimes of domestic violence, meaning they are general criminal offenses that are treated differently because of the status of the victim. Eligible offenses include but are not limited to second-degree murder, sexual assault, child molestation, sexual conduct with a minor, kidnapping, child sex trafficking, and drug offenses that involved a minor. Sex crimes make up the majority of these eligible DCAC offenses.

A crime treated as a DCAC impacts the length of a prison sentence, secondary consequences, the possibility of probation, and whether or how soon the defendant is able to be paroled. These types of charges are life-altering, and it’s critical that you have a skilled Phoenix sex crimes defense attorney defending your rights.

What Happens if a Minor Lies About Their Age?

A minor lying to the defendant about their age, in most cases, isn’t a defense against allegations of sex with a minor. A defendant can’t use their ignorance as a defense for engaging in sex with a minor. If a victim is younger than 14 years, the statute states the defendant cannot claim they didn’t know the minor’s age or claim a reasonable belief that the victim was older than 14 years. 

On the other hand, a minor younger than 18 but at least 14 years old allows the accused a specific defense. The defendant can present significant evidence proving they believed the minor was of age. Some examples of evidence include a fake ID or written statements from the victim saying they’re of legal age. 

Defenses Against Sexual Conduct with a Minor

Right to counsel, improper search and seizure, forensic errors like flawed DNA tests, as well as circumstances in which the two people are married are examples of defenses.  There are also defenses in statutory rape cases worth noting including the Romeo and Juliet law, mistake of fact, coerced confessions, lack of physical evidence, false allegations, third-party defense, incidental contact with the minor, and credibility of witnesses.

What are the Penalties for Sexual Misconduct with a Minor?

In Arizona, the victim’s and accused’s ages determine the statutory rape sentence. In most cases, registering with the Arizona sex offender’s registry is required. 

When the Accused is 18 or Older

  • Minor 12 years of age or younger – Class 2 Felony:
    • Mandatory minimum 35-year prison sentence to life
  • Minor aged 13 to 15 years old – Class 2 Felony:
    • A minimum of 13 years to a maximum 27 years in prison
  • Minor 15 years of age or older – Class 6 Felony:
    • 0 days to 12 months in jail and probation; or
    • Minimum of 4 months in prison to a maximum of 2 years in prison

When the Accused is Under 18

  • Minor aged 12 years or younger – Class 2 Felony:
    • 0 days to 12 months in jail and probation; or
    • Minimum of 3 years in prison to a maximum of 12.5 years in prison
  • Minor aged 12 to 15 years old – Class 2 Felony:
    • 0 days to 12 months in jail and probation; or
    • Minimum of 3 years in prison to a maximum of 12.5 years in prison
  • Minor aged 15 to 17 years old – Class 2 Felony:
    • Typically not criminalized per the Romeo and Juliet law in Arizona

Arizona Sex Offender Registry

Registering as a sex offender and being listed on the Arizona sex offender registry is a consequence of a sexual misconduct with a minor conviction. As a result, if you are convicted of a sexual offense including sexual abuse, child molestation, or statutory rape, you may be required to register as a sex offender.

Aggravating Factors To a Statutory Rape Sentence

The possible statutory rape sanctions listed above are just a starting point. A more severe sentence is handed down if aggravating elements exist and you are found guilty.

An example of an aggravating factor is the accused being in a “position of trust.” According to ARS 13-1401, a “position of trust” includes a minor’s parents – biological, adoptive, stepparents, foster parents, and legal guardians – teachers, coaches, religious leaders, and a parent’s significant other. 

Another aggravating factor is prior felony convictions. The possible prison sentences outlined above for statutory rape are for first-time offenders, but thee sentence lengths increase if you have a prior criminal history. 

Call Phoenix Sex Crimes Attorney Belén Olmedo Guerra As Soon As Possible

In Arizona, sexual conduct with a minor is a serious charge. You need to know the prosecution’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as any available statutory rape defenses. Mistakes are not an option when the rest of your life is on the line. That is why it is important that you obtain the help of an experienced sex offense criminal defense attorney who understands the justice system and the subtle factors of your case. Contact the legal team at Belén Law Firm for a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer. We offer flexible payment plans and are available 24/7, so contact us today at 602-715-0908 or by completing our online intake form.

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