Most of you would be labelled a child molester under Arizona law

newborn-baby-bath-time

newborn-baby-bath-time

Have you ever changed a babies nappy? Have you even given a young child a bath? If you answered yes to either of these questions then congratulations, under Arizona law you are a child molester!

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?

…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.

…Bizarrely, the majority insists that if prosecutors did charge parents for changing their child’s diaper, they could argue that they were exercising “their fundamental, constitutional right to manage and care for their children.” This alleged defense is cold comfort. As Matt Brown notes at Mimesis Law, Arizona’s sentencing laws are so stringent—and state courts are “so unwilling to dismiss sex charges based on as-applied constitutional challenges” before trial and conviction—that innocent parents will “sit in prison for quite some time” before a higher court vacates their sentence on constitutional grounds.

-slate.com

  • Sally

    As a nana I performed the task of changing nappies, not once but twice today. Smelly, horrible things they were too. If you don’t do the job properly the poor little thing will suffer and then that becomes child abuse. Just can’t win anyway with this stupid law.

    • Deborah Lancaster

      No one is going to be charged with molesting their kids under this law. They are already talking about changing the wording. I had to dig but this started with a guy molesting his step daughter while black out drunk. His lawyers are arguing that he shouldnt be charged with molesting her since he was to drunk for it to be sexually motivated. The guy is probably telling the truth(cops thought he was dead) but whatever he did to that little girl it was bad enough for her to call the police and hide in a closet. Sad situation all the way around.

      • drjgorman

        “No one is going to be charged with molesting their kids under this law.”

        Famous last words! If a law is so badly written, that it could easily be abused, it will be abused. Lawmakers should always take care to write laws that are not ambiguous.

  • XCIA

    In that case, every mother with a child in nappies should descend upon the court and demand that the court supply an approved person under the law to change their child’s nappy. If no one is forthcoming, they should change the nappies and leave the old ones at the courthouse.

  • LabTested

    Victory! As a Dad of 4 kids I knew I should never have been involved in the whole bottom wiping thing. Finally official confirmation, however as usual too late for my generation.

  • peterwn

    Particularly bad news for those in Maricopa County – Joe Arpaio’s deputies will no doubt enforce the law rigorously.

  • James M

    At the same time did they make it legal for poo to fester in the child’s privates?

    Otherwise parents are now stuck with a
    choice of child neglect or molestation.

  • shykiwibloke

    This sounds like a back-door way of getting a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ catch all state of affairs.

  • Rick H

    Looks like yet again, “The Law is an Arse” – a very dirty one at that.

  • Boondecker

    When I had to change the nappies of my son, and a few years later, my daughter, a couple of decades back, I wondered on occasion if cleaning crap from an infant would one day be considered taboo by the then social enemies of the day, the social engineers and feminists.

    So, I am somewhat bemused to see the thoughts I had to distract myself from one of parentings least favourite things to do, have today come to fruition in Arizona. Sigh…

  • Cracker1963

    How can cleaning crap of a baby’s ass be considered sexual? When they are on the boob, it wasn’t too bad- but once on solids- yuk! Its something nobody likes doing. My wife & I used to pretend we couldn’t smell the pooped nappies- hoping the other would do the change. Once, my 9 month old daughter has a tummy bug- truly disgusting, wife was out shopping so it was up to me. Smell so bad, I had to resort to a chemical respirator as the smell was making me gag & 2 pairs of latex gloves. Wife came home mid clean- she ended up on the floor, rolling fits of laughter at my anti smell solutions. I swear that the smell penetrated the gloves & my hands smelled of poo for a week. Yuk, Yuk & double yuk.

  • anniem

    The law very often is an ass, this is just another stupid example.

  • I live in Arizona

    … Awesome!

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