ARS 13-1410 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of molestation of a child. People commit this offense by intentionally or knowingly engaging in or causing a person to engage in sexual contact with a child who is under 15 years of age. A conviction under this law is a Class 2 felony punishable with prison time of up to 35 years.
The language of ARS 13-1410 states that: “A person commits molestation of a child by 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.”
- having sexual contact with a 14-year-old neighbor.
- persuading a 12-year-old girl to masturbate.
- a teacher fondling a 13-year-old student’s penis.
Defendants facing criminal charges of child molestation can challenge them with a legal defense. A few common defenses include accused people showing that:
- they did not engage in sexual contact,
- the alleged victim was 15 years or older,
- they were falsely accused.
Violations of ARS 13-1410 are Class 2 felonies under Arizona law (as opposed to Class 2 misdemeanors).
A first conviction of the crime can lead to a prison sentence of up to 24 years. A second or subsequent conviction can lead to a prison sentence of up to 35 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 “molestation of a child”?
Persons are guilty of child molestation charges when:
- they intentionally or knowingly engage in, or cause a person to engage in, sexual contact with a child, and
- the Arizona child is under 15 years of age.
The language of this statute specifically states that it is not an offense if an accused engages in, or causes a person to engage in, sexual contact with a female’s breast.
“Sexual contact,” as used under this law, means any direct or indirect touching, fondling, or manipulating of any part of the genitals or anus by any part of the body or by any object or causing a person to engage in such contact.
This type of sexual conduct is different than “sexual intercourse.” The latter 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.
Note that while prosecutors do not have to prove that a defendant acted out of sexual motivation in these criminal cases, a defendant can raise this as a valid legal defense.
2. What are the best defenses to ARS 13-1410?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to defend against Arizona sex crimes. A few common defenses/disclaimers in a child molestation case include showing that:
- there was no sexual contact.
- the victim was 15 years of age or older.
- the defendant was falsely accused.
2.1 No sexual contact
Recall that people are only guilty on a charge of child molestation if they engaged in “sexual contact.” This means it is always a defense for an accused to show that he/she did not make sexual contact with the alleged victim.
2.2 Fifteen or older
Also recall that a prosecutor must show that a “victim” was under the age of 15 to secure a conviction in these criminal cases. A defense, then, is for a defendant to assert that he made sexual contact with a person that was 15 years old or older.
2.3 Falsely accused
Unfortunately, minors make false statements and false allegations regarding molestation all of the time (for example, out of revenge or jealousy). Therefore, an accused can try to raise the defense that he/she was unjustly blamed. An alleged victim might be able to take a polygraph test to help boost his/her credibility.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of ARS 13-1410 is a Class 2 felony. The crime is punishable per ARS 13-705, Arizona’s statute on dangerous crimes against children (“DCAC”).
Under this law, a first-time molestation conviction is punishable by up to 24 years in state prison.
A second or subsequent conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to 35 years.
In some cases, a person sentenced to prison time may be eligible for early release.
In addition to prison time, a person guilty under ARS 13-1410 must:
- register as a sex offender, per ARS 13-3821, and
- be placed on the Arizona sex offender register.
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three offenses related to child molestation. These are:
- sexual conduct with a minor – ARS 13-1405,
- luring a minor – ARS 13-3554, and
- sexual exploitation of a minor – ARS 13-3553.
4.1 Sexual conduct with a minor – ARS 13-1405
ARS 13-1405 is the Arizona statute that says people commit the crime of sexual conduct with a minor if:
- they intentionally or knowingly engage in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with a person, and
- that person is a minor.
Unlike with child molestation, “sexual contact” is not an issue under this statute. Rather, it focuses on sexual intercourse and oral sex.
4.2 Luring a minor – ARS 13-3554
Per ARS 13-3554, people commit this offense when:
- they lure (or offer or ask for) sexual conduct with another person, and
- they do so knowing, or having reason to know, that the other person is a minor.
While child molestation applies to children under the age of 15, this statute applies to people under the age of 18.
4.3 Sexual exploitation of a minor (child pornography) – ARS 13-3553
ARS 13-3553 is the Arizona law on child pornography. It says people sexually exploit a minor by knowingly:
- recording or photographing a minor while he/she is engaged in sexual conduct, or
- distributing, transporting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting, possessing, or exchanging any visual depiction in which a minor is engaged in the exploitive exhibition (for instance, nudity) or other sexual conduct.
Unlike with child molestation, a person is guilty under this statute even without having sexual contact with the “victim.” The recording or the visual depictions are the controlling factors.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
 Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1410A. See also State v. Morgan, 248 Ariz. 322 (2020).
 A.R.S. 13-1410A.
 ARS 13-1401A3a.
 ARS 13-1401A4.
 State v. Holle, 240 Ariz. 300 (2016).
 ARS 13-1410B.
 ARS 13-705D.
 See same.
 ARS 13-3821.