The lawyers in our firm are frequently asked the following questions by parents of Arizona teens:
Will my son or daughter get arrested for having consensual sex with their teenage boyfriend or girlfriend? If they do, what kind of trouble are they in? Will they go to prison? How can you defend them?
The answer is yes. They could be arrested and charged with Sexual Conduct with a Minor under ARS § 13-1405. And yes, they could be in a great deal of trouble, including a possible prison sentence. Luckily for these teens, a relatively new law here in Arizona can be their savior. That law is affectionately referred to as the “Romeo & Juliet” Defense, which is named after the plot of William Shakespeare’s most famous and beloved play where the teenaged “star-crossed lovers,” Romeo and Juliet, fall in love against their families’ wishes and eventually take their own lives.
- In Arizona 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. (ARS § 13-1405 (A)).
- “Sexual contact” means any direct or indirect touching, fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast by any part of the body or by any object or causing a person to engage in such contact. (ARS § 13-1401 (2)).
- “Oral sexual contact” means oral contact with the penis, vulva or anus. (ARS § 13-1401 (1)).
Sexual conduct with a minor who is under fifteen years of age is a class 2
felony and has the following range of punishments:
- If the victim is under 12: life in prison without probation until 35 years served;
- If the minor is under age 15, five years in prison;
- If the offender is at least age 18 or is tried as an adult and the minor was age 12 or younger, life in prison and the offender is ineligible for release until serving 35 years;
- If the offender is at least 18 or tried as an adult and the victim is age 12, 13, or 14, the presumptive sentence is 20 years;
Sexual conduct with a minor who is at least fifteen years of age (15, 16, or 17) is a class 6 felony and can be punished with probation, probation with jail time, or even up to two years in prison. (ARS § 13-1405 (B)). In addition, if convicted he/she may have to register as a sex offender.
The “Romeo & Juliet” defense for Sexual Conduct of a Minor can be applicable if the victim is fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years of age; the defendant is under nineteen years of age; or if the defendant is attending high school and is no more than twenty-four months older than the victim, and the conduct is consensual. (ARS § 13-1407).
Conclusively, if the boyfriend is 18 (born on September 1) and the girlfriend is 16 (born on or after September 2), then the “Romeo and Juliet” Defense applies. If the girlfriend is 19 (born on December 1) and is still attending high school and her boyfriend is 17 (born on or after December 2), the defense applies. If the girlfriend is under 15, the defense does not apply no matter how old the boyfriend. If the boyfriend is 18 and the girlfriend is 15, the defense does not apply.
Remember, this is an affirmative “defense” to the crime of Sexual Conduct with a Minor. Just because the defense applies, that won’t necessarily stop the police from arresting your teen. If your teen is arrested, or are simply questioned by police or school officials for having sexual conduct with another teen, please contact us as soon as possible at 480-206-5204.
Please see our “Sex Crimes” Practice Area for specific details on all Sexually Related Crimes and possible defenses to those crimes.