Sexual Assault of a Child

Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer in Houston, TX

According to a 2006 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in six men were sexually abused before the age of 18. Sexual crimes against a child can include many different forms of contact, from fondling to obscene phone calls or texts to exhibitionism to online solicitation to masturbation to intercourse or oral or anal sex.

A sex crime can even include statutory rape- when an adult has a consensual relationship with a minor. In Texas, statutory rape is charged as "sexual assault of a child." According to Texas law, a child is anyone younger than 17 years of age.

How Is Sexual Abuse of a Child Defined By Texas Law?

In Chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code, child sexual abuse is defined as "any harmful sexual conduct to a child's mental, physical or emotional welfare, in addition to failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct with a child, and encouraging or compelling the child to engage in sexual conduct." Child sex crimes tend to be some of the most severely prosecuted crimes in the state, especially because these crimes tend to stir up outrage and sympathy/support for the victims.

Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 22, §22.011 and §22.021 discuss sexual assault. Sometimes the sexual assault of a child is a one-time event, at other times; it can go on for years. While often the sexual assault of a child involves a relative, at other times, it can involve a stranger. According to Texas Woman's University, "Sexual assault is a crime of violence, not a crime of passion. All crimes have two components: motive and opportunity. Sexual assault crimes usually involve motives of dominance or control, rather than sexual gratification."

What exactly does this charge entail?

According to Texas Penal Code §22.021 an individual can be charged with the sexual assault of a child, if he/she intentionally or knowingly did any of the following:

  • Penetrated the child's anus or sex organ
  • Penetrated the child's mouth with his/her sex organ
  • Caused a child's anus to contact the mouth, anus or sex organ of another person, including their own
  • Caused a child's mouth to contact the anus or sex organ of another person, including their own

Sexual contact is a lesser charge mentioned in Texas Penal Code §21.11 and includes touching, including through clothing, of the anus, breast or any part of the genitals of a child. It also includes any touching of any part of the child by the offender's anus, breast or genitals.

Penalties for Sexual Assault of a Child

Few things are more devastating than a sex crime conviction. In Texas, a sexual assault is usually a second degree felony. A conviction of sexual assault of a child can carry with it a sentence up to 20 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Aggravated sexual assault is a first degree felony that can result in a 25 year sentence. This offense can result in a sentence without parole and a lifetime sex offender registration.

Likewise, if someone is a repeat offender (the sexual abuse lasted over a period of time, thirty days or more in duration) there is a minimum punishment of twenty five years in prison or life without parole for repeat offenders. Under "Ashley's Laws," an individual who has a previous felony child sexual assault conviction, can be sentenced to life in prison under the "two strikes" provision added to Texas state law.

Also under "Ashley's Laws," offenders are required to serve at least 50% of their sentence before being granted parole, but usually end up serving 80%.

If an offender receives a child sex crime conviction that is a felony of the third degree, he/she can face a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years and will have to pay a fine up to $10,000.

Sentence Enhancements

What is aggravated sexual assault? Aggravated sexual assault involves factors that go above and beyond just a normal "sexual assault" charge. An individual can face worse penalties, if he/she caused serious bodily injury or the death of the victim, placed the victim in fear of death, bodily injury or kidnapping, used a weapon, had an accomplice, used the "date rape drug" (rohypnol or ketamine) or if the victim was younger than 14 years of age.

Defenses Against This Crime

While all of this information might seem depressing or make your odds of avoiding a conviction seem slim, there's good news: the state prosecutor has a difficult burden of proof. You are innocent until proven guilty and he/she must prove that you committed every element of the charge, beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are many defenses that can be used when an individual is charged with the sexual assault of a child that can exonerate him/her. These include:

  • Consent of the victim
  • Lack of intent
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Mistaken identity
  • Alibi
  • Duress/coercion
  • Insanity of the defendant
  • The defendant was no more than three years older than the child at the time of the offense
  • The defendant was the child's spouse at the time of the offense
  • The conduct consisted of medical care and did not include contact or penetration of the child's genitals

Why should you secure the help of a Houston sex crimes attorney?

When you face child sexual abuse charges, you face incurring penalties that could affect your life forever. Besides possible prison time and hefty fines, you will have to register as a sex offender, will experience public embarrassment, will be ineligible for certain forms of government aid, will be ineligible to attend certain college or graduate programs, will be ineligible to vote or possess a firearm, will be unable to pursue certain professions and will have a criminal record.

Furthermore, if you are the parent of the victim and have been accused of sexual assault, it is especially important that you act quickly. Not only could you face criminal penalties, your children could be taken away from you. You should notify Child Protective Services (CPS) immediately that you will fight for your children and your innocence. Our firm can advise you about what actions you should avoid, as they could jeopardize your family further. We can also prepare a vigorous defense on your behalf! Regardless of the details surrounding your case, few charges are more serious than the sexual assault of a child.

Contact The Martinez Law Firm today for the hard-hitting representation you deserve!

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