The details of this SHOCK RULING from a high court are hard to believe…
The Arizona Supreme Court issued a stunning and horrifying decision on Tuesday, interpreting a state law to criminalize any contact between an adult and a child’s genitals. According to the court, the law’s sweep encompasses wholly innocent conduct, such as changing a diaper or bathing a baby. As the stinging dissent notes, “parents and other caregivers” in the state are now considered to be “child molesters or sex abusers under Arizona law.” Those convicted under the statute may be imprisoned for five years.
How did this happen? A combination of bad legislating and terrible judging. Start with the legislature, which passed laws forbidding any person from “intentionally or knowingly … touching … any part of the genitals, anus or female breast” of a child “under fifteen years of age.” Notice something odd about that? Although the laws call such contact “child molestation” or “sexual abuse,” the statutes themselves do not require the “touching” to be sexual in nature. (No other state’s law excludes this element of improper sexual intent.) Indeed, read literally, the statutes would seem to prohibit parents from changing their child’s diaper. And the measures forbid both “direct and indirect touching,” meaning parents cannot even bathe their child without becoming sexual abusers under the law.
Arizona’s Supreme Court had an opportunity to remedy this glaring problem. A man convicted under these laws urged the justices to limit the statutes’ scope by interpreting the “touching” element to require some sexual intent. But by a 3-2 vote, the court refused and declared that the law criminalized the completely innocent touching of a child. The majority declined to “rewrite the statutes to require the state to prove sexual motivation, when the statutes clearly contain no such requirement.” Moreover, the court held that the laws posed no due process problem, because those prosecuted under the statute could still assert “lack of sexual motivation” as an “affirmative defense” at trial—one the defendant himself must prove to the jury “by a preponderance of the evidence.” As to the risk that the law criminalizes typical parental tasks, the majority shrugs that “prosecutors are unlikely to charge parents” engaged in innocent conduct. (This “just trust the prosecutors” dodge doesn’t always work out so well in Arizona.)
So, if you are a parent in Arizona, what exactly are you supposed to do?
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