A child molestation charge is extremely serious in Arizona. If you are convicted of this offense, you may be sentenced to serve years in prison and face ongoing consequences for the remainder of your life. Even after you have completed your prison sentence, you will have to register as a sex offender and may be restricted on where you can live and spend your time.
It is critical that you retain an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer at The Law Office of Michael Alarid III to defend against this type of crime. With the help of an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer, your chances of securing a reduction of your charges, a dismissal, or an acquittal may increase.
What is Child Molestation in Arizona?
Child molestation is defined in ARS 13-1410. You can be charged with molestation of a child when you intentionally or knowingly engage in sexual contact who is under the age of 15 or cause someone else to do so. You will not be charged with child molestation if the only contact you had involved contact with a female's breasts. Child molestation is a Class 2 felony and can result in a very long prison sentence even for a first offense.
Child molestation is classified as a dangerous crime against children under ARS § 13-705, which provides a separate sentencing scheme that is more severe than for other felony offenses at the same level. If you are convicted of a dangerous crime against children, including sexual intercourse with a minor, you will not be eligible for release from prison until you have served 100% of your prison sentence.
You will also be required to register as a sex offender and face other ongoing consequences in your life.
What are the Penalties for a Child Molestation Charge?
Child molestation is a Class 2 felony dangerous crime against children. If you are convicted of sex with a minor as a first offense, you will face a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years per count, up to 24 years per count. The presumptive sentence is 17 years per count.
If you have a prior predicate felony offense, you will face more serious penalties, including the following:
- Minimum mandatory sentence of 21 years per count
- Presumptive prison sentence of 28 years per count
- Maximum prison sentence of 35 years per count
If you are convicted of more than one child molestation count, your prison sentences for each count must be served consecutively. Finally, if you are convicted of this offense and have two prior predicate felony convictions, you will face a life sentence.
Depending on your criminal record and your age, a child molestation conviction could mean that you will spend the rest of your life in prison. It is an extremely serious offense and requires an aggressive defense.
Child Molestation Charge vs. Sexual Conduct with a Minor
Child molestation is not the same crime as sexual conduct with a child. You can be charged with sexual conduct with a child under ARS 13-1405 if you knowingly or intentionally have sexual intercourse or oral sex with anyone who is younger than age 18. This is also known as statutory rape in Arizona.
If you are charged with statutory rape when the alleged victim is between the ages of 15 and 17, it is a Class 6 felony. If the alleged victim is younger than age 15, it is a Class 2 felony and is considered to be child rape. A conviction of child rape will carry the same potential penalties as a dangerous crime against children as child molestation.
If you are younger than age 19 and the victim is within 24 months of your age, you can defend against a sexual conduct charge under the state's Romeo and Juliet law. The Romeo and Juliet Law in Arizona allows you to defend against sexual conduct charges when the victim otherwise consented, and your ages were within two years of each other.
Sex Offender Registration and Other Consequences
If you are released from prison, you will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. You will be prohibited from contacting anyone who is under the age of 18 unless you undergo rigorous testing and receive permission from your probation officer. This prohibition against contact with children includes contact with your children if they are minors.
You will also face restrictions on where you can live under ARS § 13-3727. A conviction under ARS 13-1410 will mean that you cannot live within 1,000 feet of your victim, a child care facility, or a private or public school.
If you are convicted of child molestation or having sexual intercourse with a minor, you will face other consequences throughout your life. You will have ongoing registration requirements restrictions on your residence. You will also have your name, photograph, and address published on the state's sex offender registry.
A child molestation conviction will also subject you to stigma and humiliation, trouble finding employment, loss of your friends and family members, trouble finding somewhere to live, and other issues.
What Defenses are Available for Child Molestation Charges?
When you meet with your lawyer at The Law Office of Michael Alarid III after being charged for having sex with a minor, he will review what happened to determine the defenses that might be available. Some of these may include the following:
- You were falsely accused.
- You were misidentified through a flawed identification procedure.
- There were mistakes made in the forensic analysis.
- Your constitutional rights were violated.
Some cases involving allegations of child molestation are filed when child custody or divorce cases are pending. In these situations, the estranged spouses or partners of the defendants may make false accusations of child molestation against them to get revenge or to try to gain an advantage in their custody battles.
In other situations, older children might accuse their fathers, stepfather, or mothers' boyfriends of molestation to try to end their relationships with their mothers.
Whenever false accusations happen, they should immediately be challenged. Your attorney might look at how the report was made and analyze the reports from Child Protective Services. Your lawyer might also review the forensic interview and consider whether the interviewer said anything that might encourage the child to say something specific. In the case of a divorce or child custody dispute, your attorney may get copies of the paperwork to review them.
If the victim did not know you but instead identified you through a lineup procedure, your attorney will take a close look at the lineup methods the police used. False identifications are problematic and have lead to many wrongful convictions. Your attorney may look at whether the lineup was created in such a way to cause the victim or witness to make an incorrect identification. If so, your attorney may file a motion to challenge this type of evidence.
The police sometimes make mistakes when they gather forensic evidence. There could be a problem with the chain of custody of the evidence that could make it inadmissible in court. Your attorney will also analyze how any DNA evidence was gathered and tested.
If there are evidentiary issues, your attorney will file motions to ask for the evidence to be suppressed. If you win suppression of some or all of the evidence, the prosecutor may have no choice but to dismiss your case.
In all criminal cases, analyzing how the police conducted their investigations is important. Police must follow specific protocols to avoid violating the rights of people who are accused of crimes. Your attorney may look at how the police obtained any incriminating statements from you, conducted any searches, and seized any evidence.
If you made incriminating statements while being questioned in custody, the police are required to have advised you of your Miranda rights. If you did not receive any Miranda warnings, your attorney might challenge the admissibility of any statements you made and any evidence that was subsequently gathered as a result.
If the police coerced you into falsely confessing, your attorney would also challenge the voluntariness of your confession. This could also result in your statements being suppressed.
You also have the right to have an attorney represent you. If you asked for a lawyer but were denied, any statements you subsequently made can be suppressed. Your attorney will also review all of the police reports to see if the officers made any misleading or false statements and challenge them during cross-examination.
Get Help from a Sex Crimes Attorney at the Law Office of Michael Alarid III
Child molestation charges are very serious in Arizona. If you are facing these types of charges, retaining an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer is critical.
Contact the Law Office of Michael Alarid III as soon as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation by calling us at (602) 818-3110.