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Sexual Abuse Charges in Arizona

Sexual abuse charges in Arizona are treated very seriously. A conviction for this offense can result in a long prison sentence, stiff fines, mandatory registration as a sex offender, and other potential penalties. These types of allegations are understandably frightening for most people who are accused.

The experienced sex crimes attorneys at Gurion Legal have compiled information about this offense, the penalties, and some potential defenses that might be raised.

What is the Definition of Sexual Abuse?

Under ARS 13-1404, police can charge someone with sexually abusing another when they intentionally or knowingly sexually contact someone else without consent who is at least 15 years old. This offense also includes sexually contacting a female’s breast when the female is 14 or younger.

In ARS 13-1401, sexual contact is defined to include any direct or indirect fondling, touching, or manipulation of a female’s breasts or another person’s anus or genitals with any part of your body or an object. Sexual contact also includes situations in which a perpetrator causes another person to engage in this type of behavior.

However, ARS 13-1401 states that sexually contacting someone does not include reasonable and normal indirect or direct manipulation or touching provided by a caretaker while performing their duties or while interacting with a vulnerable adult or minor.

Like other felony sex crimes in Arizona, a sex abuse conviction can cause lifelong collateral consequences even after you have completed your sentence. Sex crimes carry a significant stigma and can interfere with your relationships, career, and finances.

Penalties for Allegedly Sexually Abusing a Person Over the Age of 15

If you are charged with sexually abusing someone who is 15 or older, this offense is classified as a Class 5 felony. The first conviction of this offense will result in the following penalties under ARS 13-702 and 13-801:

  • Prison from a mitigated six months to an aggravated 2.5 years
  • Maximum fine of $150,000 plus an 84% surcharge

If the victim is under age 18, sex offender registration will be mandatory per ARS 13-3821.

For a second conviction of sexually abusing someone who is at least 15 years old, the prison sentence will range from a mitigated sentence of one year to an aggravated sentence of 3.75 years.

If you have two prior allegeable felonies, a third conviction involving a victim who is at least 15 years old will result in a prison sentence of a mitigated three years up to an aggravated 7.5 years.

Penalties for Allegedly Sexually Abusing Someone Who is 14 or Younger

Sexually abusing a child who is 14 or younger is a dangerous crime against children or DCAC and a Class 3 felony. DCACs have enhanced penalties under ARS 13-705. For the first conviction involving someone ages 14 or younger, the following penalties will apply:

  • Mandatory prison ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 years
  • Fines of a maximum of $150,000 plus an 84% surcharge
  • Mandatory sex offender registration

If you have one prior allegeable felony and are convicted of a DCAC, the prison sentence for sexually abusing a minor younger than age 18 will be eight to 22 years.

All people who are convicted of DCACs are not eligible for early release on parole or suspended sentences. This means that you will have to serve the entire sentence you are ordered to serve by the judge before you get out of prison.

Sexually abusing a minor under the age of 18 will also result in lifetime sex offender registration. Registering as a sex offender can cause other problems in your life. You might lose any professional license you might hold and be fired from your job.

Having a felony sex crime on your record will also make it more difficult for you to find a new job or a place to live. This type of offense can also cause difficulties in your interpersonal relationships and cause you to lose friends.

You might also be forbidden from having any contact with people who are under the age of 18, including your minor children, without your probation officer’s approval upon completing several tests.

Common Defenses to Sex Abuse Allegations

It is important to note that criminal charges are not evidence and cannot be used by prosecutors to secure a conviction. Instead, the prosecutor is required to meet their burden of proof to prove all the elements of a sex abuse offense beyond a reasonable doubt.

The following elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor in your case:

  • You intentionally and knowingly sexually contacted a female’s breast, genitals, or anus for a victim who was 15 or older; and
  • You knew that the person you contacted did not consent; or
  • You intentionally and knowingly sexually contacted a female’s breast, and
  • She was 14 or younger.

You cannot be found guilty if the prosecutor cannot prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense attorney will challenge witnesses and evidence against you to hold the prosecutor to their burden.

ARS 13-1407 includes several statutory defenses against charges filed under Arizona Revised Statute 13-1404.

These defenses apply when the alleged victim is between the ages of 15 and 17 but do not apply to victims younger than 15.

One of these defenses is a lack of knowledge about the victim’s age. If you did not know that the victim was 15, 16, or 17 and could not reasonably have known, your lack of knowledge is a defense to this charge as long as the alleged victim otherwise consented to your sexual contact. This situation commonly occurs when a minor who is 15, 16, or 17 lies about their age.

Arizona also has a Romeo and Juliet law found in ARS 13-1407(E). Under this law, you can defend against this charge if all of the following apply:

  • You are younger than 19 or still in high school.
  • You and the alleged victim have an age difference of fewer than 24 months.
  • The alleged victim otherwise consented.

Regardless of the victim’s age, it is a defense to this charge if you were not sexually motivated at the time of the contact. For example, if you accidentally brushed against the victim’s breasts, your lack of sexual motivation is a defense.

Some other possible defenses might also be raised, including the following:

  • You were falsely accused.
  • You were misidentified.
  • You had an alibi and could not possibly have committed the offense.
  • You made incriminating statements after being coerced or after the police failed to Mirandize you.
  • Your request for an attorney was denied.

Despite portrayals in the media, false accusations of sex offenses sometimes occur. This might involve someone falsely accusing their estranged spouse or former partner of sexually abusing their shared child to try to get the upper hand in a child custody or divorce case.

If this has happened to you, your lawyer will analyze how and when the report was made, review any forensic interviews, and look through the divorce or child custody paperwork. They might challenge the reporting witness and the alleged victim to demonstrate the incredibility of their statements.

When the case involves a stranger as a victim, it is possible to be misidentified. Misidentifications often happen when police use improper lineup procedures, causing the victim to pick one person even if they are unsure whether the perpetrator is part of the lineup. Your lawyer can file a motion to challenge the identification procedure in your case.

An alibi defense can be raised when you can show that you were somewhere else and could not have possibly committed the offense at the place and time where it allegedly occurred. For example, you might present video evidence, plane tickets, cell phone data, and credible witnesses to show that you were not present and did not sexually abuse the victim.

During any criminal investigation, the police must avoid violating your constitutional rights. They are not allowed to use coercive or intimidating tactics to attempt to get suspects to make incriminating statements. They must also read the Miranda warnings to defendants before interrogating them, and they must immediately stop questioning them when the defendants assert their constitutional rights to remain silent or to have an attorney to represent them.

If the officers in your case violated your rights against self-incrimination and coercion or to have an attorney, your attorney can file an evidentiary motion asking the court to suppress any incriminating statements you might have subsequently made and any evidence the police seized as a result. Sexual Abuse, charged for a violation of Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 13-1404 is a serious allegation with potentially serious consequences.

If the State charges you with Sexual Abuse then it is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:

(1) Intentionally or knowingly engaged in sexual contact with a person who is 15 years or older without consent of that person


(2) Intentionally or knowingly engaged in sexual contact with a person under 15 years of age if the contact involved only the female breast.

“Sexual Contact” is defined by A.R.S. § 13-1401(3) as “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”

“Without consent” is defined by A.R.S. § 13-1401(7) as including those situations where the victim is coerced by the immediate or threatened use of force against them or their property; where the victim is incapable of consent due to mental disorder, defect, drugs, alcohol, sleep, or any other impairment of cognition and the defendant knew or should have known about it; the victim is intentionally deceived as to the nature of the act; the victim is intentionally deceived to erroneously believe that the defendant is their spouse.

Punishment for Child Abuse

Like most sex charges, the punishment for Sexual Abuse depends on the age of the victim.

 If the victim is 18 years of age or older, then Sexual Abuse is a Class 5 felony and carries a prison range of 0.5 to 2.5 years in prison, the possibility of lifetime probation, and possible registration as a sex offender.

If the victim is between 15 and 17 years of age, then Sexual Abuse is a Class 5 Felony and carries a prison range of 0.5 to 2.5 years in prison, possibility of lifetime probation, and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

If the victim is younger than 15 then Sexual Abuse is a Class 3 Felony and carries a prison range of 2.5 to 7.5 years, possibility of lifetime probation, and mandatory registration as a sex offender.

Regardless of the age, a conviction for Sexual Abuse for a violation of A.R.S. § 13-1404 would lead to a permanent felony for a sex offense and all of the secondary effects that come with that, including difficulty obtaining work, loans, security clearances, and the loss of civil rights and second amendment rights.

What Can Be Done and What Defenses Are Available

If you are accused of committing Sexual Abuse the first step is to contact an attorney.  You should never speak to law enforcement about these allegations with speaking to an attorney first.  Law enforcement is there to get convictions, not to get your story.  They will twist your words and make you seem guilty, even if you are not.  If you are questioned, invoke your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney.

A skilled sex crimes attorney can use many tools to make the State unable to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • An independent investigation to show why the victim and other witnesses might lie
  • Identifying patterns of prior false reports by the victim
  • Ensuring that your Miranda rights and right to counsel were respected by the police

Other tools can be used to reduce the damage of these cases and build mitigation:

  • Risk assessments
  • Child sexual abuse experts
  • Mitigation specialists

Allegations of a sex crime can alter your life forever.  A conviction for a sex crime can destroy your life.  Don’t face these allegations by yourself.  Skilled, aggressive representation can be the difference between freedom and incarceration.

Speak Immediately to Gurion Legal About Charges of Sex Abuse

If you are charged with sexually abusing another person under ARS 13-1404, you should retain a sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. The criminal defense attorneys at Gurion Legal have substantial experience defending people against serious felony offenses, including sex crimes.

We are available now to speak with you regarding allegations of sex abuse and how our legal team can fight for you.

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