Why You Should Retain a Sexual Abuse Defense Attorney
In Arizona, sexual abuse is a severe charge carrying harsh penalties and ongoing collateral consequences. If you have been charged with this offense, you should retain an experienced sexual abuse defense lawyer as soon as possible.
At the Law Office of Michael Alarid III, we have defended many people against various sex offenses, including sex abuse charges. We understand the stakes that are involved and are prepared to fight for your rights and freedom.
What is the Definition of Sexual Abuse?
Under ARS 13-1404, you can be charged with sex abuse when you knowingly or intentionally sexually contact any person who is 15 or older without his or her consent. You can also be charged with this offense if you engage in sexual contact with the breast of a female who is younger than age 15.
Sexual contact is defined in ARS § 13-1401. It includes any indirect or direct fondling, touching, or manipulating another person's anus, genitals, or the breasts of a female by using any object or body part. It also includes causing someone else to engage in this type of contact. These cases are also known as fondling cases.
If the victim was 15 or older, this offense is charged as a Class 5 felony. If the victim was younger than age 15, it is a Class 3 felony and designated as a dangerous crime against children under ARS § 13-705.
Penalties for Sexual Abuse Charges
If you are charged with abuse as a dangerous crime against children with a victim younger than age 15, it is a class 3 felony. For a first conviction, you will face a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 2.5 years up to a maximum of 7.5 years. The presumptive sentence is five years in prison.
If you have a prior predicate felony, a conviction will result in a sentence ranging from eight years up to 22 years, with a presumptive 15-year sentence. Any person convicted of a dangerous crime against children must serve the entire prison sentence before eligible to be released from prison.
If the victim was 15 or older, it is a Class 5 felony and is not classified as a dangerous crime against children. You can be sentenced to serve a probation sentence with up to one year in jail or prison from six months up to 2.5 years for a first conviction.
If you have a prior predicate felony conviction, you will face from one to 3.75 years in prison. If you have two prior felony convictions, you will face prison from three years up to 7.5 years.
While this charge is not as serious as a charge of child molestation or sexual conduct with a minor, it still carries serious penalties. If you are convicted of this offense when the victim is a minor, you will have to register as a sex offender for life.
A conviction involving a victim under the age of 18 will also mean that you will not be allowed to have contact with any person who is younger than 18, including your children, without undergoing many testing protocols and obtaining your probation officer's consent.
Potential Defenses to Charges of Sexual Abuse
If you are charged under ARS 13-1404, your defense lawyer will review the evidence and circumstances to identify all potential defenses. There are a few defenses to this offense listed in ARS § 13-1407.
If the alleged victim was between the ages of 15 and 17, you can defend against this charge if you did not know and could not have reasonably known that the victim was a minor, and the reason for the lack of the victim's consent was solely based on his or her incapacity due to his or her age as long as he or she otherwise consented.
People who are younger than 18 in Arizona are deemed to be incapable of giving consent to engage in sexual conduct, so any sexual activity engaged in with someone who is under the age of 18 is nonconsensual. However, if you did not know the person's age, and he or she otherwise consented to sexual touching, it is a defense to this charge. This type of situation frequently happens when minors lie about their ages.
A second defense under the statute applies when the victim is from 15 to 17 years old when you are younger than 19, or are still in high school. If there is no more than a two-year age difference between you and the alleged victim, and he or she otherwise consented, it is a defense to this charge.
The other statutory defenses involve situations when the contact was part of a legal medical practice or the provision of emergency treatment and did not involve any sexual motivation. Finally, you cannot be convicted of abuse if you are married and the alleged victim is your spouse.
Other defenses might also be available. For example, if you accidentally contacted the person's genitals, anus, or breasts without any sexual motivation, your attorney can argue against the charges against you.
In some cases, these types of charges will happen while a divorce is pending. For example, an estranged spouse or upset teen might want to get revenge and make up false accusations of abuse. If this has happened to you, your attorney will review how the report was made and prepared. Your lawyer will also question any forensic interviewers who might have talked to the alleged victim and review the divorce paperwork. Thorough cross-examination is important for this type of defense.
Many of these types of cases have little or no physical evidence and are solely based on the victims' testimony. Challenging the credibility of a victim is important to raise a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense. Your attorney might review the victim's history and any motivation that may cause him or her to falsely accuse someone.
If the alleged victim is a child, your attorney understands that child witnesses can be unreliable. He or she might explore whether others manipulated the child into making the allegations. For example, if you ended a romantic relationship with the victim's parent, investigating whether the parent has encouraged the victim to make false allegations will be important.
Your Constitutional Rights when Charged with a Crime
In all criminal cases, experienced defense attorneys will review the police reports and other evidence to see whether the police might have violated the constitutional rights of defendants. You have rights against self-incrimination, to have an attorney represent you, and against unlawful stops, searches, and seizures.
If you made incriminating statements during a custodial interrogation, your attorney would look at whether your statement was made voluntarily or if it was coerced by the police. If the police used intimidation or tricks to coerce you into making an incriminating statement or confession or failed to read you the Miranda warnings before questioning you, your attorney might file a motion asking for the statements you made and any evidence that was gathered as a result to be suppressed.
The Miranda warnings include a recitation of your rights, including the right to remain silent and to have an attorney to represent you. You should never consent to interrogation without an attorney. If the police take you into custody, assert your rights, and do not talk or answer questions without an attorney. If you say that you want to remain silent and want an attorney, the police are supposed to immediately stop questioning you. If you are denied the right to talk to your lawyer, and the police continue to ask you questions, your attorney may succeed in having your statements declared inadmissible.
If the police completed a warrantless search or submitted a falsified search warrant application, your attorney might also file a motion to challenge the search, and any evidence gathered as a result. Finally, your defense attorney will review everything to identify misstatements by the police, flawed line-up procedures, and other issues.
All of these defense strategies may combine to help your attorney secure a much more favorable outcome to your case. Depending on the situation, your lawyer might convince the prosecutor to dismiss the charges against you.
Get Help from the Law Office of Michael Alarid III
Facing sex abuse charges can be frightening. If you are convicted of this offense, you may face a long prison term and sex offender registration. Like other sex offenses, a conviction can also cause many collateral consequences that can permanently and negatively impact your life.
Convicted sex offenders frequently struggle to find employment and housing. When they have to register on the sex offender registry, their names, addresses, descriptions, and offenses are published. This can lead to substantial stigma in the community and problems in their personal relationships.