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Posted on October 23, 2019 in Sex Crimes

What’s the Age of Consent in Arizona?

It’s inevitable. When teens get older, their hormones start to rage. They’ll start dating and showing interest in romantic relationships. There’s no guarantee that they’ll date someone who’s the same age. Maybe your daughter is a high school freshman and starts dating a senior. Or, maybe she hits it off with a local college student who’s a couple of years older than her.

What happens if they start having sex? Can teenagers consent to sex in Arizona? Can a 15-year-old have sex with a 17-year-old? What about a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old? When do Arizona’s statutory rape laws apply? Here’s what you need to know about the age of consent in Arizona.

The Age of Consent in Arizona is 18

Consent. In the “Me Too” era, consent is all over the news. Consent refers to agreeing to engage in a particular behavior. When it comes to sex, not everyone has the ability to consent. In Arizona, the age of consent is 18. That means, generally speaking, teenagers are not legally able to agree to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual activity.

Statutory Rape in Arizona

Arizona’s age of consent is defined in Arizona’s statutory rape law, which is found in Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1405. Specifically, the law explains that “A person commits sexual conduct with a minor by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse or oral sexual contact with any person who is under eighteen years of age.”

In other words, teens who are 17 or younger cannot legally consent to have sex. This applies to intercourse and oral sex. So, it’s possible that anyone who is having sex with a teenager – including other teenagers – violates Arizona state law.

Arizona’s Statutory Rape Penalties

Statutory rape is a felony offense in Arizona. However, the specific charge will ultimately depend on the age of the parties involved in the sexual activity.

Sex involving a minor under the age of 15 is a class 2 felony. A class 2 felony conviction can result in anywhere between 3 years and 12.5 years in prison.

Sex involving a minor who is between the ages of 15 and 17 is a class 6 felony. A class 6 felony conviction can result in anywhere between .33 years and 2 years in prison.

Statutory rape involving a minor who is at least 15 years old can be aggravated if the defendant “is or was in a position of trust.” In that situation, the crime becomes a class 2 felony.

A statutory rape conviction can also result in other penalties, including a requirement to register as a sex offender with the state.

Exceptions to Age of Consent Restrictions in Arizona

Not every sexual act involving a teenager will lead to criminal charges. There are certain exceptions to the state’s age of consent requirements.

Romeo and Juliet Laws

24 states, including Arizona, have what is known as “Romeo and Juliet” laws. Romeo and Juliet laws basically say that sex involving a teenager isn’t necessarily a crime, as long as (a) the sex is consensual and (b) there’s a very limited age difference between the parties.

In Arizona, a Romeo and Juliet defense can be raised under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-407 if the teenager involved is at least 15 years old, AND the defendant is:

  • Under 19 or still in high school, AND
  • No more than 24 months older than the teen.

So, the younger teen has to be at least 15 years old AND the age difference between the partners can’t be any more than 24 months. That’s the bottom line on Arizona’s Romeo & Juliet law.

Under Arizona state law…

Can a 16-year-old have sex with an 18-year-old? Only if the age difference between the two does not exceed 24 months. Kathy is 16 and was born on September 30, 2003. Keith is 18 and was born on August 1, 2001. The age difference between Kathy and Keith is more than 24 months, so they would violate Arizona state law if they had sex. If Kathy was born two months earlier, in July, it wouldn’t be a crime for them to have sex because their age difference would be less than 24 months.

Can a 15-year-old have sex with a 19-year-old? No. In order for the Romeo & Juliet defense to apply, the defendant must be younger than 19. The age difference between the two parties must also not be greater than 24 months.

Mistaken Identity Exception

In order for sex with a teenager to be a crime, you have to “intentionally and knowingly” have sex with someone who is under the age of 18. What happens when you go out and meet someone who tells you that they’re 18?

Le’ts say this happens to you. You believe them because you met at a place where teenagers don’t normally hang out. Maybe it was even a bar and they had an ID confirming what they said. You have sex, and then the next day you find out that they’re not 18, they’re 16. You’re 21, so the sex is definitely in violation of the law.

Should you be punished for your behavior? The state doesn’t think so. If you had a legitimate reason to believe that your partner was at least 18, sex isn’t a crime. However, you’ll have to prove that your mistake was reasonable to escape potential charges and penalties.

It’s important to realize that Arizona’s age of consent is 18. Statutory rape is a serious crime. The state takes allegations of sexual conduct with a minor seriously. If you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s important to speak with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can.