ARS § 13-1405 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of sexual conduct with a minor. People commit this offense if they intentionally or knowingly have sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with anybody under 18 years of age. A conviction under this law could lead to a Class 2 felony which is punishable by years, if not decades, in state prison.
The language of ARS 13-1405 states that
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.
Note that the age of consent to engage in sexual conduct in Arizona is 18 years of age.
- a 19-year-old having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend.
- a teacher performing oral sex on her 8th-grade student.
- performing fellatio on a 17-year-old girl.
Anyone accused of this offense can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include showing that:
- the alleged victim was not a minor,
- the accused did not engage in a sexual act, and/or
- the defendant was falsely accused.
A Class 2 felony is typically punishable by a prison sentence of up to 12 years.
A Class 6 felony is usually punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “sexual conduct with a minor”?
A person is guilty of sexual conduct with a minor if:
- he/she intentionally or knowingly engages in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with a person, and
- that other person is a minor.[i]
Arizona’s criminal code says that “sexual intercourse” is sexual activity that involves 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.[ii]
“Oral sexual contact” means oral sexual contact with the penis, vulva, or anus.[iii]
A “minor” in Arizona is any person who is under 18 years of age.
In these criminal cases, defendants cannot avoid guilt by alleging that they believed the “victim” was 18 years old or older.[iv]
2. Are there defenses to ARS 13-1405 charges?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to challenge sexual misconduct allegations under this statute. Some of these strategies include showing that:
- the “victim” was 18 years of age or older.
- no sexual activity took place.
- the defendant was falsely accused.
2.1 No minor
Recall that defendants are only guilty of this crime if they have sexual acts with a minor. A defense, then, is for the accused to show that the alleged victim was 18 years of age or older.
2.2 No sexual acts
ARS 13-1405 applies to “sexual intercourse” and “oral sexual contact” with a minor. Further, these phrases have precise legal definitions. Therefore, an accused can contest a charge by showing that he/she did not engage in this type of conduct.
2.3 Falsely accused
Unfortunately, minors falsely accuse people of these types of sex crimes all the time (for example, out of jealousy or revenge). This means defendants can always assert the defense that they were unjustly blamed or that the “victim” lied to law enforcement personnel.
3. What are the penalties for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor?
Sex offenses under ARS 13-1405 are charged as either Class 2 felonies or Class 6 felonies (as opposed to an Arizona misdemeanor) depending on the facts of the case.
Sexual conduct with a minor who is 14 years old or younger is a Class 2 felony and the defendant can be charged under ARS 13-705, the state’s dangerous crimes against children law (DCAC).[v]
Sexual conduct with a minor who is at least 15 years old is a Class 6 felony. The crime is typically punishable by custody in state prison for up to two years. The prison sentence can increase if the offender has prior convictions.
Sexual conduct with a minor who is at least 15 years old is a Class 2 felony if the defendant was in a position of trust.[vi]
“Position of trust” means a person who is or was any of the following:
- the parent of one’s own children,
- the minor’s stepparent, adoptive parent, legal guardian, or foster parent,
- the minor’s teacher,
- the minor’s coach or instructor, and/or
- the minor’s clergyman or priest.[vii]
A felony conviction when the defendant was in a position of trust is punishable by 12-35 years in state prison.
In addition to prison time, a person guilty under ARS 13-1405 must:
- register with the Arizona sex offender registry, per ARS 13-3821, and
- be placed on the Arizona sex offender register.[viii]
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to sexual misconduct with a minor. These are:
- sexual exploitation of a minor – ARS 13-3553,
- luring a minor – ARS 13-3554, and
- molestation of a child – ARS 13-1410.
4.1 Sexual exploitation of a minor – ARS 13-3553
ARS 13-3553 is the Arizona law that says people sexually exploit a minor by knowingly:
- recording or photographing a minor while he/she is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct, or
- distributing, transporting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing, or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct.
Unlike sexual conduct with a minor, a violation of this statute is always a Class 2 felony which could lead to a prison term for the rest of your life.
4.2 Luring a minor – ARS 13-3554
Per ARS 13-3554, luring a minor is a crime where:
- a person offers or solicits sexual conduct with another person, and
- does so knowing that the other person is a minor.
As with an ARS 13-1405 accusation, a defendant can challenge a charge under this statute with a defense that says the “victim” was not a minor.
4.3 Molestation of a child – ARS 13-1410
ARS 13-1410 is the Arizona statute that makes it a crime for a person to:
- intentionally or knowingly engage in sexual contact with another person, and
- do so when the other person is under 15 years of age.
Unlike sexual conduct with a minor, this law focuses on “sexual contact” with a minor and not “sexual intercourse” or “oral sexual contact.”
[iii] ARS 13-1401A1
[v] ARS 13-1405B.
[vi] See same.
[vii] ARS 13-1401A2.