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Arizona’s Age of Consent Law

Posted on December 12, 2023 in

Understanding Arizona’s age of consent laws can protect an individual from being accused of a serious sex crime such as statutory rape. Sex crimes involving underage individuals are penalized harshly in Arizona, with consequences that may include life in prison. It is critical to understand the age of consent, as well as potential exceptions to the rule, before deciding whether or not to engage in sexual activity with another person. If you are facing charges for an alleged age of consent violation, contact a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer at Snader Law Group for legal advice.

What Does “Age of Consent” Mean? 

Consent refers to an individual’s clear, willing and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity with another person. Consent must be given freely, without the influence of coercion, threats, intimidation or manipulation. Consent must also be informed, meaning the individual has a clear understanding of what he or she is agreeing to participate in.

All 50 states have age of consent laws that impose a minimum age at which an individual is old enough to consent to sexual activity. These laws are important for protecting children from engaging in sexual acts before they are considered mentally competent enough to make informed decisions about romantic relationships. The age of consent ranges from 16 to 18, depending on the state.

What Is Arizona’s Age of Consent?

Arizona’s age of consent is 18 years old. This means an individual is not deemed by law to be capable of consenting to sexual relations with another person until the age of 18. Any individual who is below the age of 18 cannot legally consent to engage in sexual activity with an adult. This includes sexual intercourse, touching of the private parts (including a female’s breasts), oral copulation, and groping or fondling. Engaging in sexual contact with a minor under the age of 18 can result in criminal charges in Arizona.

Age of Consent and Statutory Rape Laws in Arizona 

“Sexual conduct with a minor” is a crime defined in Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) Section 13-1405 as intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is under 18 years of age. This crime is also known as statutory rape. Engaging in sexual activity with someone under the age of consent in Arizona is a crime even if it was consensual, since a minor legally cannot give his or her consent to this activity. 

Sexual conduct with a minor over the age of 15 is a Class 6 felony in Arizona. However, this crime is enhanced to a Class 2 felony if the minor is under the age of 15 or if the defendant is someone in a position of trust, such as a teacher or caregiver. Sex crimes involving children under the age of 15 are punishable according to ARS 13-705, which can include up to life imprisonment with no eligibility for probation, pardon, release or suspension of sentence.

Does Arizona Have a Romeo and Juliet Law?

A “Romeo and Juliet Law” refers to a close-in-age exemption to a state’s age of consent provision. It is a legal exception to the law that may apply in cases of consensual sexual activity between two people with a small age difference. This law – named after the famous Shakespearean play involving two underage main characters involved in a romantic relationship – is meant to prevent harsh legal penalties for adolescents who are close in age and engaged in a consensual relationship.

Arizona law (ARS 13-1407[e]) lists a close-in-age exemption to the state’s age of consent law. It states that a usable defense to Arizona’s sexual conduct with a minor or statutory rape law is that if the victim is 15, 16 or 17 years of age and the defendant is under the age of 19 or attending high school and is no more than 24 months older than the victim, as long as the conduct is consensual. Individuals in a consensual romantic relationship who are 15 and 17, for example, would be protected from criminal charges under Arizona’s Romeo and Juliet Law.

What if the Individuals Are Married? 

Arizona also has another exemption to its statutory rape law if the parties are legally married. If an individual who is under the age of consent gets lawfully married – with authorization from the minor’s legal guardian – the couple may engage in sexual acts even if the other party is over the age of 18. Note that if a minor is under the age of 16, the consent of at least one legal guardian and the approval of a Superior Court judge is required for a marriage to be legal.

Potential Defenses to Age of Consent Allegations in Arizona 

If you are facing criminal charges for allegedly violating Arizona’s age of consent laws, it is critical to contact a defense attorney to protect your future as much as possible. A felony sex crime conviction in Arizona could have major effects on your life, including a permanent criminal record, registration on the state’s sex offender list, and trouble finding a job and housing. A lawyer can explore potential defense options for you, such as: 

  • You did not know and could not reasonably have known the age of the victim.
  • There was a close-in-age exemption or lawful marriage between the parties.
  • The act was done in furtherance of lawful medical practice or treatment. 
  • Mistaken identity, wrong defendant, alibi or insufficient evidence.

Your attorney can develop an aggressive defense strategy to fight for the best possible case outcome, which could be case dismissal, acquittal at trial, an alternative sentence, or reduced charges or penalties through a plea bargain. The most effective defense strategy will vary on the specific details of your case. In addition, defense options may change based on jurisdiction, as laws and legal precedents can differ. 

What Else Can Invalidate Consent in Arizona?

The age of consent is not the only thing that can invalidate consent to sexual activity in the eyes of the law. In legal terms, consent may not be present in a sexual relationship if it involves fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, force, sexual exploitation, duress, undue influence, intoxication or coercion. These factors can invalidate an individual’s alleged consent to engage in sexual activity and result in criminal charges even if both parties are over the age of consent.

Contact a Sexual Conduct With a Minor Attorney 

If you are facing criminal charges for an alleged violation of Arizona’s age of consent law, do not hesitate to contact Snader Law Group for a free and confidential case evaluation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Our sexual conduct with a minor defense lawyers can build the strongest possible defense strategy for you based on your unique circumstances. We will relentlessly defend your rights to protect you from what may be severe criminal consequences. Call (602) 825-3031 today.