The judicial system treats sex crimes very seriously in Arizona. Many are charged as felonies and entail long prison sentences for the accused. Mental illness is no defense to a sex crime and many people who are accused of sexual assaults suffer from psychiatric problems.
The criminal justice system often negates the role of mental health problems in sex crimes. The three elements needed for a conviction are sexual contact, lack of victim consent and knowing behavior. People with severe psychological problems may not know how they are behaving.
Arizona has a guilty except insane defense. The burden to prove insanity and that the defendant did not know a sexual offense was wrong is on the defense. It can be very difficult to prove.
Even after a mentally ill prisoner is released from incarceration after serving time for a sexual offense, he or she will face monitoring
Over the last two decades, we have seen a proliferation of laws requiring sex offenders to register with local and state criminal justice agencies. This can lead to the civil commitment of sexual offenders when they are released from prison.
A series of factors determine whether a sex crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Most sex crimes in Arizona fall into two categories; crimes against adults and against children. The age of the victim has a drastic effect on the sentence imposed.
In many alleged sex crime cases against a child, prosecutors file an allegation that the crime was a “Dangerous Crime Against Children (DCAC)” under A.R.S.§ 13-705.
People charged with dangerous crimes against children face long prison sentences and are not usually eligible for any form of early release, irrespective of whether or not they suffer from mental illnesses.
Sex crimes committed against minors are charged as felonies. Molestation of a child is a Class 2 felony with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years. An aggravated molestation charge can land the offender in prison for 24 years.
Possession of child pornography is also a Class 2 felony with a sentencing range from 10 to 24 years.
The sentence for sexual conduct with a minor is linked to the age of the child. Sexual conduct by an adult with a child under 12 is a Class 2 felony that carries a term of life in prison. The defendant must serve at least 35 years under Arizona law.
People accused of sexual conduct with children aged 12, 13, or 14 face a minimum prison sentence of 13 years and a maximum of 27 years. The offense is also a Class 2 felony.
If the victim is aged 15 to 18, the accused faces a Class 6 felony carrying a prison term of 0.33 years and a maximum of two years.
The crime Sexual Abuse (A.R.S. 13-1404) is brought when a defendant, “intentionally or knowingly engages in sexual contact with any person who is 15 or more” without the consent of that person or with any person who is under the age of 15 if the sexual contact is limited to only the female breast.
When the victim is under the age of 18, the court will not accept consent as a defense. The sentence is brought as Class 5 felony if the victim is over 15 years of age. However, the offense becomes a class 3 felony when the victim is under 15.
While many sexual offenses are charged as felonies, lesser offenses like indecent exposure are punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony. On occasions, a drunken prank or a misguided idea like swimming in a river naked can lead to an indecent exposure charge.
Public sexual indecency is usually charged as a class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the victim is a minor under the age of 15 years, the offense is elevated to a class 5 felony. A class 1 misdemeanor is the most serious misdemeanor offense in the state. It is punishable by up to 6 months jail time and 3 years of probation.
If you or a family member has been charged with a sex crime in Arizona, you should take the matter very seriously. Please call our criminal defense lawyer for a consultation at (602) 340-1999.