As kids start to get older, they may begin exploring romantic relationships with their peers. Additionally, many teens and young adults engage in sexual relationships with people around their same age.
Arizona’s statutory rape laws make it a felony for anyone to engage in sexual intercourse with any person under eighteen. But what about other teenagers? Like many other states, Arizona has what we call a Romeo and Juliet law. Romeo and Juliet laws allow young people within a certain age range to engage in consensual sexual activity without prosecution.
Statutory rape convictions in Arizona could significantly impact a person’s life. They would be charged with a felony, sentenced to years of jail time, and put on the sex offender registry. If you face accusations of sexual conduct with a minor, contact an attorney. The Phoenix criminal defense attorneys at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group are here to help. Call our law office at (602) 910-4040 to schedule a consultation with one of our defense lawyers regarding your case.
What Is a Romeo and Juliet Law?
Many people are probably familiar with the story of Romeo and Juliet. It is a tragic story of two teenage lovers, torn apart by a family rivalry. The laws that share the same name as the Shakespearean play have nothing to do with a family feud. However, they have everything to do with teenagers and young people who are in a consensual relationship with one another.
Romeo and Juliet laws aim to protect consensual relationships between minors and young adults who are close in age. If teenagers above a certain age want to engage in sexual intercourse with one another, they should be able to do so without fearing criminal charges.
Does Arizona Have a Romeo and Juliet Law?
Yes, Arizona has a Romeo and Juliet law, but we don’t call it the “Romeo and Juliet” law. It allows young adults close in age to engage in consensual sexual activities. This is the case even if they are under the age of consent.
ARS § 13-1407(E): Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet Law
Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet law is outlined in ARS § 13-1407. It lists the affirmative defenses against certain sexual crimes involving minors. Section E lists that a person who is 15-17 years old can engage in a consensual sexual relationship with someone who is under the age of 19, or is attending high school, and is no more than 2 years older than them.
The age gap outlined in this law is very narrow. It only allows teens to have consensual sex with someone who is under 2 years older or 2 years younger. Additionally, this Romeo and Juliet statute only applies to minors who are 15 years old or older. If two teens who are a year apart in age have consensual sex, but the youngest of the two is only 14 years old, the older teen could face criminal charges.
What Is the Age of Consent in Arizona?
The age of consent in Arizona is 18 years old. This means anyone 18 or older is not a minor and can engage in consensual sex with other adults.
What Are Statutory Rape Laws in Arizona?
Arizona has statutory rape defined in ARS § 13-1405. Arizona’s statutory rape laws make it illegal to have sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with someone under 18. Statutory rape is a form of sexual assault, which is any non-consensual sexual contact or activity.
Sexual contact with a minor is always considered non-consensual. This is because minors are not old enough to give consent (hence the name “age of consent”). Romeo and Juliet consent laws are among the few defenses people can use when accused of statutory rape in Arizona.
Burden of Proof for Statutory Rape
In a criminal case, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution. This means that the state has to prove to the court that the person accused of breaking the law actually committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In a statutory rape case, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant engaged in unlawful sexual intercourse with the alleged victim, who was a minor at the time of the crime.
Statutory rape crimes can have serious consequences. If you face accusations of having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, the Phoenix criminal defense lawyers at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group are here to help. Our skilled team of attorneys will evaluate the facts of your case and develop a strong defense against the state’s accusations. Call us at (602) 910-4040 to schedule a consultation with one of our professionals today.
Penalties in Arizona for Sex Crimes Involving Minors
Arizona has laws against adults engaging in any sexual activity with minors, including sexual intercourse, sexual contact, and solicitation of a sexual act. Below are the names and statutes of some of these crimes, as well as the penalties someone could face if convicted of any of these crimes. Remember that we separate felonies by classes, or degrees, with a class 1 felony being the highest and carrying the harshest penalties.
Sexual Conduct with a Minor
Any sexual conduct with a minor, also known as statutory rape, is defined in ARS § 13-1405 as any unlawful sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent in Arizona. Sexual intercourse is any form of sexual penetration or masturbatory contact with another person’s genitals. This includes acts like oral sex. The penalties for sexual conduct with a minor vary, depending on how young the child was at the time of the incident.
If the child was under the age of 15, then the crime would be a second-degree felony (or class 2 felony). Suppose the child was between 12 and 14. The accused could face 13-27 years in prison. If the child was younger than 12, the person accused could face life in prison, or 13-27 years in prison, if they do not receive a life sentence.
If the child was between 15 and 18, the crime would be a class 6 felony, and the accused could face 6 months to 2 years in prison. Additionally, if the child was between the ages of 15 and 18, and the person accused of the crime was a trusted person in the victim’s life, like a parent, teacher, or relative, then the crime would be a class 2 felony, and they could face 4-12.5 years in prison.
Sexual Abuse of a Minor
Sexual abuse of a minor is outlined in ARS § 13-1404. It involves intentionally engaging in sexual contact with someone over the age of 15 without their consent, and engaging in sexual contact with anyone under the age of 15, if the contact only involves the female breasts. In this case, sexual contact is any touching, fondling, or manipulating the breasts of a person by any body part or object.
If the child was over the age of 15, the crime is a class 5 felony. The defendant could face 2.5-7.5 years in prison. If the child was under the age of 15, then the crime would be a class 3 felony. The defendant may face 5-15 years in prison. It’s not an affirmative defense if the victim was 15-17 years old and the offender was in a position of trust.
Molestation of a Child
Molestation of a child is listed under Arizona Revised Statute § 13-1410. It’s described as engaging in sexual contact with a child under the age of 15, excluding contact with female breasts. It is a class 2 felony, and the person accused could face 10-24 years in prison if convicted.
Unlawful Age Misrepresentation
Unlawful age misrepresentation is listed under ARS § 13-3561. It occurs when someone communicates with a minor and knowingly misrepresents their age to engage in sexual activity with them.
Even if the person they communicate with is not a minor, the defendant can still be convicted. Additionally, Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet law does not protect people pretending to be minors.
Unlawful age misrepresentation is a class 3 felony, punishable by 5-15 years in prison. In certain cases, someone convicted of unlawful age misrepresentation may be eligible for early release under ARS § 41-1604.07.
What Are Legal Defenses for Statutory Rape Charges?
When facing sex crime charges, there are measures that defense lawyers can take to lessen their client’s punishment or have the charges dropped altogether. Below are some potential defenses a legal professional can use to help someone avoid a statutory rape charge and a wrongful conviction if the sexual relationship was legal.
The Romeo and Juliet Law Arizona
Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet law allows two teens to engage in consensual sexual activity. Because of this, Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet statute can be an affirmative defense against a statutory rape charge. If the person accused of statutory rape is a teenager and is close in age to the victim, the person accused may not be charged with a crime. If the person accused of the crime is more than two years older than the victim, however, then this law cannot be used as a defense against these charges.
In Arizona, imagine someone is charged with sexual conduct and sexual abuse of a minor. They could avoid criminal charges if they were married to the victim at the time of the incident. Minors aged 16-17 can legally marry someone no more than three years older than them if they are either emancipated or have the consent of at least one of their parents.
If the individuals involved in the alleged crime were married when they engaged in sexual relations, then any sexual activity between them would not be considered statutory rape. However, it’s important to note that while marriage can be used as an affirmative defense against statutory rape and sexual abuse of a minor, it cannot be used as a defense against sexual assault under ARS § 13-1406.
Additionally, if the age difference between the two is greater than three years, or if the minor was younger than 16 at the time of the marriage, then the legality of the marriage may come into question.
Another affirmative defense is that the defendant didn’t know and couldn’t have reasonably known the age of the alleged victim. Arizona law covers situations where the victim was 15-17 years old, and did not look like a minor. The defendant could argue that they could not have reasonably known their sexual partner was below the age of consent. The prosecution may present evidence to the contrary, like the victim’s childlike facial features, to combat this defense.
Contact an Experienced Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyer at Ybarra Maldonado Law Group
Engaging in sexual activity with a minor is a serious crime. A statutory rape charge could stay on your criminal record forever and label you a sex offender for life. If you face statutory rape, sexual assault, or possession of child pornography charges, call Ybarra Maldonado Law Group. Our expert criminal defense team will evaluate your case and gather ample evidence. We will craft a strong affirmative defense that we can use to argue in your favor. Call today at (602) 910-4040 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our legal professionals.