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Oct 18, 2022

What is the Statute of Limitations for Statutory Rape in Arizona?

No matter the crime with which you have been charged, you can always get a.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Statutory Rape in Arizona?

No matter the crime with which you have been charged, you can always get a verdict of not guilty. A seasoned criminal defense lawyer can persuade the jury that the evidence does not show that you did what the prosecution is accusing you of doing. An attorney might show that there is more than one plausible interpretation; in other words, there is reasonable doubt about your guilt. The jury has to acquit you, and in some cases, the prosecution must drop the charges against you if prosecutors or law enforcement violated your rights in order to obtain the evidence against you. 

Another way in which defendants sometimes come away from criminal cases without a conviction is if the defendant successfully argues that the statute of limitations has passed for pressing the charges. This means that the deadline has passed for the state to charge you with the crime. The statute of limitations varies from one crime to another, and the clock usually begins to run from the time the crime was committed, but things are somewhat more complicated in the case of sex crimes where the victim is a minor. If you are being accused of illegal sexual conduct with a minor, contact an Arizona criminal law attorney.

Arizona Statutory Rape Laws and Definitions

The term “statutory rape” does not occur in Arizona’s legal code, but in ordinary conversation, people often use it to refer to sexual contact between an adult and a minor below the age of 18, where no physical coercion was involved. In Arizona, the age of consent is 18, so any adult who engages in a penetrative sex act (oral, vaginal, or anal penetration) with a person younger than 18 can be guilty of sexual conduct with a minor, sexual abuse, or child molestation. (If coercion was involved, the defendant can be accused of rape or sexual assault.) Because people younger than 18 cannot legally consent to sexual activity, you can still be guilty of a crime even if the victim considered themselves your partner and planned to marry you when they turned 18.  Even minors can be guilty of illegal sexual contact with a minor. The older teen is the one legally liable; if a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old have a sexual relationship, the 17-year-old can get criminal charges.

Exceptions to Statutory Rape Laws

Arizona law acknowledges certain situations in which high school-aged teens can consent to sexual activity. If both parties to the sexual act are between the ages of 15 and 17, neither is guilty of a crime; this is Arizona’s version of the Romeo and Juliet law. If the older teen is 18 but is still in high school, they are also not guilty of a crime. Likewise, it is legal for a married person between the ages of 15 and 17 to have sex with their spouse; it is legal for teens ages 15 and older to marry if their parents consent to the marriage.

Possible Defenses to Charges of Statutory Sexual Assault

These are some defenses that defendants accused of sexual contact with a minor may advance:

  • The crime never occurred – The defendant may claim that they never engaged in sexual contact with the victim and that the allegations are not true. When using this defense, defendants sometimes argue that the victim was sexually abused by an adult, but that adult is not the defendant.
  • Mistaken age – If the victim was at least 16 years old, the defendant may argue that they reasonably believed that the victim was at least 18 years old. For example, the defendant might argue that, before the alleged sexual encounter, they went to a nightclub with the victim, and the victim presented a fake ID showing their age as 18.
  • Marital defense – The adult may argue that they were legally married to the minor at the time of the alleged sexual encounter.

The Statute of Limitations for Arizona Sex Crimes

There is no time limit for victims of childhood sexual abuse to report the crime; many survivors of sexual abuse are adults when they first report abuse that occurred when they were in their teens or even younger. Since sexual conduct with a minor is a felony, the statute of limitations to prosecute the crime is seven years beginning from the time when investigators become aware that the alleged sexual conduct occurred, even if it allegedly occurred decades earlier.

Contact Singular Law Group About Alimony Disputes

A criminal defense attorney can help you if you are facing charges of sexual conduct with a minor. Contact Singular Law Group PLLC in Tempe, Arizona, to set up a consultation.

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