Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts are dealing with many novel legal issues. One of those issues is how to conduct Arizona criminal trials in a time of social distancing. Thus far, there is no consensus on how to effectively hold a trial while protecting a defendant’s constitutional rights, however, some courts are considering allowing witnesses to testify through the use of two-way video calls.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” This is referred to as the Confrontation Clause. Over the years, the United States Supreme Court has issued several important opinions discussing a defendant’s right to confront their accusers. However, this issue seems more salient than ever, and will likely come before the Court again.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case that, while not dealing specifically with the complications presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrates the issue quite clearly. In that case, a defendant faced sexual assault charges stemming from an incident in 1996. At the time, a rape kit was performed, however, it was not analyzed until 2015. The results of the testing tied the defendant to the crime.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an Arizona sex offense case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress statements that he made to police after his arrest. The defendant claimed that his statements must be suppressed because they were taken without police having provided him with his Miranda warnings, as required by the United States and Arizona constitutions. Ultimately, the court concluded that police did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights in taking the statement, and affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant lived with his girlfriend, as well as her daughter, the complaining witness, between 2004 and 2007. During this time, the defendant’s girlfriend’s daughter was between the ages of three and six. In 2014, the young girl disclosed to her grandmother that the defendant had sexual contact with her several times back when they lived in the same home.

After the grandmother contacted the police, two officers went to the defendant’s workplace to talk with him. The officers asked to speak with the defendant, who did not verbally respond, but followed the officers to a room where they interviewed him. One of the officers told the defendant he was not under arrest, and began to question him.

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In May of this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a case involving the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence that he claimed was illegally obtained when a probation officer searched through his cell phone after he had been arrested for violating his probation. Ultimately, the court held that the search was reasonable and permissible because, in accepting probation, the defendant permitted warrantless searches of his property.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, in 2014, the defendant was on probation for an Arizona domestic violence offense. The defendant was placed on probation. As a part of his probationary sentence, the defendant signed a document outlining the conditions of probation. Condition 4 stated that the defendant consented to warrantless searches of his property.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona sex offense case discussing whether the defendant was properly ordered to register as a sex offender after he was convicted by a jury. The case involves the guarantees of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial in criminal cases.

A Little Background into the Sixth Amendment

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides, among other rights, that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” This right to a trial by jury has been expanded over the years. For example, in the case, Apprendi v. New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court held that any fact that increases the punishment a defendant may face must be found beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury.

The Facts of the Case

In the recent opinion issued by the Arizona Supreme Court, the defendant was convicted of a sexual offense. At trial, the jury determined that the victim was “fifteen or more years of age.” However, the jury did not formally make a specific finding as to the victim’s exact age.

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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an Arizona child sex sting operation, discussing the defendant’s motion to suppress. Specifically, the defendant claimed that the officers lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop his vehicle because he had not committed a crime or a traffic offense. The court, however, disagreed, finding that the stop was valid because there was probable cause to believe the defendant committed “luring a minor for sexual exploitation.”

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, police set up a fake account in the name of “Sandi” in a teen chat room. The defendant began chatting with Sandi, and eventually, the nature of the conversation turned sexual, when the defendant asked Sandi if she would perform oral sex on him. The two arranged a time to meet at a location which was about 30 miles from the defendant’s home.

Police arrived at the area beforehand and waited for the defendant to arrive. However, when the defendant neared the park, he just drove around. Police officers claim that they eventually became concerned that the defendant would try to contact a real minor, and they pulled over his vehicle. No evidence was found linking the defendant to the crime, but he was arrested based on the chat conversations.

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