Public Sexual Indecency: ARS 13-1403 Get the peace of mind that comes with an elite defense. Call Stewart Salwin.

Public Sexual Indecency in Arizona: ARS 13-1403

What is Public Sexual Indecency?

A.R.S. § 13-1403 criminalizes public sexual indecency in Arizona. In other words, it outlaws sexual acts in public. Even when the acts are engaged in by two consenting adults, the law states that if a "reasonable" person would be "offended or alarmed" by them, then the acts can be prosecuted. This sex crime is usually charged as a misdemeanor, although if a minor is present to witness the acts it is a class 5 felony. A conviction can result in consequences to a person's job and reputation beyond the immediate legal penalties.

A.R.S. § 13-1403 Defined

Under ARS 13-1403 a person commits public sexual indecency by intentionally or knowingly engaging in any of the following acts, if another person is present, and the defendant is reckless about whether such other person, as a reasonable person, would be offended or alarmed by the act:

  • An act of sexual contact.
  • An act of oral sexual contact.
  • An act of sexual intercourse.
  • An act of bestiality.

By itself, public sexual indecency is a class 1 misdemeanor.

However, a person commits public sexual indecency to a minor if the person intentionally or knowingly engages in any of the acts listed above and is reckless about whether a minor who is under fifteen years of age is present. In this case, the crime becomes a class 5 felony.

Example: Two consenting adults engage in sexual conduct in a bar in Scottsdale where only adults are present. This is a class 1 misdemeanor. If the adults participate in the same conduct on a playground where children are present, this is now a class 5 felony.

What Counts as "Sexual Contact"?

Sexual contact is defined by ARS 13-1401 as "any direct or indirect touching, fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast by any part of the body or by any object or causing a person to engage in such contact."

This is a pretty broad category. But keep in mind that in order for "sexual contact" to qualify as "public indecency," the state must also prove that a "reasonable person" would be offended or alarmed by the act. While the strict definition of "sexual contact" may occur fairly regularly in public nightclubs or some bars, the context of the situation may keep this contact from being classified as "indecency." What turns something from "sexual contact" to "public indecency" will depend largely on the surrounding circumstances. This is where having an articulate defense attorney who can properly frame the context of the alleged crime can mean the difference between a conviction and an acquittal at trial.

Penalties for Public Sexual Indecency

The penalties for a violation of ARS 13-1403 vary widely depending on whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.

As a class 1 misdemeanor the public indecency carries the following potential penalties:

  • Up to 6 months' jail
  • Up to $2500 fine

As a class 5 felony public sexual indecency to a minor carries the follow potential penalties:

  • First felony offense: Probation or .5 to 2.5 years
  • Second felony offense: 1 to 3.75 years
  • Third felony offense (if the prior felonies were not also sex crimes): 3 to 7.5 years
  • Third felony offense (if the prior felonies were sex crimes): 6 to 15 years.

Notice: The punishment increases significantly if the defendant has two prior felony convictions for sex crimes.

Other consequences for a felony conviction include loss of civil rights, such as voting and gun possession; as well as having a conviction on your permanent criminal record that is viewable by employers and anybody else performing a background check.

Defenses to Public Sexual Indecency

If you have been charged with public sexual indecency, reaching out to skilled sex crimes attorney is your best option. The following defenses may be available to defend against your charges:

  • Not "offensive" or "alarming": As discussed above, to convict a defendant under ARS 13-1403, the State must not only show that a sexual act took place in public, but also that the defendant was acted "recklessly" about whether a "reasonable person" would be "offended" or "alarmed" by the act. In other words, the context of the situation matters as to the specific facts surrounding the allegations. If the defendant is being discrete about his contact and attempting to conceal it in a corner or a private street, then it can be argued that the conduct is not "reckless." If a police officer is patrolling the streets or follows a couple into an alleyway and with the purpose of trying to catch them "in the act," then the prosecutor will have a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted recklessly in that situation. Rather, the only reason anybody saw what was happening was because the police officer was stalking the couple for the purposes of making an arrest.

How Salwin Law Group Can Help You

If you have been arrested for public sexual indecency, call Salwin Law Group. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.

Call Salwin Law Group PLLC today at (480) 470-6119, or contact us online to make your appointment.

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