Can Someone with a Mental Illness be Charged with a Sex Crime?

6February
2019

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 sex crime

Sex crimes in Arizona

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.

Posted in Sex Crimes | Tagged |

2 Arizona Men Arrested in Sting Operation for Attempting to Buy Female Slaves

7October
2015

In a sting operation set up by the FBI, four men were sentenced to long prison terms and hefty fines after being exposed as prepared and eager to subject woman to a lifetime of torture, abuse, and hard work.

The sting began when the FBI gained access to an internet site that offered users the chance to buy female slaves in Malaysia. The site was a scam, and users of the site were defrauded, but the FBI learned that there were a lot of people in the US and around the world that were interested in purchasing slaves.

Agents from the FBI began targeting certain users of the site who seemed committed to the idea of purchasing a slave, emailing them as the “slaver.” Special Agent Kurt Remus, of the FBI’s Phoenix field office, said, “We’d tell them, ‘This is not fantasy, these are humans. If you have any problems with that, get out now.’” He says that scared off many of the would-be slave buyers. But four men continued communication with the “slaver,” eventually traveling with money in hand to what they believed was a slave auction at a residence in Paradise Valley. They brought pictures of their slave dungeons, assuring the “slaver” that there was no way the women would be able to escape. All four had taken action to secure their homes: one way locks, restraining devices, chains, covered windows, soundproof boxes, and cages. The proof the men provided of the extensive preparations they took to contain their would-be slaves was used as evidence by the prosecution.

One of the Arizona men arrested was from Mesa, the other from Tucson. The other two men arrested were from California and Montana. They received prison sentences that ranged from five to nine years, followed with supervised probation.

Read the original article here.

Posted in Arizona, Sex Crimes, Violent Crime |

Arrested as a Man, Sentenced as a Woman

12January
2015

An unusual trial wrapped up in Florida earlier this month. Harold Seymore, charged with sexually assaulting a woman in 2005, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, plus 10 years of probation. So what made this trial different? Seymore, a man at the time of his 2005 arrest, faced jurors wearing a dress. After struggling with gender identification issues his whole life, Seymore slowly transitioned to a woman over the nearly 10 year period between arrest and sentencing.

Seymore’s conviction took nearly 10 years because Seymore faces serious mental health issues. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features and hallucinations. Not surprisingly, these struggles made it difficult for her to work with an attorney and prepare a defense. Between her arrest and conviction, Seymore was sent to state psychiatric facilities four times by judges who deemed her mentally incompetent.

During stints in jail, Seymore was always housed in a single person cell, away from the male inmates. Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, said, “Transgender women are in extreme danger in male prisons. There is a very high rate of violence, including sexual violence. Often, prison officials resort to special housing units, which are nothing more than solitary confinement. It can be extremely psychologically damaging.”

Indeed, Seymore confirmed that her days in prison were very isolating. “23 hours a day in solitary. I got the yard to myself. I have to take showers by myself.”

So how would a case like Seymore’s be handled in Arizona? How are transgender inmates treated here? It’s hard to say. Arizona is one of the few states that do not comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which was implemented in 2012. In general, only transgender inmates that have undergone genital surgery are housed according to their reassigned sex. Transgender inmates are often targets of violence, so “protective custody” measures such as solitary confinement may be used. But, as Margie Diddams of the Arcoiris Liberation Team points out: “There isn’t a safe place in detention for transgender detainees.”

To read more about the Seymore trial, click here.

Posted in Mental Health Defenses, Sex Crimes |