Molestation of a Child

(A.R.S. § 13-1410)

Per Arizona law, child molestation occurs when a person intentionally or knowingly engages in, or causes a person to engage in, sexual contact with a child under the age of 15. Any direct or indirect touching, fondling, or manipulating of any part of the genitals or anus constitutes sexual contact under the law. (There does not have to be skin-to-skin contact.)

Contact involving sexual intercourse or oral sex with a minor is considered to be “sexual conduct” under Arizona law, and is dealt with separately. Inevitably, harsher penalties are associated with sexual conduct offenses.

DNA Test

DNA Testing

Anyone charged with child molestation must submit a DNA test to police within 5 days of bail/release. The sample may be used for police identification purposes and the results may be presented as evidence in a court.

The DNA sample may be expunged, or erased, if charges are not filed within a particular time, if charges are dismissed, or if there is an acquittal at trial.

Penalties

Child molestation is a class 2 felony in Arizona. Even more telling, the State considers the offense a “dangerous crime against children” (DCAC). This means even stiffer penalties.

A first time offender will face no less than 10 years in prison, with the maximum sentence set at 24 years. A repeat offender will face at least 21 years in prison, and at most 35 years.

Fines of up to $150,000 may be imposed.

Sentences must be completed consecutively for multiple offenses—as in, two counts of child molestation would mean a minimum 20 years in prison. And the charge’s classification as DCAC means 100% of prison time must be served. There is no early release.

Parental rights may be taken away (following a civil action).

Registration as a sex offender is required for life.

Minors may be prosecuted for child molestation as well and, if convicted, face serious time. Arizona law allows kids as young as 14 to be prosecuted in adult criminal courts.

Defenses

As in any case, different defenses may exist depending on the facts. There must be sexual motivation to justify a conviction and a defense is to argue that sexual motivation did not exist. Lack of knowledge of the individuals age ay also serve as a defense. From forensic flaws to Miranda Rights violations, various defenses may be asserted.

It is not a defense to claim the child consented to the act. Children under the age of 15 cannot legally consent to any sexual activity.

The harsh penalties associated with child molestation crimes underscore the importance of consulting an attorney early when facing such a charge.

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