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Arizona’s Sexual Assault Laws

Posted on June 27, 2022 in Criminal Defense,Sex Crimes

It is important to understand the potential consequences that you are facing if you’ve been arrested or charged with sexual assault in Arizona. State lawmakers do not take sex crimes of any kind lightly. The punishment for sexual assault is severe and generally involves imprisonment. Learning the exact language of Arizona’s sexual assault laws can help you gain a better understanding of your charges and legal options.

What Is Arizona’s Definition of Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault refers to engaging in sexual contact or activity with a person without the individual’s consent. In Arizona, the phrase, “sexual assault” is often used interchangeably with rape. However, sexual assault can also refer to other types of Arizona sex crimes, including molestation, oral sex and groping. Two key laws apply to the crime of sexual assault under the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS):

  • ARS 13-1406. This law defines sexual assault as intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with an individual without his or her consent. Consent is a person’s agreement to engage in sexual activity. In Arizona, minors (those under the age of 18) and those who are mentally incapacitated cannot legally give their consent to sexual contact. Without consent can also refer to incidents involving coercion, the use of threat and deception.
  • ARS 13-1404. This law defines sexual abuse in Arizona as the crime of intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual contact with someone who is over the age of 15 without his or her consent or with a person who is under the age of 15 if the sexual contact only involves the female breasts.

ARS 13-1401 lists the state’s definitions of terms such as “sexual contact,” “sexual intercourse” and “without consent.” Essentially, it is against the law to touch, fondle or manipulate any part of the genitals, anus or female breasts with any body part without the individual’s consent to engage in such contact. 

What Is Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet Law?

A Romeo and Juliet Law is a statute that many states have regarding relationships between two young people where one or both are underage. Romeo and Juliet laws typically provide an exception to a state’s sexual assault or statutory rape laws if two people are close in age, even if one was a minor at the time of the sexual activity (referred to as a close-in-age exemption). 

In Arizona, the Romeo and Juliet Law can be used as a legal defense to an allegation of sexual assault involving a minor under the age of 18 in some situations. A defendant must prove that the sexual activity was consensual, that the defendant and the minor qualify for a close-in-age exemption (no more than a two-year age difference), and that the defendant was under the age of 19 or was attending high school at the time of the sexual act.

What Are the Penalties for Sexual Assault in Arizona?

If an individual is convicted of sexual assault or rape in Arizona, the penalties are often severe. Violating ARS 13-1404 or ARS 13-1406 is a Class 2 felony. The sentence varies based on the facts of the case, such as the age of the victim: 

  • If the victim was over the age of 14, the sentence includes a minimum of 5.25 years to a maximum of 14 years in prison. 
  • If the victim was 12 to 14 years old, prison time ranges from 13 to 27 years. 
  • The sentence for sexual assault of a child under the age of 12 in Arizona may include life in prison.

In addition, being convicted of a sexual assault offense in Arizona can result in mandatory enrollment on the sex offender registry under ARS 13-3821. These penalties can increase for repeat offenders or people with prior felony convictions. For more information about Arizona’s sexual assault laws or legal assistance if you’ve been accused of sexual assault, reach out to the AZ Defenders for a free consultation.