Arizona Gives No Quarter to Child Prostitution Offenders
ICYMI . . .
STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX (March 21, 2013) – Arizona has some of the harshest penalties in the nation for sex offenders who prostitute children. Recent claims that Arizona law penalizes only those engaged in child prostitution with minors less than 15 years of age are simply untrue. In fact, since 2007, there has been a systematic increase in penalties for those who prostitute teenagers and, in particular, those who engage in prostitution with 15, 16 or 17 year olds.
In 2007, the Legislature increased the penalty for defendants convicted of acts of child prostitution involving minors 15, 16 or 17 years of age and extended the law to cover both “pimps” and “johns.” The 2007 legislation established a mandatory prison sentence of 7 to 21 years for “pimps” and a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 30 days for “johns.”
In 2010, the Legislature revisited this issue and expanded the mandatory prison sentence for “pimps” and “johns” who engage in an act of prostitution while knowing the prostitute is 15, 16 or 17 years of age. One unintended consequence of the 2010 legislation was the inadvertent removal of a provision which required sentences to be served consecutively.
In that same year, Arizona’s legislative response to the sexual abuse of minors was further strengthened with the passage of HB 2238 (sexual offenses; probation; sentencing). The legislation, sponsored by then House Majority Whip now Speaker Andy Tobin (R-Dist. 1), required those convicted of felonious acts of indecent exposure or public sexual indecency with minors under the age of 15 to serve 6-15 years in prison.
In 2011, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-LD12) sponsored HB 2411 which re-established mandatory consecutive sentences for both “pimps” and “johns” committing acts of prostitution involving 15, 16 or 17 year olds. Data from 2012 shows that child prostitution offenders in Maricopa County were charged with an average of five acts of child prostitution involving a 15, 16 or 17 year old minor. Thanks to the mandatory consecutive sentencing requirement of HB 2411, these offenders now face an average mandatory minimum sentence of 35 years in prison.
The Arizona Legislature has put in place strong sentencing provisions which properly penalize offenders who commit the crime of child prostitution, while reserving the harshest sentences for those who prey upon very young children. In fact, Arizona’s Dangerous Crimes against Children statutes specifically increase punishments for harm to children under 15 but that emphasis does not mean that children from 15 to 17 can be victimized without punishment. At this point in time, there does not appear to be a demonstrated need to increase the punishment that can be imposed on the particular crime of child prostitution committed against children 15 to 17 years of age. Nevertheless, if further review supports the need to increase punishment for the prostitution of any child at any age, Arizona will act.
Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Dist. 12),
Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R-Dist. 1),
Representative Eddie Farnsworth (R-Dist. 12) &
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore