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Sexual Abuse Charges in Arizona

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Choosing an Experienced Sexual Abuse Lawyer in Arizona

Being charged in Arizona with sexual abuse can be devastating. If you are convicted of this offense, you can expect a lengthy prison sentence, fines, mandatory sex offender registration, and other penalties. Being accused of sex abuse is a frightening and stigmatizing experience for most people.

Talking to an experienced sexual abuse lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta can help you understand your legal options and the available defense strategies.

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Charges of Sexual Abuse in Arizona

Understanding Arizona Sexual Abuse Charges

Sex abuse is prohibited in ARS 13-1404. Under this law, this offense happens when someone knowingly or intentionally sexually contacts another person who is 15 or older without their consent. It also can be charged when someone sexually contacts the breast of a female who is under age 15.

Sexual contact is defined in ARS 13-1401 as including any indirect or direct manipulation, touching, or fondling of the anus, a female’s breast, or the genitals of another person’s body with an object or any part of the perpetrator’s body.

Sexual contact also includes making someone else engage in this type of contact. The types of actions prohibited under the sex abuse statute are commonly referred to as fondling.

Similar to other felony sex offenses in Arizona, a sex crimes conviction can result in lifelong consequences. You can continue facing the repercussions of a conviction long after you have been discharged from your sentence. Being charged with such a serious offense should prompt you to get help from an experienced sexual abuse lawyer at Colburn Hintze Maletta as soon as possible.

A refusal can result in a 12-month suspension of your license that will be consecutive to any license suspension you might receive for a DUI conviction. Refusing to submit to a blood test can also be used against you as evidence at a DUI trial.

The blood test used to test for marijuana will determine whether certain THC metabolites are present in your blood. If active metabolites are identified in your blood, you can be charged for drugged driving. You can also be charged with this offense if you are impaired to the slightest degree. This includes any impairment of your motor coordination as indicated by erratic driving, slurred speech, trouble walking or standing, and failing the roadside tests administered by the officer.

Potential Penalties for Sexually Abusing Someone

The penalties for sexually abusing someone will depend on how old the victim is and your criminal history.

Victims 15 years old and Above

If the victim is at least the age of 15 years old, it is a Class 5 felony with the following potential penalties for the first conviction under ARS 13-702 and ARS 13-801:

  • Prison ranging from a mitigated sentence of 0.5 years up to a maximum sentence of 2.5 years
  • Felony fine of a maximum of $150,000

Under ARS 13-3821, you will also be required to register as a sex offender if the victim was younger than 18.

If you are convicted of sexually abusing a victim 15 or older as a second offense, the prison sentence will range from a minimum of one up to 3.75 years.

If you have two predicate felonies, a third conviction for sexually abusing a victim 15 or older will expose you to a prison sentence ranging from a minimum of 3 years up to a maximum of 7.5 years.

Victim under the age of 15 years old

If the victim is under the age of 15, a special sentencing structure will apply. It will then be classified as a Dangerous Crime Against Children (DCAC) as a Class 3 felony under ARS 13-705, which carries the following penalties for a first offense:

  • A minimum prison sentence of 2.5 years up to a maximum of 7.5 years
  • Felony fine of up to $150,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender under ARS 13-3821

If you are convicted of this offense as a dangerous crime against children and have a prior felony conviction that can be alleged, your penalty range will increase to a minimum sentence of 8 years up to 22 years in prison.

When you are convicted of a dangerous crime against children, you must serve all of your prison sentences before you are eligible for release.

While a conviction for this crime is not the most serious felony sex offense, the penalties are still severe. If the victim is younger than age 18, your sex offender registry requirement will last for life.

Being a registered sex offender will cause other consequences, including trouble finding and keeping employment, difficulty finding a place to live, and problems in your personal relationships. You might also struggle to be approved for credit, lose any professional licenses you might hold, and be forbidden to have contact with any person younger than age 18, including your children.

To have contact with a minor, you will first need to gain your probation officer’s approval after undergoing rigorous tests.

Potential Defenses Against Sex Abuse Charges

Being charged with a crime is not evidence in itself that can be used against you. Instead, the prosecutor will be required to prove each element of a sexual abuse charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt.

To prove that you are guilty of sexually abusing a victim, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:

  • You knowingly and intentionally sexually contacted the anus, female breast, or genitals of another person over the age of 15, and
  • You knew the victim did not consent; or
  • You knowingly and intentionally sexually contacted the female breast, and
  • The victim was younger than age 15.

If the prosecutor cannot prove each of the elements against you beyond a reasonable doubt, you cannot be found guilty of this offense.

Under ARS 13-1407, a few statutory defenses to charges under ARS 13-1404 are listed, depending on whether the victim was 15, 16, or 17 years of age. You can defend against this charge if you had no knowledge of the alleged victim’s age and could not have reasonably known that he or she was a minor. It is a defense to the charge if he or she otherwise consented to the sexual contact.

Arizona generally considers people under age 18 incapable of consent. However, the general rule does not apply when the defendant did not know that a victim was younger than 18 and the victim otherwise consented to the contact.

This type of situation frequently occurs when someone between the ages of 15 and 17 lies about their age.

A second statutory defense is available when the victim was between the ages of 15 and 17, and the contact occurred when the accused is still a high school student or younger than age 19, as long as the accused is not more than two years older than the victim, and he or she otherwise consented.

For victims of any age, another statutory defense applies when you had no sexual motivation when the contact happened. For example, this might apply if you accidentally touched the victim.

There are also other potential defenses that might be available to you beyond the statutory defenses. Some of these might include the following:

  • False accusation
  • Misidentification
  • Alibi
  • Coerced or non-Mirandized statements
  • Denial of your right to an attorney

In some cases, an estranged spouse will accuse someone of sexually abusing their child during a divorce. In this type of situation, your attorney will carefully review how the report was made and any forensic interviews that might have been conducted with the alleged victim. Cross-examining the victim and the reporting party can help to expose a lack of credibility and establish your defense.

In fondling cases involving strangers, misidentification can occur. This generally happens when police use a faulty lineup procedure that leads the victim to choose a specific person out of the lineup.

Your attorney will carefully review the lineup procedures used and challenge them if they were done incorrectly.

If you were somewhere else when the alleged touching occurred, you might have an alibi defense. To raise this type of defense, you will need to present credible witnesses to attest to your whereabouts. Your attorney might also be able to find video evidence or use cell phone data to show that you could not possibly have sexually abused the victim when the incident allegedly occurred.

Your Constitutional Rights if Charged with a Sex Crime

In all criminal cases, the police must not use intimidation or coercion to try to get defendants to make inculpatory statements. They must also read defendants their Miranda warnings before they subject them to custodial interrogations. If you made incriminating statements after the police violated your Miranda rights or engaged in intimidation, your attorney will review the video from your interrogation and file a motion to challenge the admissibility of any statements you subsequently made.

Similarly, you have the right to ask for an attorney. If you did ask for a lawyer, the police should have immediately stopped questioning you. If the police persisted in questioning you anyway, any statements you made could be suppressed.

Your defense attorney will also carefully analyze the police reports to look for misstatements and other problems. This can help your attorney to cross-examine the police officer and demonstrate his or her lack of credibility when false statements were included in his or her report.

Get Immediate Help from Colburn Hintze Maletta

If you face charges of sexually abusing someone under ARS 13-1404, it is critical for you to find an experienced sexual abuse lawyer as soon as possible. The sex crime defense lawyers at Colburn Hintze Maletta understand the high stakes involved with sex offense cases and are prepared to fight for your freedom and rights.

We are here to help you through these potentially tough times and will work aggressively and are determined to protect your freedom. Call us today for a completely confidential, thorough and free case evaluation at (602) 825-2500.

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