Part 1: Sex Crime Criminal Defense
In Arizona and across the nation, just the term “sex crime” has a connotation of heinousness and depravity. Although some sex crimes do earn this distinction, there is a huge spectrum under this broad designation of crimes that do not deserve the stigma. This article will list the myriad types of sex crime in Arizona, possible punishments for each type, and what a successful defense could be.
According to Arizona law A.R.S. 13-404, sexual abuse is committed when a person knowingly engages in sexual contact (not full sex) with someone fifteen years or older without their consent, or with someone younger than fifteen regardless of consent. The term “sexual contact” is rather vague, but is listed under the law explicitly as “any direct or indirect touching, fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus, or female breasts.
If the victim is under fifteen years old, the punishment for sexual abuse is very serious- constituting a Dangerous Crime Against a Child and a Class 3 felony. For a Class 3 felony, the minimum prison time is two and a half years, with the average resting somewhere around five years. Because this is a Dangerous Crime Against a Child, early release is not an option, so what you are sentenced is what you will serve.
If the victim is over fifteen, the average punishment is lessened to a Class 5 felony. For a Class 5, the minimum punishment may be only probation, up to a maximum punishment of 2.5 years in prison. Although a sexual abuse charge is not as serious as a molestation or rape charge, if the victim is under eighteen, the violator is forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his/her life. This bars the offender from associating with anybody under eighteen years old, even their own children.
There are a few explicit defenses wrapped up in the wording of A.R.S. 13-404 for sexual abuse. The first is predicated on deception by the victim. Under the Arizona law, anybody under eighteen is incapable of consenting to sexual activity. Thus, any sexual conduct with a minor is considered illegal. However, if it can be proven that the defendant did not know the age of the person in question, or if that person actively lied about their age, the accused will generally not be charged. It must be noted, though, that this defense only works if all other aspects of the sexual act besides the age of the victim were consensual.
The second defense was designed for young couples. As long as the defendant is under nineteen and within 24 months of the victim’s age, the accused will generally not be charged. This defense too, and indeed all sex crime defenses, are based on the mutual consent of both parties.
The final explicit defense for sexual abuse is that the act was not committed for sexual gratification. For instance, if a man is dancing in a nightclub and his hand touches a girl inappropriately, a possible defense could be that the club was too crowded and that the act was an accident.
Child Molestation is an extremely serious form of sex crime. Under ARS 13-1410, child molestation is when a person knowingly engages in sexual contact with a child under fifteen years of age, or causes that person to engage in said acts. Child Molestation is a Class 2 felony and a Dangerous Crime Against Child
For a Class 2 child molestation felony, a successful conviction holds a minimum ten year jail sentence, with an average duration of seventeen years. Just like sexual abuse, its Dangerous Crime Against Children designation renders the convicted unable to appeal for early release. Even after release, you will be labeled a sex offender for the remainder of your life and will be incapable of communicating with minors without extensive peitioning.
The possible defenses for a child molestation charge is the same as sexual abuse: unaware of age or unmotivated by sexual desire. Any false allegations, especially in DCAC cases, should be challenged aggressively by an experienced defense attorney. This is because there is no bail option for DCAC charges; even if you are a multi-millionaire you have to sit in jail until trial. This makes it crucial to attack any false accusations from all available avenues.
Sexual Assault (or rape) occurs when a person has sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. Because the rules associated with DCAC have been illustrated above, the following will be focused on sexual assault charges for legal adults. Sexual assault is a Class 2 felony.
For a Class 2 Sexual assault conviction, the minimum prison time is seven years, with an average duration of ten years. However, there are a few caveats that go with this. If the victim was drugged in pursuit of the act, three years is added to all sentencing. Additionally, if the sexual intercourse is paired with physical assault and injury, the sentence will be raised to anything from twenty five years to life.
Rape is one of the most commonly misreported or entirely falsely reported charges. This is particularly true on college campuses. Because there is such a double standard associated with sex between men and women, some women may regret their drunken promiscuity the next morning- perhaps due to cruel or misogynistic comments- and claim that they had not previously consented. Money is also another common reason for a false rape accusation. A woman (or man, but more commonly a woman) may have perfectly consensual sex with a partner who they know are wealthy, and file a rape charge knowing that person will settle to remove the charge. If you have been falsely accused of rape, time is an extremely important consideration. Appeal for relevant witnesses, medical evidence, and a polygraph while they can still be obtained, and as always, hire an experienced defense attorney.
Public Sexual Indecency:
A charge of public sexual indecency is far less severe than the prior charges. Public sexual indecency under Arizona law ARS 13-403 is when a person knowingly engages in sexual conduct or sexual intercourse in public while another person is present, and that person would be justifiably offended as a reasonable person. Public Sexual Indecency is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
A public sexual indecency charge carries with it a maximum jail time of six months and a possible three years of probation.
The most common defense to a public sexual indecency charge is to prove that what you were doing was not “shocking” to the average person given the context. For instance, if you were caught performing an indecent act in an adult movie theater, the argument could be made that this is not offensive, or even out of the ordinary. The second relevant attribute to a successful defense is to prove a lack of “recklessness.” If the defendant can prove they were attempting to conceal their act, and/or that the convicting party was being overly nosy or litigious, the act will be less likely to be perceived as one involving sexual indecency.
A charge of sexual exploitation of a minor, or child pornography, is incredibly serious, carrying punishments often exceeding that of second degree murder. This law, ARS 13-3553, covers a broad range of applications, but is formally meant to include anybody who knowingly records, films, duplicates, develops, transports, or transmits visual depiction of sexual conduct with a minor.
Possible punishments are split between pornography of children above and below fourteen. Below fourteen is an incredibly serious offense, pursuant to the DCAC laws. The minimum jail time is ten years, with an average sentence of seventeen years. Also, just like other offenses directed against minors, you will be registered as a sex offended and will be barred from communicating with minors. For minors above fourteen, the potential punishments drop substantially. It is possible to avoid prison, and the maximum sentence is under three years.
The most common defense to a child pornography charge is to prove plausible deniability. In practice, this defense will show that the computer where the pornography was accessed was used by multiple other people. This is often used when the porn was accessed on a family computer, or a desktop used by more than just you.
A second defense is to show that you came across these pornographic images inadvertently. Because porn is legal when the actors/actresses are over eighteen, you may claim you stumbled upon this porn looking for legal fare. However, this defense is highly predicated on the truth of this inadvertence. The government likely has access to all keywords typed and all websites accessed on that particular IP Address. Thus, if you are guilty, it will probably be proven quickly based on the evidence they have. Moreover, in order to use this as a defense, you must have reported the unsolicited images within three days of receiving or accessing them.
For any and all sex crimes, professional representation by an experienced defense attorney is crucial. Sex crimes, more than many other crimes, are plagued by an inescapable stigma of depravity and violence. In many cases, particularly in cases involving minors, this stigma is earned and deserved. However, in other cases, peoples’ personal and professional lives are ruined by a sex crime conviction for which the punishment does not fit the crime. There are hundreds of stories around this country of people urinating in public parks in the dead of night, only to be labeled as a sex offender because an especially litigious person happened to see. This sort of designation could prevent that person from receiving loans, getting a job, starting a family- the list goes on. To ruin someone’s life in this fashion is, in my opinion, just as heinous as many of the sex crimes themselves. For more information on sex crimes in Arizona see the Arizona Department of Public Safety website.
Because much of the wording for these statutes are based on discretion, a successful defense for a sex crime is very possible, despite the stigma. A sex crime defense attorney can use several avenues to obtain evidence, including DNA testing, warrant procedures where applicable, and even the investigation of possible police coercion for statements made.
Interested in learning more about sex crime law in the state of Arizona? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below or reach out to us on our social media channels. If you need criminal defense help for a sex crime in the state of Arizona, contact an experienced Tucson defense attorney today.