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Sexual Predator Prosecution

1029 words 4 page(s)

Arizona has a large number of different laws that are designed to stop sexually predatory behavior. The state has clamped down on these types of activities over the last few decades, mostly because advocating on behalf of harsher laws and penalties has become politically expedient for people in the state legislature. With that in mind, the laws have been reformed and hardened in two separate ways. For one, more laws have been passed. In addition, the penalties being levied against people for these crimes have been heightened. While judges and prosecutors do have some discretion in charging crimes and choosing punishments, the minimums are high enough that each of these crimes is punished very harshly today.

Arizona has a huge section of its criminal code dedicated to punishing activities that some might consider to be predatory. There are the obvious laws that all people think about when assessing sexual criminality – sexual assault, child sex crimes, and prostitution. In addition, the state criminalizes a range of activities in which a person simply solicits sexual favors from either an adult or a child. Section 13-3554 of the code, for instance, criminalizes luring a minor. The wording of that particular law states, “A person commits luring 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” (Arizona, 2004). Under this law and many others, a person does not have to actually make contact with a minor in order to be charged with a crime. If the person thinks that a person is a minor and they make some sort of offer, then they can be charged under this statute. It is important to note, as well, that a person cannot use the defense that the other person was not a minor. If the assailant believed or had reason to believe that the person was a minor, then they have committed the crime regardless of the actual age of the victim. This is an important detail because of the way that police officers often catch people in these kinds of crimes. Often, officers pose as young women online, seeking out so-called sexual predators. Because of the lack of this available defense, police officers can do this with impunity.

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In terms of crime types, a wide range of different things have been criminalized. Sexual assault is obviously the most serious of the crimes that one can be convicted of in Arizona. There are other things, though, including voyeurism. One could also be convicted of a felony if one takes a child for the purpose of prostitution. This particular law was passed in order to try and shut down the ever-growing child prostitution rings that are present in Arizona, just as they are present in other parts of the country. Public indecency is also something that can get a person arrested. There is one prevailing line of thought that feels that would-be sexual predators sometimes “out” themselves by doing lewd or crude behavior. By harshly punishing things like public exposure and public urination, the state is looking to catch would-be predators before they ever commit a crime. Unfortunately these laws are very broad, though, and they can often catch folks who would otherwise pose no real harm to children or any other person in society. In addition, the state of Arizona criminalizes a host of different things for convicted sexual offenders. People who have been convicted of a sexual offense have to register with the state, and if they fail to do so, they can be punished with multiple years in prison. Likewise, they are restricted in where they can live and operate. These previously convicted individuals are not allowed to live near schools and parks, and they are consistently monitored on this basis.

Arizona does have minimum mandatory sentencing depending on the nature of the crime and the nature of the victim. According to the sentencing statute, a person who commits a sexually dangerous crime against a person who is less than twelve years old is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until thirty-five years of the sentence has been served. For the most part, these sorts of mandatory sentences are harsher as the victim becomes younger. The state has taken a hard line on crimes against the very young, and punishments are relaxed to some extent for people whose victims are older than twelve.

This collection of statutes is, like most body of laws, both effective and ineffective. In some sense, the statutes are very broad, and because of that, they cast a broad net, catching individuals that might not be immediately dangerous. They provide very little flexibility once charges have been filed, so different levels and classes of offenders are often heaped together. However, this can be abated by some flexibility in charging, as prosecutors still have the freedom to charge (or not charge) in the way that they see fit. One of the issues with these particular statutes is the ways in which they treat convicted sexual offenders. Like most states, Arizona makes a tremendous effort to ostracize these individuals and ensure that they can never operate within organized society again. While these laws were passed with good intentions, they fail to recognize that when sexual predators are excluded from society in this way, re-offending becomes more likely than not (Petrunik, 2003). This is a general problem with many different states, but it is especially true in Arizona, where the laws on sexual offenders tend to be extremely harsh and unbending. While it might seem counter-intuitive, the best way to ensure that sexual predators do not re-offend is to help them integrate back into communities where they can get the kinds of social support that build back the fabric between the offender and society. Without that fabric, they have very little respect for the law, and this often shows.

    References
  • Code, A. P. (2004). Arizona Revised Statutes.
  • Petrunik, M. (2003). The hare and the tortoise: Dangerousness and sex offender policy in the United States and Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice/La Revue canadienne de criminologie et de justice pénale, 45(1), 43-72.