The age of consent refers to the minimum age an individual can legally consent to having sexual relations. In Arizona, the age of consent is 18 years old.
Under Arizona law, individuals 17 and younger lack the capacity to agree to participate in sexual activity. Even if it’s consensual, sexual intercourse by an adult with an individual under 18 is considered statutory rape.
Criminal charges may be filed against the offending adult, and you may have to register as a sex offender.
Arizona Consent Laws
Age of consent laws refer to the legal age someone may consent to having sexual relations with another person. Arizona, like most states, imposes strict age of consent laws with serious criminal repercussions.
Under ARS 13-1405, it’s illegal to knowingly or intentionally engage in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is below the age of 18.
The foundation for Arizona’s consent laws is that children and teenagers have an underdeveloped brain that reduces their ability to make reasonable decisions regarding sexual intercourse and sexual activities.
Combined with the raging hormones and intense emotions that accompany adolescence, the situation requires strict laws and even stricter enforcement to protect youth from being taken advantage of by predatory adults.
Arizona Statutory Rape Laws
In Arizona, statutory rape applies to consensual sexual or oral intercourse with an individual who is below Arizona’s age of consent.
The law suggests that those who are below Arizona’s age of consent, which is 18 years old, are unable to consent to sexual activity with an individual who is older than them.
The reason for firm statutory rape laws is to protect young children from sexual predators. Teenagers often fall in love and intense emotions arise which may lead to early sexual activity.
The legal consequences of having sexual relations with a minor can be life-shattering. The fact is that it only takes a single phone call or complaint to create legal problems for the offending adult.
It is very important to understand Arizona consent laws and statutory rape laws, abide by them, and take them seriously.
Arizona Romeo and Juliet law
There are two common defenses to statutory rape charges. The first is the popular “Romeo and Juliet defense”, also known as the “age difference defense.”
This may be used if the victim is age 15 – 17 and the defendant is age 19 or younger or still attending high school. The defendant can be no more than 24 months older than the victim, and the sexual conduct must have been consensual.
Mistaken Identity Defense
Another possible defense is the “mistaken identity defense.” This may be used if the victim is age 15 – 17 and the defendant was genuinely ignorant of the victim’s age.
The defendant must have taken reasonable actions to determine the victim’s age to ensure they were 18 or older. Under this defense, the attorney would argue that the defendant was not aware that the victim was younger than they had purported and that the defendant made reasonable attempts to confirm the victims age.
When a case falls under either of these strict conditions, the charges may be mitigated for a less severe punishment. In some situations, the case may be dropped with all charges cleared. In the end, the sentencing depends on the quality of your defense and the judge’s discretion.
Legal Consequences of Statutory Rape in Arizona
The legal consequences of statutory rape are very serious. Those who violate Arizona’s age of consent laws will likely face felony charges, prison time, and may need to register as a sex offender.
Felony convictions stay on your record, and may hinder your ability to find employment.
Sexual misconduct felonies are classified into sections that range from 1 to 6, with a class 1 felony being the worst and a class 6 felony carrying the lightest repercussions. In statutory rape cases, the felony class hinges on the victim’s age.
For victims age 15 – 17, the crime is considered a class 6 felony. The legal consequences of a sex offense include up to one year of prison time, and they may need to register as a sex offender.
Note that a class 6 felony may be downgraded to a class 1 misdemeanor, but it depends on the quality of your defense and the judge’s discretion.
For victims under the age of 15, statutory rape is considered a class 2 felony. The legal consequences for the sex offender include three to five years prison time, and they may need to register as a sex offender.
Arizona Sex Offender Registry
The primary purpose of the Arizona sex offender registry is to track convicted sex offenders for law enforcement agencies. In some cases, individuals on the sex offender registry may be made known to the public if they’re considered a potential threat to the community.
The sex offender registry includes several tiers of severity to distinguish those who are likely to offend again. Registrants are asked to provide fingerprints, blood samples, email addresses, recent photographs, distinguishing features like tattoos and scars, place of employment, and vehicle information to local law enforcement.
They may also be banned from living or working in certain zones, which in some cases cover entire cities. Certain tiers on the sex offender registry become public information, while others may only be viewed by law enforcement.
Can an Adult Date a Minor in Arizona?
Arizona’s consent laws and statutory rape laws are pretty clear, but what about dating? Is it illegal to date someone under 18? What about an 18-year-old who wishes to date a 17-year-old?
Under Arizona law, it is not illegal to date someone who is under the age of 18. However, it becomes a legal issue when engaging in sexual intercourse, sexual contact, or oral sex, even if the activity is consensual.
So, you have the right to date a minor, but you should absolutely refrain from any type of sexual conduct until the minor turns 18.
Criminal Defense for Sex Crimes in Arizona
If you have been charged with a sex crime in Arizona, contact JacksonWhite criminal defense attorney, Jeremy Geigle. He has the knowledge and skills to minimize you sentencing. Contact a JacksonWhite sex crime defense lawyer to set up a free consultation to determine the best tactics to fight you charge.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.