By US~Observer Staff
Arizona – Flipping the burden of proof from the state to the defendant in criminal prosecutions is the crux of this illegitimate law. In a report by Slate, “Last September, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a stunning decision interpreting the state’s child molestation law to criminalize any contact between an adult and a child’s genitals. In a 3–2 ruling, the court found that the law encompassed entirely innocent conduct, such as changing or bathing a baby. Arizona, the court held, could convict an adult for touching an infant’s genitals—which carries a prison sentence of five years—without proving sexual intent. Instead, under the law, the accused had the burden of proving that (they) had no sexual intent to a jury and by a preponderance of the evidence. As the dissenters noted, the ruling turned ‘parents and other caregivers’ in the state into ‘child molesters or sex abusers under Arizona law.'”
Fortunately for adults who were unjustly branded “molesters” for simply changing diapers or similar, a federal court recently intervened and ruled the Arizona law unconstitutional. In a lengthy ruling, U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake explained how the law violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
Under current Arizona law, a person is guilty of molestation if they, “intentionally or knowingly … touch[es] … any part of the genitals, anus or female breast” of a child “under fifteen years of age.”
The glaring problem is the law doesn’t state touching must be for sexual gratification – basically labeling anyone who changes a diaper as… you got it – a child molester. Furthermore, it switches the burden of proof to the defendant – requiring they prove the touching was not sexual in nature.
Judge Wake’s ruling overturned the criminal conviction of Stephen May, a swimming instructor who was found guilty of inappropriately touching four children. A jury found May guilty of touching the children, but not sexually, since the law didn’t require that finding. May was sentenced to 75 years in prison. May isn’t the only Arizonan to unjustly suffer under the law; Judge Wake noted the state has prosecuted plenty of parents, and successfully convicted some, for what may be totally innocent behavior. Those persons will likely ask a federal court to vacate their sentence.
What was probably intended to be a good law, failed miserably. Innocent lives were ruined and Arizona State continued to support the law, even upholding it at the State Supreme Court level. A federal court stepped in and was able to finally be a voice of reason before more parents, or innocent adults were wrongfully labeled child molesters.
The saddest part about being wrongfully convicted of sex abuse against a child is that your life is permanently ruined despite whatever time you spend incarcerated. Upon being released you still carry the stigma of that crime as you register for the rest of your life as a convicted sex offender. Good luck buying a home, living in a school zone, finding a companion or getting a job. Although there are serious predators in this world, there are also many false allegations of such, especially in highly contentious divorce proceedings where one parent makes false allegations against another, resulting in wrongful prosecutions and convictions. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to think traumatic injustices like these can occur until they become the victim.
If you or anyone you know are facing a false prosecution, contact the US~Observer immediately. We may just be your only hope!