The sexual exploitation of a minor is a very serious crime. If convicted, you could face years in prison, devastating restitution orders, and a loss of reputation from which you may never recover.
The American legal system holds that all defendants are innocent unless proven guilty. As such, you have the right to hire a Phoenix sex crime lawyer to defend you and your rights in a court of law. A sex crimes lawyer could present a strong defense to the case against you.
Arizona law defines sexual exploitation of a minor as any instance when an individual knowingly creates, possesses, or distributes content “in which a minor is engaged in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct.” For the purposes of this law, a minor is anyone under the age of 15.
Unlike sexual abuse, where the defendant must personally harm another, sexual exploitation of a minor only requires that you allegedly contributed or sought access to audiovisual footage depicting such abuse.
Under Arizona law, if the footage contains any of the following, it qualifies as the sexual exploitation of a minor:
The law classifies sexual exploitation of a minor as a class 2 felony. This makes it more serious than class 3, 4, 5, and 6 felonies, but less serious than a class 1 felony, as listed by the Arizona Legislature. Class 2 felonies are the second most serious type of crime on the books, so they carry very high penalties.
According to Arizona law, sexual exploitation of a minor is also considered a “dangerous crime against children.” That means anyone convicted of this crime would not be eligible for the lighter penalties (for example, probation instead of prison) allowed by Page 1 of the Arizona Courts’ “Criminal Code Sentencing Provisions.”
The penalties you could face depend on whether you have any prior convictions for the same or a similar offense. They will also depend on whether the state charges you with “commercial” sexual exploitation of a minor. Commercial exploitation, when you allegedly produce or distribute the offending content for profit, is a more serious crime than exploitation by itself.
Arizona law states that, if convicted of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor for the first time, you could face:
Any prison term must run consecutively; meaning if you are convicted with possessing multiple images you must serve at least 10 years per image.
If this is your second or third offense, the prison sentences go up to:
By contrast, a first-time conviction for (non-commercial) sexual exploitation of a minor carries somewhat lighter, but still onerous, prison sentences.
If you are convicted more than once, you may face life imprisonment, and you may not be eligible for parole or a pardon. In short, if you get convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor, you cannot avoid going to prison.
Restitution is money paid to the victim of a crime by the convicted perpetrator. Per the Arizona Attorney General, the court could order you to pay for whatever it deems appropriate, such as the survivor’s emergency relocation costs, medical expenses, and other items.
The Court may monitor you and make sure you comply with the restitution order.
The penalties described above could have a detrimental effect on all aspects of your life. Your life would never be the same due to:
You could spend at least a decade—possibly several decades—behind bars.
Prison can be a brutal environment. Spending any amount of time there, let alone decades, would change your life irreparably.
Prisoners look down on those convicted of child sex crimes. While in prison, you could face numerous threats to your safety, and the prison system may do very little to protect you.
Being incarcerated for exploiting a minor may result in:
Going to prison for such an extended period would mark the end of your career. You could not keep the job you have now. Even upon your release, many employers are reluctant to hire individuals with a conviction on their record, leading to long-term economic hardship.
If ordered to pay restitution, the financial stress your family faces could be even greater. They may struggle to pay bills, and they may have to go into debt or reduce their standard of living.
Sex offenses are among the most stigmatized crimes in America today. When the victim is a child, the stigma is even greater.
Arizona law requires everyone convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor to register as a sex offender.
Per the Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS), this would mean:
When and if your neighbors, employer, landlord, or other parties find out about your conviction, their behavior toward you may change. They may even try to deprive you of employment, education, or a place to live. A sex offense conviction would follow you for the rest of your life.
Facing any charge, especially one as serious as the sexual exploitation of a minor, can be terrifying. It may help to remember that you are not in this alone. An attorney with experience in sex offense cases can represent your case and make sure the legal system treats you fairly.
They may serve you by:
Your lawyer may first start by investigating the allegations against you.
Your lawyer will not rely on what the police or anyone else has already found or decided. Their only job is to find a way to keep you from being convicted.
If the evidence your lawyer finds is particularly strong, or if the case against you is particularly weak, a judge may agree to dismiss the charges against you completely. The prosecuting attorney may also elect to dismiss charges if they realize they have no chance of winning in court.
This may happen if your attorney learns:
Alternatively, the judge or the prosecution may be open to reducing the charges. In this situation, your lawyer tries to persuade the judge to reduce your charge from a class 2 felony to, for instance, a class 3 felony or lower. This may happen if your lawyer finds evidence that weakens (but does not fully deflect) the prosecution’s charge.
With a lesser charge, even if you were convicted, you could:
Plea deals give the prosecutor a guaranteed conviction. Based on your situation, your lawyer may negotiate a deal, or the prosecution may offer you one.
If you accept a plea deal, the prosecution would reduce the charge in exchange for you agreeing to plead guilty. Unlike a simple charge reduction, a plea deal enables you to avoid a lengthy, expensive, and potentially traumatizing courtroom battle. You would simply accept a conviction, serve your sentence, and move on.
If negotiations are unsuccessful or unfeasible, the case against you will move to trial. Your attorney would then represent you in court.
The trial process can be quite long and include some or all of the following steps:
The courtroom is a very rigid, unforgiving environment. A single clerical error or missed deadline could endanger your defense. For this reason, you should consider hiring an attorney rather than attempting to represent yourself.
In addition to dealing with all of the paperwork and the other parties involved in the case, your attorney has one more job: to support you however they can.
Being charged with the sexual exploitation of a minor is a stressful, frightening experience. Trying to manage your own case would be time-consuming, and there is a significant risk of making a mistake that critically weakens your defense.
There are many things you should do (and avoid) if you’re facing sex abuse charges. Some considerations include:
You do not have to go through this hard time alone. An experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer can do it all for you, allowing you to focus on your own mental health and spend time with loved ones.
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