Even though you may not be a teenager anymore, you once were a teenager and are able to recognize the difficulty that comes with that period in life. Most teenagers experience intense emotions, rampant hormones, and according to recent scientific studies – a reduced ability to make reasonable decisions due to an underdeveloped brain. Some of the poorest decisions that teenagers and individuals who are a bit older than their teen years make are in the area of sexual intercourse. In Arizona, failing to follow age of consent laws has criminal repercussions that not only destroy one’s reputation, but also their ability to secure employment and other necessities later in life.
What is the Age of Consent in Arizona?
The term “age of consent” refers to the age that one needs to be in order to consent to sexual intercourse or any other sexual activity with another person. Many states, including Arizona, take their age of consent laws very seriously and violation of those laws has serious criminal repercussions. In Arizona, the age of consent is 18 years old, according to Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1405.
Under the statute, it is illegal to knowingly or intentionally engage in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is below the age of 18. For example, if you are 21 years old and your partner is 17 years old, it is illegal for you to engage in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with your partner. Those who break Arizona’s age of consent laws potentially expose themselves to prosecution that can lead to incarceration or mandatory enrollment as a sex offender on the sex offender registry until age 25, at the least.
Defense I: Romeo and Juliet Laws and Age Exceptions
There are two defenses that your defense lawyer can use if you are involved in an issue regarding the age of consent. The first defense relates to Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet Laws, also known as the Age Difference Defense. Under subsection (f) of Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1407, your defense attorney can bring a Romeo and Juliet defense if the victim is age 15, 16, or 17 and the defendant is under 19 years of age or attending high school and is no more than 24 months older than the victim and the conduct is consensual.
An example of when the Romeo and Juliet defense may apply is if consensual sexual intercourse has taken place between the victim who is 17 years old and the defendant who is 18 years and is attending high school or has graduated. The advantage of using the Romeo and Juliet defense is that it could mitigate the defendant’s liability for the crime or clear it altogether.
Defense II: The Mistaken Identity Rule
In addition to the Romeo and Juliet defense, your attorney may be able to use the Mistaken Identity Rule if the facts of your case apply. A mistaken identity defense is when a defense attorney may argue that the defendant was not aware that the victim’s age was lower than the victim had purported. In addition, the defendant had made reasonable attempts to determine the victim’s age, such as checking a driver’s license.
For example, if John, who is over the age of 18, is prosecuted for breaking Arizona’s age of consent laws, his attorney may be able to use the Mistaken Identity defense if the victim, who is really 15, had told John that she was 18. To verify the victim’s age, John had made reasonable attempts to ensure that the victim was really 18 years old. John’s reasonable attempts included checking Jane’s license and asking her friends. Unbeknownst to John, the victim’s license was fake and her friends were untruthful. In this case, the defense may work because John’s attempts were reasonable under the circumstances.
Legal Consequences of Statutory Rape in Arizona
In Arizona, statutory rape is consensual sexual or oral intercourse with an individual who is below Arizona’s age of consent. The law suggests that those who are below Arizona’s age of consent, which is 18 years old, are unable to consent to sexual activity with an individual who is older than them.
For those who are charged and convicted under Arizona’s statutory rape law, the consequences are high and severe. If you are charged with statutory rape, then you are likely to face a felony charge. A felony charge is a higher criminal charge than a misdemeanor and all felonies are classified into sections ranging from 1 to 6, with one being the most severe. The exact classification of the felony charge ultimately depends upon the victim’s age, as explained by Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1405.
- If the victim is at least 18 years old, sexual conduct with the victim is a class 6 felony
- If the victim is under the age of 15, sexual conduct with the victim is a class 2 felony
If you are found guilty, a class six felony, the crime can lead to one year in prison. Depending on the quality of your defense lawyer and the discretion of the judge, the class six felony may be bumped down to a class 1 misdemeanor. On the other hand, if you are found guilty, a class 2 felony is much more severe. A class 2 felony is a minimum of three years in prison and a maximum of five.
Contact Tyler Allen Law Firm Today
Criminal charges, especially those for statutory rape, are not something that you should handle on your own. Tyler Allen Law Firm is a criminal defense firm in the Phoenix and Tempe areas. For those who are currently facing criminal charges for statutory rape or other similar cases, the team at Tyler Allen Law Firm can represent you and your needs. The firm has handled numerous criminal defense cases and is wholly prepared to defend you and your rights in today’s challenging criminal justice system. Contact us today!