If you’ve been charged with sexual exploitation of a minor in Flagstaff or Northern Arizona, you are facing felony charges that carry severe penalties and long-lasting consequences. It is crucial to understand that defenses may be available to you, even if you believe you are guilty.
Our Flagstaff experienced criminal defense lawyers at Griffen & Stevens Law Firm, PLLC are here to fight for the best possible outcome in your criminal case. Contact our office to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your situation and begin building a strong defense strategy.
Understanding the Arizona Crime of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
ARS §13-3553 is the Arizona statute that designates when a person can be found guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor. There are two ways this law can be violated. The first is if an individual records, films, photographs, develops, or duplicates a visual depiction of a minor engaging in exploitive exhibition or other sexual conduct. The other way this crime can be committed is by distributing, transporting, exhibiting, receiving, selling, buying, electronically transmitting, or possessing a visual depiction of a minor engaged in exploitative exhibition or other sexual conduct.
If there is more than one photograph, picture, film, or another visual depiction of a minor, the accused can be charged with multiple violations of ARS §13-3553. Given the broad definition of what is considered sexual exploitation of a child, an accused can face severe criminal charges for simply clicking on an image on the internet or sending one text.
Punishments for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor in Flagstaff
Sexual exploitation of a minor is a sex offense and one of Arizona's most severe crimes. Only murder is considered a more serious crime. This criminal offense is classified as a Class 2 felony. If the minor involved is under fifteen years old, the offense is charged as a dangerous crime against children under ARS §13-705 and is punished even more harshly. When a defendant is convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor in Arizona, the following penalties may apply:
Minor 15 Years Old or Older
If the child is 15 years or older, an individual charged with a first offense would be sentenced to 3 to 12.5 years in prison.
Minor Under 15 Years Old
If a person is found guilty of sexual exploitation of a child who is 14 years old or younger, they would still be convicted of a Class 2 felony. However, the minimum and maximum sentences would be significantly increased. For a first offense, the person would be incarcerated for a minimum of 10 to 24 years.
Registration as a Sex Offender
If convicted, a defendant would be required to register as a sex offender. This registration can significantly affect various aspects of their life, including employment, housing, and personal relationships.
What Defenses Can Be Used to Fight Sexual Exploitation of a Minor Charges in Flagstaff?
A skilled Flagstaff criminal defense attorney may have several defense strategies they can use to defend you. These defenses could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense through a plea bargain. Here are some common defenses that may apply:
Lack of Knowledge
If you were unaware that the visual depiction involved a minor or that the content constituted sexual exploitation, this lack of knowledge might serve as a defense. Proving that you did not have knowledge of the minor's involvement or the nature of the content can be crucial in challenging the charges.
No Minor Involved
If it can be demonstrated that the individual in the visual depiction was not a minor, this defense may be applicable. It may be shown by establishing misidentification or manipulation of the evidence.
Unlawful Search and Seizure
If law enforcement obtained the visual depiction or other evidence through an illegal search and seizure, violating your Fourth Amendment rights, this could provide a strong defense. Evidence obtained illegally may be suppressed, making it impossible or more challenging for the prosecution to build a case against you.
If the police failed to give you your Miranda warnings when required, the judge could suppress incriminating statements you made. Depending on the prosecution's other evidence against you, they may not be able to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Denial of an Attorney
Denial of the right to a lawyer is another common defense you may be able to raise if you requested a lawyer, but the police continued to interrogate you. The prosecutor may be prohibited from using any statements you made after asking for an attorney.
Other Police Errors
If law enforcement officials made errors in collecting or retaining evidence against you, your attorney may be able to challenge the validity of the evidence or prevent the prosecutor from presenting the evidence in your criminal case.