Yavapai County prosecutors have sentenced a man to 100 in prison for the kidnapping and sexual assault of a high school student in 2019. Keep reading to learn more.
David Littlehale will serve 20 years on four counts of sexual assault. He is convicted of kidnapping a 15-year-old Prescott High School student for nearly two and a half hours until she escaped and got help from a next-door neighbor. The jury’s decision to convict Littlehale was based on the recent charge in addition to two prior felony convictions.
Criminal History and Convictions
We can gather from the Littlehale case that prior convictions carry a lot of weight during a criminal trial. Especially when a crime involves violent sexual assault of a minor, the accused is not likely have the jury’s favor.
Unless the defense attorney can prove that a sexual assault charge was filed to satisfy an ulterior motive or that the accusation is false, the accused may spend the rest of their lives bearing the burden of their conviction. Individuals successfully charged with sexual assault are required by law to register as sex offenders, which can destroy their ability to seek employment and housing.
So, how do sex offense charges work in Arizona, and what can you do if you’re accused of breaking the law?
Sexual Offenses in Arizona
There are six primary sexual offenses under Arizona law:
- Indecent Exposure: The exposure of private parts in the presence of another person without their consent. Unless the victim is a minor, indecent exposure is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor.
- Public Sexual Indecency: Sexual touching, intercourse, or oral sexual contact in public.
- Sexual Abuse: Engaging and/or initiating sexual contact with someone over 15 without their consent. This offense is a class 3 felony if committed against a minor.
- Sexual Conduct with a Minor: Engaging in sexual acts (oral or penetrative) with a child under 18.
- Sexual Assault: Engaging and/or initiating sexual contact with someone without their consent.
- Molestation of a Child: Engaging or coercing sexual contact with a child under the age of 15. This is punishable as a dangerous crime and a class 2 felony.
While some of these offenses sound similar, it is essential to note the slight differences, whether it be an age limit or type of sexual contact. In the Littlehale case, the charges elevated because the victim was a minor under 15 and because the accused has prior felony convictions.
In many court situations, a sexual offense could be elevated based on a prior criminal conviction. If this happens, the final conviction could quickly become a felony and result in a lengthy prison sentence.
Punishment of Sexual Offenses
Depending on the offense, individuals convicted of a sexual crime could face a life sentence behind bars. Typically, most violations that include sexual conduct or abuse with a minor under 15 years will be punished with at least 13 years behind bars. For abuse of a child under 12, offenders face life in prison.
It is easy to assume that these charges only apply to adults who abuse children, but young adults and adolescents can also be tried as adults for certain sexual crimes. Consent plays a huge role in cases involving two adults, but in general, the court views any sexual acts between an adult and a child as nonconsensual. In the eyes of the law, any child under the age of 15 cannot legally consent to any sexual activity.
A Final Note
The Littlehale case proves that Arizona courts do not take sexual offenses lightly, and while the law is meant to protect victims, there is little to protect people from false accusations.
If you have been wrongly accused of sexual assault or another sexual offense, do not hesitate to contact our legal team at Territorial Law.