What is Access Interference in Arizona?
A.R.S. § 13-1305 criminalizes what is known as “access interference.” This occurs when a person, usually a lawful custodian for the child, interferes with the court-ordered access rights of the other lawful custodian. For example, if a husband goes to pick up his children from the mother at the court ordered time and place, but the mother refuses to allow the husband to see the children, then wife has committed “access interference.” Access interference is related to the crime of custodial interference. It differs in that custodial interference often involves a non-custodial parent refusing to return the child to the custodial parent at the end of visitation time.
Access interference is a class 5 felony if the children are removed Arizona. It is a class 2 misdemeanor if the children remain in the state.
A.R.S. § 13-1305 Defined
Under ARS 13-1305, a person commits access interference if:
- Knowing or having reason to know that the person has no legal right to do so, the person knowingly engages in a pattern of behavior that prevents, obstructs or frustrates the access rights of a person who is entitled to access to a child pursuant to a court order.
An “access order” means a court order that allows a person to have direct access to a child or incompetent person.
If the child is removed from the state the crime is a class 5 felony, otherwise it is a class 2 misdemeanor.
Penalties for Access Interference
The penalties for a conviction under ARS 13-1305 vary great depending on whether it is charged a misdemeanor or a felony. And if the case is charged as a felony, then the punishment increases substantially if the person charged has prior felony convictions.
Penalties for a class 2 misdemeanor
- Up to 4 months’ jail
- Up to $750 in fines
Penalties for a class 5 felony
- With no prior felonies: probation or .5 to 2.5 years in prison
- With one prior felony: 1 to 3.75 years in prison
- With two prior felonies: 3 to 7.5 years in prison
Defenses to Access Interference
- Not a Knowing Violation: Access interference requires a showing that the defendant both “knowingly” prevented the other custodian’s access to the child and knew or had reason to know that they had no legal right to do so. That the defendant was acting knowingly, rather than merely making an honest mistake, is a defense to the crime.
Example: A father and mother share custody of their son. The mother has custody on weekdays, and the father has custody from Friday night to Sunday night. The custody order allows the father extended access rights beyond the weekend if the mother consents. The mother and father agree in a text message exchange that the father can take the son to California for from Friday to Wednesday on a vacation. The mother changes her mind about this agreement and emails the father, but the father never sees the email message. The mother goes to pick up the son on Sunday night, but both the father and son are in California. Even if it was shown that the father had no legal right to take the son to California after the mother changed her mind about the trip, the father did not knowingly act against the court order. Because he never saw the email from the mother, he justifiably believed that he had the legal right to act as he did.
How Salwin Law Group Can Help You
If you have been charged with access interference, an experienced defense attorney can help defend you. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.