ARS § 13-3613 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. You commit this offense when you engage in an act that tends to debase or injure a child’s morals, health, or welfare.
The crime is sometimes referred to as “contributory delinquency.” A violation of this law is a Class 1 misdemeanor that is punishable with jail time of up to six months.
The exact language of ARS § 13-3613 states that:
A. A person who by any act, causes, encourages or contributes to the dependency or delinquency of a child, as defined by section 13-3612, or who for any cause is responsible therefor is guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
B. The procedure and prosecution shall be the same as in other criminal cases.
C. When the charge concerns the dependency of a child or children, the offense for convenience may be termed contributory dependency, and when the charge concerns the delinquency of a child or children, the offense for convenience may be termed contributory delinquency.
- giving cigarettes and beer to an underage neighbor.
- a parent making lewd phone calls to a daughter’s friend.
- encouraging a 17-year-old student to ditch school and quit a weekend job.
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients defend against delinquency charges. Some common defenses include lawyers showing that:
- the “victim” was not a minor,
- the defendant could not reasonably control a child, and/or
- the defendant was falsely accused.
- custody in jail for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum fine of $2,500.
In this article, our 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 “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”?
Under Arizona’s criminal laws, people are guilty of a crime if they commit an act that encourages or contributes to the dependency or delinquency of a child.i
Some definitions here are helpful:
- a “child” or “minor” means a person under 18 years of age, and
- “delinquency” means any act that tends to debase or injure a child’s morals, health, or welfare.ii
ARS 13-3613 sets forth several definitions of a “dependent person.” Some of the more common definitions include a person under 18 who is:
- found begging,
- vagrant or roaming between homes,
- found with no parent or guardian capable of exercising proper parental control over the dependent person,
- found visiting the company of criminals, vagrants, or prostitutes,
- found living or being in a house of prostitution, or
- a habitual user of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.iii
2. Are there defenses to charges brought under ARS 13-3613?
People can challenge criminal charges brought under this statute with a legal defense/disclaimer. Three common defenses include accused people showing that:
- the “victim” was not a minor.
- they could not reasonably control a minor.
- they were falsely accused.
2.1 No minor
People are only guilty under this law if they contribute to the dependency or delinquency of a minor. Further, a minor is a person under the age of 18. Therefore, a defendant can use the defense that, even if he/she contributed to a person’s delinquency, that person was not under 18 years of age.
2.2 Could not reasonably control a minor
A defendant has to actually take some act or use some encouragement to be found guilty of this law. A person is not guilty if they tried to control a minor reasonably, but the child resisted or ran off on his/her own. Defendants, then, can use the defense that while they tried to control a minor, the minor did not yield.
Consider, for example, the scenario where a group of teens sleep over at someone’s house and then sneak out at night to join a party and drink beer. If the parent whose home the teens slept at took reasonable precautions to prevent them from sneaking out (like making them sleep in an upstairs bedroom), then the parent is not guilty under this law.
2.3 Falsely accused
Unfortunately, minors often falsely accuse others of a crime under this statute. For example, they may do so after getting into a fight with a parent or by seeking revenge against someone who committed domestic violence or child abuse. This means defendants can always challenge a charge under this statute by saying they were unjustly blamed.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of ARS 13-3613 is a Class 1 misdemeanor.iv The crime is punishable by:
- custody in jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to six months, and/or
- a fine of up to $2,500.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to contributing to the delinquency of a minor. These are:
- minor in possession – ARS 4-244(9),
- furnishing alcohol to a minor – ARS 4-241, and/or
- sexual exploitation of a minor (child pornography) – ARS 13-3553.
4.1. Minor in possession – ARS 4-244(9)
Per ARS 4-244(9), minor in possession is the crime where someone under the legal drinking age (for example, under 21) buys, receives, possesses, or consumes an alcoholic beverage.
People that violate this law are usually charged in juvenile court. Please click here for general information about Arizona’s Juvenile Department.
As with violations under ARS 13-3613, violations of this statute are Class 1 misdemeanors.
4.2 Furnishing alcohol to a minor – ARS 4-241
Under ARS 4-241, furnishing alcohol to a minor is the offense where a person sells, furnishes, disposes of, or gives alcohol, or causes it to be sold to, someone under the age of 21.
If a person violates this statute, then the prosecutor can charge that party with both:
- furnishing alcohol to a minor, and
- contributing to the delinquency of a child.
4.3 Sexual exploitation of a minor (child pornography) – ARS 13-3553
Under ARS 13-3553, sexual exploitation of a minor is a crime where people either:
- knowingly record, film, photograph, develop, or duplicate any visual depiction of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, or
- knowingly distribute, transport, receive, sell, purchase, transmit, or possess such depictions.
A violation of this statute is a much more severe crime than a violation of ARS 13-3613. Sexual exploitation of a minor is a Class 2 felony under Arizona law that is punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3613A.
- ARS 13-3612(1).
- ARS 13-3612(3).
- ARS 13-3613A.