By: Kylie Yanes

A problem affecting many court cases and thousands of lives of children in Arizona involves how Arizona statute 13-705 refers to the age of a child who is a victim of a dangerous crime. These are certain criminal offenses where the victim was under the age of 15. Convictions for a dangerous crime against a child come with longer and harsher prison sentences than an identical offense that was committed against anyone over 14 years old.

This statute states that “a dangerous crime against children means any of the following that is committed against a minor who is under fifteen years of age:

(a) Second degree murder.

(b) Aggravated assault resulting in serious physical injury or involving the discharge, use or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

(c) Sexual assault.

(d) Molestation of a child.

(e) Sexual conduct with a minor.

(f) Commercial sexual exploitation of a minor.

(g) Sexual exploitation of a minor.

(h) Child abuse as prescribed in section 13-3623, subsection A, paragraph 1.

(i) Kidnapping.

(j) Sexual abuse.

(k) Taking a child for the purpose of prostitution as prescribed in section 13-3206.

(l) Child sex trafficking as prescribed in section 13-3212.

(m) Involving or using minors in drug offenses.

(n) Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

(o) Attempted first degree murder.

(p) Sex trafficking.

(q) Manufacturing methamphetamine under circumstances that cause physical injury to a minor.

(r) Bestiality as prescribed in section 13-1411, subsection A, paragraph 2.

(s) Luring a minor for sexual exploitation.

(t) Aggravated luring a minor for sexual exploitation.

(u) Unlawful age misrepresentation.

(v) Unlawful mutilation.

(w) Sexual extortion as prescribed in section 13-1428.”

When the defendant for these crimes is an adult and the victim is under 15, it will impact the prison sentence, the collateral consequences, the availability of probation, and whether the defendant will be eligible for early release.

The issue with this statute is that 15, 16 and 17 year olds are not counted as children when these horrific crimes happen to them. Arizona, like most states, sets the age of majority at 18. Which means that for almost any other purpose than being protected from dangerous crimes, 15, 16, and 17 year olds are considered children. It is important to look at the statistics to understand that these teens are not exempt from becoming victims of these felonies.

These crimes are happening in Arizona. The Department of Justice has identified Phoenix as one of the top human trafficking jurisdictions in the country. It is crucial that these ages are included in the dangerous crimes against children demographic because they are experiencing the same physical, emotional and psychological effects as 14 year olds and under. The toll on the victim can lead to shame, fear, confusion and suicidal thoughts. While 93 percent of perpetrators are known to the victim, these children who have been abused are experiencing trauma and distrust from people close to them, and are four times more likely to experience drug abuse, PTSD and depression. Among child and teen victims of sexual abuse there is a 42 percent increased chance of suicidal thoughts during adolescence.

There absolutely has to be consequences for adults who commit dangerous crimes against our 15, 16, and 17 year olds. We have to protect them from crimes that no one should be able to commit against any child. For example, the differences in sentencing can be dramatic as in the case of sexual assault or sexual conduct with a minor, where, if the victim is under 15 years of age, the sentencing range is from 13 to 27 years. However, if a 15 year old were to be a victim of the same crime, the sentencing range would only be 5 to 14 years.

By changing the age to 18 and to a proper translation of what a child is, perpetrators will be facing more of a consequence for victimizing these 15-17 year olds and this will create a deterrence effect and also bring greater justice to these children. If abusers are not being charged as harshly, they will have more time to repeat their offense and harm yet another child. Ms Rumenap, President of Stop Child Predators shared “Ask any officer who works in sex crimes, especially those involving children, and they will tell you these crimes happen too often and are repeated.” According to Stop Child Predators, “of the released sex offenders who committed another sex crime, 40 percent perpetrated the new offense within one year from their prison discharge.” These statistics show that the consequences for harming children need to be enforced strictly no matter the child’s age. This solution also may help with disclosures as “3 out of 4 sexual abuse cases go unreported” because of fear of retaliation, thoughts of inability, or unwillingness for law enforcement to help etc. In order for our children to trust us enough to share their trauma, we need to be eager to protect them. We need to set high penalties for hurting any of them because we care and they are counting on us. Including 15-17 year olds as children is a proactive step in a positive direction.

Resources: Winged Hope Family Advocacy Foundation

Kylie graduated from Grand Canyon University with a B.S. in Business Management. She is currently a 2L at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and hopes to use her law degree to make a positive impact in her community. When not in law school, Kylie enjoys being with her family and friends, traveling and volunteering.