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Posted on October 27, 2021 in Arizona Law

Can a 17 Year Old Date an 18 Year Old in Phoenix Arizona? Is it a Crime for Them to Have Sex? 

Teenage relationships can be complicated, and they also come with the potential for serious legal consequences. Knowing and following the law is critical to staying out of trouble. Sadly, young people are rarely educated about the law and how it can impact them.

In Arizona, it is not illegal for a 17-year-old to date an 18-year-old. However, if someone 18 or older has sex with someone under the age of 18, it could be illegal and lead to prosecution for statutory rape. However, there is an exception called the “Romeo and Juliet” defense under Arizona Statute 13-1407, which can prevent certain offenders from being charged with a crime. 

What is Statutory Rape in Phoenix, Arizona?

Statutory rape in Phoenix, Arizona, is having sex with anyone under the age of 18. Different states have different ages of consent, but in Arizona, the age of consent is 18 years old. This means that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity. 

If someone has sex with another person that is under the age of 18, they can be charged with the serious crime of statutory rape. 

Statutory rape, like any crime, has elements that the state needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict someone. 

The elements of statutory rape in Arizona are:

  • The defendant
  • Intentionally or knowingly
  • Engaged in sexual conduct
  • With someone under the age of 18

Statutory rape is often referred to as “Sexual Conduct with a Minor.” The penalties for Sexual Conduct with a Minor vary depending on a number of factors. Typically it is punishable as a Class 2 Felony if the minor is under the age of 15. If the minor is 15 or older, it is a Class 6 Felony. 

If the victim is 12 years old or younger, the accused could be sentenced to life imprisonment. If they are not sentenced to life imprisonment, the minimum sentence is 13 years in prison, with a maximum of 27 years.

If the victim is 13 or 14 years old, the minimum sentence upon conviction is 4 years, with a maximum of 10 years. If the victim is 15, 16, or 17, the minimum sentence is 6 months, with a maximum of 1.5 years. 

One of the most serious consequences of a conviction for statutory rape is having to register as a sex offender. Sex offenders have their names in a public database and have to meet with law enforcement periodically to ensure compliance with many rules and regulations.

What is the Romeo and Juliet Defense in Phoenix, Arizona?

In Arizona, there is what is called the “Romeo and Juliet” defense. If proven, this defense can protect certain young offenders from prosecution. 

The Romeo and Juliet defense can be used if: 

  1. The victim is 15, 16, or 17; and
  2. The defendant is under the age of 19 OR is attending high school; and
  3. The victim and defendant are within 24 months in age; and
  4. The conduct is consensual

As you can see, there are four strict requirements to qualify for the Romeo and Juliet defense. Missing any of these means a possible conviction for statutory rape.

If you are being accused of sexual conduct with a minor in Arizona, you need legal representation right away. Statutory rape charges can be life changing. Invoke your right to remain silent and call an attorney right away.

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