STATUTORY RAPE

Sexual conduct with a minor, sometimes referred to as statutory rape or sex with a minor, is a serious charge in Arizona and often carries mandatory prison time. Statutory rape is a felony under Arizona law and does not require violence, force, or duress of any kind. If you or a loved one have been accused of statutory rape, contact an experienced sex crimes lawyer immediately. At no cost, a sex crimes lawyer can explain common investigative mistakes, outline a defense strategy and advise you on the facts of your particular case.

statutory rape

STATUTORY RAPE DEFINITION

Statutory rape, or sex with a minor, is defined as sexual conduct with a minor pursuant to ARS 13 1405. The statute defines statutory rape as:

  • Knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18.

NOTE: The offense does not require force or violence of any kind as opposed to rape or sexual assault (ARS 13 1406). Sex with a minor, requires only the sex act and an underage participant.

IMPORTANT DEFINITIONS AND LEGAL CONCEPTS

Sexual Contact

Means any direct or indirect touching, fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast by any part of the body or by any object or causing a person to engage in such contact.

Does not include direct or indirect touching or manipulating during caretaking responsibilities, or interactions with a minor or vulnerable adult that an objective, reasonable person would recognize as normal and reasonable under the circumstances.

Sexual Intercourse

Means penetration into the penis, vulva or anus by any part of the body or by any object or masturbatory contact with the penis or vulva.

Arizona Age of Consent

Under ARS 13 1405, the Arizona age of consent is 18 years old. This means that a person under the age of 18 cannot legally consent to sexual contact with an adult, and technically a juvenile for that matter. Even though the accused may not have had forceful sexual contact with the minor, the offense is still be considered a sex crime and punishable pursuant to ARS 13-1405.

Romeo and Juliet Law

While the Arizona age of consent is 18 years old, the law does have special rules for minors between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Known as the Romeo and Juliet law, it allows for consensual sex between two young partners between the ages of 15 and 19, so long as they are not more than 2 years apart in age.

NOTE: The Romeo and Juliet law does not apply if the minor is younger than 15 years old or if the age difference of the parties involved is more than 2 years.

sex with a minor

STATUTORY RAPE SENTENCE

The statutory rape sentence in Arizona depends on the age of the victim as well as the age of the person accused. The facts of the case and the age of those involved can alter the potential statutory rape sentence vastly. Additionally, those convicted will normally be required to have their names added to the Arizona sex offender registry.

Accused is 18 or Older

Minor is 12 years old or younger – Class 2 Felony:

  • Mandatory 35 years to Life in Prison – Pursuant to ARS 13-705 (DCAC);

Minor is between 13 and 15 years old – Class 2 Felony:

  • A minimum of 13 years in prison and up to a maximum of 27 years in prison– Pursuant to ARS 13-705 (DCAC);

Minor is at least 15 years of age – Class 6 Felony:

  • Probation, with anywhere from 0 days in jail to 12 months in jail; or
  • A minimum of 4 months in prison and up to a maximum of 2 years in prison.

Accused is Under 18

Minor is 12 years old or younger – Class 2 Felony:

  • Probation, with anywhere from 0 days in jail to 12 months in jail; or
  • A minimum of 3 years in prison and up to a maximum of 12.5 years in prison.

Minor is between 12 and 15 years old – Class 2 Felony:

  • Probation, with anywhere from 0 days in jail to 12 months in jail; or
  • A minimum of 3 years in prison and up to a maximum of 12.5 years in prison.

Minor is between 15 and 17 years old – Class 2 Felony:

  • While a violation of the Arizona age of consent law, this crime is generally not criminalized pursuant to the Romeo and Juliet law in Arizona.

Arizona Sex Offender Registry

Arizona sex offender laws pursuant to ARS 13 3821, require those convicted of statutory rape to register as a sex offender and be placed on the Arizona sex offender register.

Sex offender registration can also be required by the judge if you are convicted of a sexual offense under chapter 14 of title 13 (including sexual abuse, child molestation and statutory rape), and the judge determines that the crime was sexually motivated pursuant to ARS 13-118.

Arizona age of consent

AGGRAVATING FACTORS TO A STATUTORY RAPE SENTENCE

The possible statutory rape sentences outlined above are only the starting point for a possible statutory rape sentence. If there is a finding of additional aggravating factors and you are found guilty, you must be sentenced to more harsh penalties.

Definition of Position of Trust

An aggravating factor to the underlying crime of statutory rape comes if the accused is in a “position of trust.” Under Arizona law, if you have sex with a minor who is from 15 to 17 years of age, the prosecution must prove that it was without consent. The law goes on to state, however, that consent is not a defense where you are in a “position of trust” with respect to that minor.

The term “position of trust” is defined in ARS 13 1401, and includes a minor’s:

  • Parents. This includes not only biological parents, but also adoptive parents, stepparents, foster parents, and legal guardians.
  • Teachers. Current or previous school or religious teachers.
  • Instructors and Coaches. These are not limited to academic instructors and includes both paid and volunteer coaches/instructors.
  • Clergymen or Priests. Current religious leaders.
  • Parent’s Significant Other. This includes people involved in a romantic or sexual relationship with the minor’s parent, adoptive parent, legal guardian, foster parent or stepparent.

Prior Felony Convictions

The statutory rape sentences outlined above are for first time offenders. Unfortunately, if you have prior criminal history, then the possible statutory rape sentences increase drastically.

romeo and juliet law

STATUTORY RAPE DEFENSES

If the victim is 15, 16 or 17 years old, an offender may defend himself or herself by showing that he or she did not know and could not reasonable have known the age of the victim. If the victim is 15, 16, or 17 years old, an offender may defend himself or herself if he or she is under 19 years old or is attending high school, is no more than 24 months older than the victim, and the conduct was consensual.

In addition to defenses related to right to counsel, illegal search and seizure, forensic mistakes (flawed DNA tests, for example), and similar defenses, as well as cases where the two people are married, there are several applicable specifically in statutory rape cases that bear noting:

  • Romeo and Juliet Law. Where the minor is at least 15 years of age, and the defendant is under the age of 19 or in high school and is no more than 24 months older than the victim, it is a defense to the charge of sex conduct with a minor.
  • Mistake of Fact. In many states the defendant’s belief that a person with whom they are having sexual relations is legally an adult is irrelevant. Not so in Arizona. If the defendant believed the other person was over 17, and had no reason to believe otherwise, it may provide a defense to a charge of statutory rape, provided that the minor was at least 15 years old.
  • Coerced Confessions. Sex with a minor cases often depend on a confession by the accused. Many times, these confessions are obtained only after intense interrogations. As such, attacking the reliability of a confession is paramount to a solid defense strategy.
  • Illegal Confrontation Calls. In addition to confessions made to police, there is often evidence of a secretly recorded confession made to the victim or their parent. These calls, referred to as confrontation calls, make the caller an agent of the State and as such, make the caller subject to the same laws as the police. Additionally, it is also important to evaluate the legality of obtaining secretly recorded confessions pursuant to individual state laws.
  • Lack of Physical Evidence. There may be no physical evidence of statuary rape, which means that the entire case could hinge on the testimony of a victim or a witness which may be a complete fabrication of the truth.
  • Illegally Obtained Evidence. When police collect physical evidence such as DNA, items of clothing or trace materials they will normally apply for search warrants. The circumstances, legal basis and procedural requirements for a valid search warrant must then be carefully scrutinized by an experienced sex crimes lawyer. The failure to properly obtain physical evidence can lead to valid attacks of the State’s case pursuant to illegal search and seizure laws.
  • False Allegations. As is the case with many sex crimes, often times the accuser or a person close to them has a motivation to falsely accuse. Whether the accusation is coming from an ex-romantic partner or their child, if someone is falsely accused of statutory rape, identifying and investigating the allegation is an integral part of a well-established defense strategy.
  • Incidental Contact. Charges of sex with a minor can often be met by the defense that the contact alleged was not sexual. In particular with small children, there are a host of situations in which incidental contact may be made, but which was never intended to be covered as a sex offense under the law.
  • Witness Credibility.Many statutory rape cases involve victims unknown to the defendant. Establishing and eroding the credibility of an eyewitness or victim’s testimony is an essential a part of an effective defense.
  • Technical Legal Deficiencies.Sexual abuse charges can involve charges that may have been brought under the wrong statute, with the wrong allegations or incorrect aggravating circumstances.

The list of statutory rape defenses outlined above is not meant to be exhaustive but rather to examine some of the more common statutory rape defenses. Other defenses may apply in your case so contacting an experienced sex crimes lawyer will help you better understand the statutory rape defenses that may be applicable in your specific case.

Sex Crimes Lawyer

ARIZONA STATUTORY RAPE AND SEX CRIMES LAWYER

Statutory rape is a serious charge in Arizona. If you have been charged with sex with a minor, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, as well as any statutory rape defenses that may be available to you. If you are facing a statutory rape charge, contact us for a consultation and learn how an experienced sex crimes lawyer can help – the consultation is always confidential and free.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)


1What is the age of consent in Arizona?
Pursuant to ARS 13 1405, the age of consent in Arizona is 18. Anyone engaging in sexual contact with a person under the age of consent runs the risk of being charged with statutory rape. It should be noted, however, that the Romeo and Juliet law may protect those engaging in sex with a minor, provided the accused meets the requirements.

2What is rape and statutory rape?
Rape generally refers to sexual assault and often includes force, a threat of force or having sexual contact with someone who is unconscious. Statutory rape, on the other hand involves an adult engaging in sex with a minor – the offense does not require force or violence of any kind.

3How long is a statutory rape sentence?
The statutory rape sentence depends on 1) the age of the accused; 2) the age of the victim; and 3) any aggravating factors. That said, the statutory rape sentence can range from life in prison to dismissed charges pursuant to the Romeo and Juliet Law.

4What is it called when you have sex with a minor?
When you have sex with a minor it is legally referred to as sexual conduct with a minor pursuant to ARS 13 1405. This crime is often referred to as statutory rape or sex with a minor.

5What is the legal age of consent in Arizona?
The legal age of consent in Arizona is 18. The Arizona age of consent is codified under ARS 13 1405.