In all states, sex crimes are very serious offenses. In Arizona, if you are facing a sex crime charge, then the crime may be classified as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The potential punishment for a sex crime depends on whether the crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether a sex crime is a felony or misdemeanor depends on the age of the victim, the type of sexual contact alleged, and the intent of the alleged perpetrator.
Normally, misdemeanors are crimes where the law authorizes a sentence for up to one year in jail. Because the sentence is shorter, the crime tends to be commensurate in terms of severity. Alternatively, felonies are more serious and therefore, the potential sentences can be more than a year in prison.
Understanding the classification of the sex crime and corresponding punishment helps you understand the law better. More importantly, it also gives you a sense of how imperative it is that you ensure that your rights are well represented and protected by an attorney in order to try to avoid these very harsh sentences.
Sex crimes in Arizona primarily fall into two categories – sexual crimes against another adult(s), and sexual crimes against child victim(s). Whether the alleged victim is an adult or a child can drastically affect the potential sentence imposed.
In many sex crime cases involving a child, prosecutors file an allegation that the crime was a “Dangerous Crime Against Children (DCAC)” under A.R.S.§ 13-705. If this allegation is filed, the person charged with the crime faces even harsher penalties, such as longer sentences that are “flat time,” meaning the person would not be eligible for any form of early release and must serve each day of the sentence imposed. Sentences can also run consecutive to another sentence, depending on the crime charged and the number of victims. Under this statute, a person could potentially receive a life sentence.
It is also important to know when the crime allegedly occurred, as the legislature has significantly changed the authorized sentence for these crimes over the last decade. Consultation with a defense attorney can advise you what the potential sentences are for the crime charged based upon the circumstances of the allegation.
Here are some of the major sex crimes that are considered felonies in Arizona:
Sexual Abuse (A.R.S. 13-1404) occurs when a person, “intentionally or knowingly engages in sexual contact with any person who is fifteen or more years of age without consent of that person or with any person who is under the age of fifteen years old if the sexual contact involves only the female breast.” The court will not accept as a defense that the person was fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen and that they consented and trusted you.
If the victim is over 15 years of age, then sexual abuse is a class 5 felony. On the other hand, if the victim is younger than 15, then it is a class 3 felony. It could also be subject to the sentencing enhancements of ARS § 13-705 as a Dangerous Crime Against Children.
It is a defense to sexual abuse if the act was committed by a physician, nurse, or someone who acted under the direction of such a professional or the person charged did not know and could not reasonably know the victim was underage.
Sexual Assault (A.R.S. 13-406) occurs when, “a person commits sexual assault by intentionally or knowingly engaging in intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person without contact of such person.” A conviction under A.R.S. 13-406 precludes the defendant from suspension of sentencing, probation, pardon or release from confinement, unless authorized by A.R.S. 21-233 through an order of removal.
Sexual Assault is a class 2 felony. If it is a first offense, then the minimum prison term is 5.25 years, the presumptive sentence is 7 years, and the maximum is 14. Defendants with one historical prior face a minimum of 7 years, presumptive of 10.5 years, and a maximum of 21 years. For a third offense, the sentence increases.
A common defense used in Sexual Assault cases is arguing that the opposite party was not being truthful about the consensual sex and what really happened.
Molestation of a Child
Molestation of a child (A.R.S. 13-1410) occurs when a person, “intentionally or knowingly engaging in or causing a person to engage in sexual contact, except sexual contact with the female breast, with a child who is under fifteen years of age.”
Molestation of a child is considered a class 2 felony and is subject to the mandatory sentencing enhancements as a dangerous crime against children.
A common defense to molestation charges is that the allegations were fabricated, the child’s story was based upon coaching from another adult or the nature of the touching was not in a sexual manner. It is not a defense to claim the child consented to the sexual act.
Sexual Conduct With A Minor
Sexual Conduct with a Minor is the most serious sex offense against a child. Under A.R.S. § 13-1405(A), “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 the age of eighteen years old.” This subsection is a class 2 felony and is subject to mandatory sentencing enhancements as a dangerous crime against children.
Under A.R.S. § 13-1405(B), if the victim is over the age of fifteen, it is still a class 2 felony is the alleged perpetrator was in a position of trust.
It is not a defense to claim that the child consented to the sexual act.
Sex trafficking is an extensive offense and is explained under A.R.S. 13-1307. Generally, sex trafficking occurs when a person knowingly traffics another person who is eighteen years of age or older with the intent to cause the other person to engage in prostitution or sexually explicit performance by deception, force, or coercion. In addition, this crime also pertains to trafficking individuals who are under 18.
Like sexual assault, sex trafficking is a class 2 felony. Moreover, if the offense was committed against a person who is under 15 years of age, it also constitutes a dangerous crime against a child. As a result, sentencing can be greater.
Child Pornography (Sexual Exploitation of a Minor)
Arizona is one of the toughest states when it comes to child pornography. Under A.R.S 13-3553, a person commits sexual exploitation by a minor by, “recording, filming, developing, or duplicating any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.” Those who distribute, transport, exhibit, receive, sell, purchase, electronically transmit, possess, or exchange such materials may also be charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. In addition, sexual exploitation of a minor is considered a class 2 felony.
A prosecutor can charge a person with a crime for each image of child pornography he/she allegedly possessed. In Arizona, every single image of child pornography comes with a minimum penalty of 10 years. Each additional count (image) carries with it another 10 years. To put this into perspective, 10 images can get you 100 years in prison.
Defenses to Sex Crimes
Depending upon the type of crime you are charged with and the facts of your case, your defense attorney can claim different defenses to the charge(s). To ensure that you receive the best representation, it is best to be as upfront and honest as possible with your attorney at the onset of your case. While some of the sections above do include defenses, these are some of the more general defenses. Upon consulting with your attorney, your attorney will be able to formulate a concise and effective strategy to ensure that your rights are protected.
At Tyler Allen Law Firm, our sex crimes lawyers can provide you with the quality defense that you need to ensure that your rights are well represented and protected. With our experience, commitment to your case, and extensive legal knowledge, you can feel confident that you have a quality and aggressive team on your side. For a consultation and to get started on your case, fill out our contact form or call us today at 602-456-0545. Our team is ready to represent you and your legal rights through against a sex crimes charge.