What is Luring a Minor in Arizona?
A.R.S. § 13-3554 defines the crime of “luring a minor for sexual exploitation” in Arizona. This usually involves “sexting” between an adult and a minor or conversations in internet chat rooms, which then leads to a suggestion by an adult defendant that he and the minor meet to engage in sexual activity. The conversations do not need to explicitly discuss meeting to engage in sexual conduct. Meeting is not even an element of the crime, although that is usually when the defendant gets arrested by the police. Rather, the law allows a jury to decide based on the entire context of the communication if “luring” activity has occurred.
The sex crimes units of Arizona police department will often conduct sting operations in a “to catch a predator” type of style in order to prosecute adults for luring a minor. If the minor is under 15, then a defendant can receive mandatory prison time (a minimum of 5 years) even for a first offense.
A.R.S. § 13-3554 Defined
Under ARS 13-3554 “a person commits luring of a minor for sexual exploitation by:
- Offering or soliciting sexual conduct with another person knowing or having reason to know that the other person is a minor.
It is not a defense that the “victim” involved was not actually a minor.
If a police officer is posing as a minor, it is not a defense that the undercover officer is actually over 18. All that matters is whether the defendant had reason to believe that the undercover officer was a minor. This could be from text exchanges between the defendant and the undercover officer, for example, in which the officer claims to be a 14-year-old girl. Even though the person the defendant is talking to is actually a full-grown woman (or maybe even a man), the question that matters for the law is whether the officer gave the defendant reason to believe that he was talking to a minor.
Luring a minor is a class 3 felony. If the minor is under 15 years old, then the crime is punishable as a “dangerous crime against children” under ARS 13-705.
Police Sting Operations
A typical police tactic will be to engage in a sting operation to try to catch people sexting minors and seeing if they will meet up with them in public. This will usually involve an undercover officer who poses as a young girl online. A defendant will begin to engage in virtual communication with the supposed “minor” via the internet or text. The texts will usually turn to a sexual nature, and pictures will be exchanged. The police may use pictures of actual minors to try to convince the defendant that the person he is speaking with is a young girl. The sting will culminate in the officers suggesting that the defendant meet and the officers will arrange a place for the meeting to occur. When the defendant arrives at the location, the police will be waiting for him and arrest him for luring a minor for sex.
It is important to understand though that meeting the alleged minor to initiate sexual conduct is not a required element of the crime. In fact, a person can be charged with multiple counts of luring a minor based on multiple chat messages. Whether the text or chat messages constitute an attempt to “lure” a minor for sexual conduct is ultimately left up to the jury based on their interpretation of the messages and the context.
Example: In the Arizona Court of Appeals case State v. Yegan, 223 Ariz. 213 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2009), a California resident was charged with four counts of luring a minor based on separate online conversations that occurred on different days. The conservation that occurred on one of these days which constituted the crime of “luring a minor” was as follows:
Yegan: i am coming [to Phoenix] . . . just make sure u let me know that u are excited . . . and that u want me i want u
Erica: i am
Yegan: good. do you want to become a Woman?
Erica: what u mean
Yegan: well there is a difference between girls and women. . do u know what that is?
Yegan: no age wont do it someone can be an old girl or a young woman
Yegan: women have lost their virginity girls dont.
The court held that a reasonable jury could interpret this text exchange as the Defendant, Yegan, as soliciting sexual conduct from the undercover detective who was posing as a 14 year old girl.
What is the Significance of ARS 13-705?
ARS 13-705 is a unique law that applies to crimes involving children. It creates a special sentencing scheme for people found guilty of the crimes, which is usually much harsher than the scheme that would be apply if the crime was not a “dangerous crime against children” (or “DCAC” as it is known for short).
If a crime is determined to be a DCAC, prison will be mandatory even for first-time felony offenders.
Penalties for Luring of a Minor
Luring of a minor is a class 3 felony, which carries heavy penalties.
If the minor the defendant is accused of luring is between 15 and 17 years old, the crime is charged as a class 3 felony but it is not designated a “dangerous crime against children.” A regular class 3 felony carries the following possible prison ranges depending on how many prior felony convictions the defendant has:
- No felony convictions: 3 to 12.5 years
- One felony conviction: 4.5 to 23 years
- Two felony convictions: 10.5 to 35 years
If the minor involved in the crime is under 15, however, and the crime is charged as DCAC, then harsher penalties apply:
- Sentencing range for a first offense: 5 to 15 years in prison.
If the crime is charged as a DCAC and the defendant has one “predicate felony” (which includes a variety of offenses such as a sexual offense or an offense involving a dangerous weapon) the sentencing range is as follows:
- 8 to 22 years in prison
How Salwin Law Group Can Help You
Luring a minor under ARS 13-3554 is a serious charge, but an experienced Phoenix defense attorney can help. Stewart Salwin is a felony prosecutor and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School. We have represented clients in sex crimes cases and luring of a minor charges. We know the detectives, the prosecutors, and the judges in the system.
If your freedom is on the line, you need the best defense. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.