A dangerous crime against a child is a crime an adult could commit against a minor aged 15 and younger. Children are incapable of giving consent or protecting themselves under the law. A law prohibiting crimes against minors was enacted to protect children's rights and well-being. If you face charges for a dangerous offense against a minor, you will almost certainly face a harsher prison sentence than if you committed the same crime against a grown-up.
Some crimes are punishable by up to thirty-seven years, while others are punishable by life in prison. You should hire a skilled criminal attorney if you face serious criminal charges against a minor in Phoenix. If you work with us at Phoenix Criminal Attorney in this challenging legal process, we could help you put up a strong defense against your charges. We will also protect your rights and fight for a fair outcome.
An Overview of Arizona Laws Regarding Dangerous Offenses Against Children
A dangerous offense against a minor, or DCAC, is a subset of crimes under Arizona Revised Statutes 13-705. This category includes dangerous and highly punishable offenses against minors under fifteen. All crimes in this category meet the following criteria:
- They are crimes that could be committed against minors or adults.
- During the commission of these offenses, the perpetrator must be an adult or at least 18 years old. Otherwise, they must face trial as adults.
- The offender must be 15 years old or younger or an unborn baby.
- The perpetrator must be aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of, the victim's age.
DCACs are similar to domestic violence offenses in that they are viable violations treated differently due to the victim's status. This category includes the following crimes:
- Attempted murder in the first degree.
- Second-degree murder.
- Child molestation.
- Aggravated assault when it satisfies the requirements of a dangerous crime.
- Sexual assault.
- Lewd or sexual acts with a child.
- Sexual extortion.
- Sexual exploitation of minors.
- Luring and aggravated luring a minor for sexual purposes.
- Knowing or intentional instances of minor abuse that could result in death or serious physical harm.
- Sexual abuse.
- Continuous instances of sexual abuse against a minor.
- Child prostitution.
- Sex trafficking for minors.
- Unlawful mutilation.
- Involving and using a child in a drug crime.
- Causing physical harm to a minor during the manufacture of methamphetamine.
- Unlawfully representing a child’s age.
The legal system will handle your issue differently than when you and the victim were adults if:
- You are an adult and commit any of the crimes above, or
- You are a juvenile offender and could face trial as an adult in an adult criminal court, and
- The victim is a child aged 15 or younger.
When this occurs, your case and potential penalties will be affected as follows:
- Your sentence will be harsher, requiring you to spend longer in prison.
- You will likely face more collateral consequences upon conviction.
- You could be ineligible for probation.
- You could be ineligible for parole or another early release from prison.
As a result, having solid legal representation from the start of the legal journey after your arrest for a dangerous offense against a minor is essential. Your attorney will have plenty of time to prepare for trial and fight the allegations for a better outcome.
Possible Penalties for a DCAC Conviction
Remember that a dangerous violation committed against a minor will almost certainly result in a harsher penalty than the same offense committed against a grown-up. However, the penalties you face for committing a dangerous offense against a minor are primarily determined by two factors:
- The specifics of the case.
- The victim’s age.
These factors will distinguish your case from a regular felony, the penalties determined by the type of offense, and whether or not it was a repetitive or dangerous crime. However, many sentences for DCACs, like other offenses under Arizona law, have sentencing ranges based on the existence of mitigating or aggravating factors. They can also carry further prison sentences for defendants convicted of a predicate felony. Previous criminal records for these offenses are considered predicate felonies:
- Child abuse if it occurs when you knowingly or intentionally create a situation that could have resulted in the child's death or severe physical harm.
- Sexual exploitation.
- A dangerous offense involving the use of a dangerous weapon or is likely to cause serious physical harm.
- A dangerous violation committed against a minor.
The judge will most likely sentence you to more time in prison than the law allows for the specific offense. You must serve your prison sentences consecutively, and not concurrently. However, there are exceptions in cases where there is only one victim and the underlying offense is:
- Sexual abuse, or
- Child molestation.
DCACs Punishable By Life Imprisonment
Under Arizona law, life imprisonment is a harsh sentence reserved for the most serious crimes. If the judge sentences you to life in state prison, you will spend the rest of your life behind bars. Some sentences include the possibility of parole, while others do not. The severity of the offense, your criminal history, and the victim’s age all influence the specifics of your sentence.
Here are some of the DCACs that carry mandatory sentences for life in state prison unless the perpetrator and victim had masturbatory contact:
- Sexual acts with a child aged twelve or younger.
- Sexual assault of a child aged twelve or younger.
However, these first-degree DCACs only carry a potential life sentence in prison if convicted:
- Attempted murder in the first degree on a child under twelve.
- Murder in the second degree of a child under twelve.
- Sexual assault on a child under twelve.
- Sexual acts with a child under twelve.
- Methamphetamine production in a situation where a child under 12 sustained serious physical injuries.
If you are sentenced to life in prison for one of these offenses, you will serve a minimum of thirteen years, a presumptive term of twenty years, and a maximum of twenty-seven years. The judge will order that you serve at least 35 years of your prison sentence before you qualify for the following:
- Suspended sentence.
- Early release.
You can only be released early under these conditions if you qualify for prison employment or deserve compassionate release.
DCACs Punishable by 37 Years of Prison Time
Following a conviction for a dangerous offense against a minor, the judge can sentence you to 37 years instead of life in prison. You could face this harsh penalty if you have a criminal history and face charges for another first-degree DCAC that is not punishable by life imprisonment. Here are some DCACs that could result in up to 37 years in state prison if you are guilty:
- Attempted murder in the first degree against a minor aged twelve to fourteen years old.
- Murder in the second degree against a child between the ages of twelve and fourteen.
- Sexual assault on a minor between the ages of twelve and fourteen.
- Sexual acts with a child aged twelve to fourteen.
- Causing bodily harm to a child aged twelve to fourteen while producing methamphetamine.
- Involving and/or using a child in a drug crime.
- Taking and exploiting a minor for prostitution.
- Sexually abusing a child regularly.
- Child exploitation.
The sentencing ranges for these crimes are primarily determined by your criminal history.
For example, if you have no prior convictions, you will face a prison sentence ranging from 13 to 27 years. If you have a prior conviction, your punishment could range from twenty-three to thirty-seven years.
If you have two or more prior convictions for predicate felonies in your criminal history, you will almost certainly be sentenced to life in prison. That leaves you with a chance of an early termination of your sentence once you have served at least 35 years of your prison sentence.
DCACs Carrying a Maximum Prison Sentence of 35 Years
Some first-degree DCACs also carry a maximum prison sentence of 35 years if you have a prior felony conviction in your criminal history. These crimes include:
- Unlawful mutilation.
- Aggravated assault.
- Child molestation.
- Child abuse.
- Sexually exploiting a child.
- Aggravated luring of a child for sexual abuse.
If you do not have a prior felony, a conviction for these DCACs carries a sentence range of ten years to 24 years. However, if you have one predicate felony in your criminal history, you will likely face a prison sentence of 21 to 35 years.
If you have at least two prior predicate felonies in your criminal history, you could face life imprisonment. Furthermore, you will qualify for early release after serving 35 years in prison.
DCACs Punishable By Five to Twenty-Two Years of Prison Time
Another type of DCAC carries a prison sentence of five to twenty-two years for offenders with a previous conviction of a predicate felony on their record. This category includes dangerous crimes like:
- Illegal representation of a minor’s age.
- Sexual extortion of a child.
- Luring a child for sexual abuse.
For defendants without a prior conviction for a predicate felony on their criminal record, the sentencing range is five to fifteen years. For those with at least one prior conviction for a predicate felony on their criminal record, the sentencing range is eight to twenty-two years.
First-time DCAC offenders can qualify for a suspended sentence. However, defendants with a prior conviction for a predicate felony must receive a mandatory prison sentence. If you are sentenced to prison, you could have limited opportunities for an early release.
Dangerous Crimes Punishable by a Prison Sentence of 2.5 Years to 22 Years
The final category of DCAC penalties in Arizona is those with prison sentences ranging from two to twenty-two years. This category of crime includes:
- Sexual abuse of a minor.
- Causing a child to engage in sexual contact or sexual intercourse, including oral sex and sex with an animal.
The sentence range for this category of offenses is 7.5 years in prison for those who have never been convicted of a predicate felony and up to 22 years for those who have been convicted of a predicate felony once.
First offenders can receive a suspended sentence, but repeat offenders must serve time in state prison. If you have a prior felony conviction, your options for early release could be limited.
Attempted Dangerous Offenses Against Children
If the crime is first-degree murder, a harsh sentence is imposed for attempted dangerous crimes. The penalty for attempted murder in the first degree is up to twenty-two years in state prison. On the other hand, other DCAC crimes are considered second-degree DCACs if they are attempted but not completed. These are prosecuted as Class 3 felonies, with sentences ranging from five to fifteen years in prison.
If you have no prior convictions for a predicate felony and face charges for a second-degree DCAC, the judge can suspend your prison sentence. When that occurs, you will serve your sentence on probation rather than in prison. However, if you have a prior felony conviction for a predicate offense, prison time is mandatory. You only have a few options if you are incarcerated and want to be released early. However, you could qualify for prison employment or compassionate release.
Collateral Consequences Of DCACs Conviction
A DCAC conviction carries additional penalties in addition to prison time. The justice system imposes some collateral consequences, whereas others are imposed automatically following a criminal conviction. Here are some of the possible implications of a DCAC conviction:
Registering as a Sex Offender
Most sex crimes against children require you to register as a sex offender after conviction. In Arizona, the sex offender registry contains the names, addresses, and physical descriptions of convicted sex offenders. It informs members of the public about a sex offender living in their midst, allowing them to be more vigilant. It also assists the police in making quick follow-ups and arrests in cases of repeated crime.
Unfortunately, anyone who conducts a background check on you after registering will be aware of your criminal history. That could have an impact on how they treat you. That is why you must fight your charges to avoid a conviction and the severe consequences described above.
Challenges Obtaining Appropriate Employment
You will need a job after serving prison to pay your bills and restart your life. However, if you have a criminal record, this can be difficult. Before hiring, employers conduct background checks on potential employees.
In most cases, they make a hiring decision based on what they discover about your criminal history. Even with the necessary skills and experience, people with a criminal record often struggle to find suitable employment.
Your relationships will be strained if you commit a dangerous offense against a child. Some people will not want to be involved with an ex-convict. In addition, if you are arrested and charged with a dangerous offense against a minor, your family and close friends could abandon you. Most of your relationships will suffer as a result of your lengthy incarceration. In general, a criminal conviction has an impact on your social life. Some of those relationships can take years to rebuild.
Your reputation is crucial because it determines how others perceive and treat you. A tarnished reputation will make life difficult for you, especially in your home, community, and workplace. Some ex-convicts are forced to relocate and begin a new life in a new environment where no one knows about their criminal history. It is important to note that your reputation is harmed even before the judge renders the final decision in your case.
Struggle to Find a Home
Landlords also conduct background checks on people looking to rent or lease a home. Most landlords will not rent to ex-convicts. They do so mainly to protect other tenants. Even after serving prison time, you could have difficulty finding a suitable neighborhood.
Regardless of how hard you work to change your life, these consequences will impact many aspects. That is why you should retain the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to assist you in fighting your charges in court.
You must also disclose your convictions when applying for a job or volunteering in a business or organization, especially if the company or organization is directly involved with children. You must disclose your conviction even if you are aware that it can jeopardize your ability to work or serve there. Failure to disclose could result in criminal charges and the penalties associated with a Class 5 felony.
Find a Competent Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Those found guilty of dangerous offenses against children face severe penalties. As a result, if you or someone you know is facing DCAC charges in Phoenix, you must seek legal counsel immediately. An attorney will help you navigate the complicated legal system, advise you on your legal options, protect your rights, and plan a strong defense against your charges. You can persuade the judge to dismiss or reduce your charges if you have the right attorney. At the Phoenix Criminal Attorney, we employ the most effective defense strategies to combat the underlying charge. Our criminal defense attorneys have the knowledge and experience you require for a successful outcome in your case. To learn more about what we can do for you, contact us at 602-551-8092.