If you have been charged with Sexual Abuse, or you have questions about how a knowledgable Criminal Defense Attorney can make sure your rights are upheld, contact Burges McCowan ASAP for a free consultation.
In Arizona, it is especially important to stay informed about anything that falls under the umbrella of Sex Crimes, since the penalties here are some of the harshest in the nation. And even once you've served your time or probation, the lasting repercussions could have drastic effects on your life for a long, long time. For example, you may be forced to register as a Sex Offender, and public stigma associated with this type of crime can be brutal. By making sure you have excellent representation throughout the process, you can lessen or eliminate these repercussions.
While there are several statutes dealing with Sex Crimes in Arizona, this blog post will focus on ARS 13-1404, Sexual Abuse. You can read more about Sex Crimes felonies here, where I go into detail about several other statutes.
What is considered Sexual Abuse?
Sexual Abuse is a very serious crime. It is charged as a felony, though there are varying degrees of penalties depending on the age of the victim and the extent of the abuse. Sexual Abuse is having sexual contact with a person who is 15 years old or older, without his or her consent. Essentially, sexual contact is touching, fondling, or manipulating someone's private parts. People usually refer to this behavior as "petting".
Now if this activity is with a minor under 15, it is called Molestation (see ARS 13-1410), which is punished more harshly. Unless the only sexual contact with the minor under 15 was of the breast (if the minor is a female). If the only sexual contact is with the breast then it is not considered molestation but instead is considered sexual abuse.
Is Consent a Defense?
Yes, but with some exceptions. If the person is a minor (between 15 and 18 years old), and the accused was in a position of trust to that minor, then consent is not a defense. So what is a position of trust? Usually what you'd expect. Teachers, priests, coaches, parents. It also includes the boyfriend or girlfriend of a parent.
What are some other Defenses?
If the person is between 15 and 18 years old, the accused can assert that he or she did not know the person was a minor. However, that assertion has to be deemed reasonable. If the person was using a fake ID and you met him or her in a bar, it is more reasonable than if you picked the person up from in front of a high school.
Another defense is when both the accused and the minor (between 15 and 18 years old) are close in age (within 24 months). This protects the situation where a 19 year old and a 17 year old are in a consensual relationship.
What are the penalties for Sexual Abuse?
With victims over the age of 15, it is a class 5 felony facing:
- Possible registration as a sex offender,
- Six months to two years in prison, and/or
- Probation (with jail time of up to one year)
With victims under the age of 15, is is a class 3 felony and a Dangerous Crime Against Children (DCAC) facing:
- Mandatory prison between two and a half (2.5) and five (5) years.
- 100% of time must be served (no early parole or release).
- Registration as a sex offender.
What should you do if you're accused of Sexual Abuse?
As with any other crime, the very first thing you can do to protect your own rights is to invoke your right to remain silent. Law enforcement officials are trained to get you to talk, and everything you say will be used against you. Instead, ask to have an attorney present for all questioning. This is your constitutional right, and will help make sure your rights are upheld. Also, don't talk to your accuser in any way, especially not on the telephone. In the state of Arizona, it is perfectly legal to record a phone conversation without permission.
But the single most important thing you can do in setting up a good defense is to hire an attorney who can make sure you have someone on your side. Contact Burges McCowan to hear more about how he can help you navigate the legal process.