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Arizona Age of Consent: What Is Statutory Rape?

rape

Sex crimes are serious matters, and Arizona, like all states, takes these crimes and punishments very seriously. One crime term that is heard a lot in the news is “statutory rape.” If you are being charged with this action, and you are unsure of what does statutory rape means, we are here to explain. 

What Does Statutory Rape Mean?

Statutory rape means you have engaged in sexual activity with an individual who is below the legal age of consent in Arizona. The age of consent in Arizona is 18 years old, and if an individual is younger, they do not have the legal right to consent in sexual activity. Yes, this means that if you are over 19 and your partner is 17, the consensual sexual activities are considered to be statutory rape in the eyes of the law. 

If you are facing prosecution for this crime, you need to understand the law and the potential punishments that you face. 

When bringing the charge of statutory rape against you, the prosecution does not need to prove that sexual assault occurred, which is the unwanted physical contact. The premise of the age of consent and statutory rape law is to protect individuals who are thought of as too young to possess the knowledge and experience needed to provide legal consent for sexual activity. 

Rape vs. Statutory Rape

young victim

The statutory rape definition, by Arizona law, is the sexual contact with an individual who is younger than 18 years old, which is the legal age of consent in Arizona. This is not the same thing as rape (forcible) because there can be consent and no force. 

Rape, on the other hand, lacks consent and/or involves the use of force. Minors and mentally handicapped individuals, by law, are not considered mentally capable of consenting to sexual activity, and the statutory rape laws are in place to protect them. 

Arizona’s Statutory Rape Laws

Under Arizona’s sexual abuse and molestation laws, there are several categories that the law is broken down into. The charge ultimately depends on the ages of both involved parties as well as the type of physical contact in question. 

  • Sexual conduct with a minor — this crime involves sexual intercourse or other sexual contacts between a child (younger than 18) and a defendant of any age. This includes sex between a minor of 15, 16, or 17 and a defendant who is 19 and at least two years older. 
  • Molestation of a child –– sexual contact with a minor (younger than 18) without penetration, between a minor younger than 14, and defendant of any age. 
  • Sexual Abuse –– In Arizona, sexual abuse occurs when consensual sexual contact occurs with a minor under the age of 14 and the contact only involves touching of a female’s breast. 

Punishments:

Because these crimes are especially serious and aimed at protecting young individuals, the punishments are often severe. While the exact classification of the criminal charge (misdemeanor, felony, etc.) is often determined by the nature of the act as well as the ages of the parties involved. Here is a quick breakdown to answer the question of, “is statutory rape a felony?”

  • Sexual conduct with a minor between 15 and 17- class 6 felony
  • Sexual conduct with a minor under the age of 15 – class 2 felony
  • Molestation of a child under 15 – class 2 felony

These felony charges can carry serious consequences if you are convicted, that can range from several years to life in prison, and mandatory life registration as a sex offender. 

Because these are life-impacting consequences that you can be facing with statutory rape charges, having a strong defense is the only chance of fighting the severe prosecution. There are a few different approaches that can be taken as a defense against statutory rape charges. 

  • Marital Exception — this exception allows consensual sex between a married minor and the adult spouse, even though the ages would constitute statutory rape. 
  • “Romeo and Juliet” Exception — this prevents serious criminal charges against teenagers who engage in consensual sex with others who are close in age. 

For example, the parties involved must be less than two years of difference in age, and between 15 to 17. If the defendant is 18 but still in high school, this can apply as well, as long as no more than two years difference in age. 

  • Mistake of Age — while most states do not accept this as an actual defense, it can be used in Arizona. Defendants can claim that they had no reason to know that the victim was underage. It can be claimed that the victim presented themselves as of age older than they actually were and a reasonable person would have believed them. 
  • Proof that no sexual conduct took place. 

In order to be found guilty of statutory rape, the prosecution must be able to prove that the defendant knowingly and intentionally engaged in sexual activity with a minor. It is absolutely imperative for securing an experienced defense lawyer that has not only represented but won cases involving statutory rape charges. 

At the Sonoran Law Group, Ryan M. Garvey has represented numerous clients that have faced statutory rape charges and being a former prosecutor, Mr. Garvey understands the tactics from both sides of the aisle in the courtroom. In order to reduce or eliminate the charges and penalties that you face associated with the charge of statutory rape, contact us today to schedule a complimentary case evaluation.