Someone who solicits sex with a minor in Arizona could face up to 27 years in prison. Or 90 days. It’s what advocates call the “age loophole” and they say changing it is a priority.
“A minor is a minor, and if someone is going to buy sex with a child, they should be punished accordingly, not only a few months in jail,” said Taryn Offenbacher, a spokeswoman for Shared Hope International.
Among the 27 recommendations in the Arizona human trafficking task force report is doing away with the current distinction in state law between sex trafficking “victims who are under 15 and those who are 15, 16 and 17 years old” – the age loophole. Under state law, a john who solicits sex with someone who is 14 or younger faces 13 to 27 years behind bars. If john knew the child was 15, 16 or 17 years old, the sentence ranges from seven to 21 years – but only if prosecutors can prove the john was aware of the prostitute’s age. Without proof of that knowledge, the minimum sentence falls to 180 days for soliciting a prostitute who is 15 or older. A judge could further reduce the sentence to 90 days if it was a first-time offense and the john agreed to court-ordered education or treatment.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, director of Arizona State University’s Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, called the age gap “the most blatantly egregious problem” in the law. The gap is not only hard for people to understand, but it does not make Arizona safe for young trafficking victims.
Learn more at Pei Li’s Tuscon Sentinel article: Advocates say fixing ‘age loophole’ in child prostitution law is a priority.