In 2011, 19,091 people were convicted of a sexual assault offense in the state of Texas. But what does that mean?
Criminal sexual assault cases include a vast amount of varied data types and many different pieces of legislation. The law is so opaque in some cases that it’s not uncommon to not understand how the law works and to only encounter it when you find yourself on the receiving end of an indictment.
Are you or someone you love facing sexual assault charges? We put together a brief guide to show you what Texas law says and what you need to do next.
How Texas Defines Criminal Sexual Assault
You can find the bulk of the Texas Sexual Assault Statute Penal Code Title 5, Chapter 22, Sections 22.01(a)(3), 22.011 and 22.021.
In the law, you find four core elements:
- Age of consent
- Conditions of consent
- Aggravated assault
- Assault with offensive contact
Here’s what each one means in relation to criminal sexual assault.
Age of Consent
The age of the victim may impact the charges filed against a defendant. Usually, a crime committed against a child comes with heavier charges.
Texas determines that a “child” is anyone under 17 years old. The law states that it doesn’t matter if the defendant did or did not know the age of the child at the time of the offense.
Conditions of Consent
The second important concept in the law is consent. Texas law considers the act to occur without consent in the following cases:
- If the victim faced threats or physical violence to achieve consent.
- If the victim was unable to resist or understand the nature of the act
- If the defendant held a place of power over the victim
- If the victim was in the defendant’s care at the time of the alleged crime
For example, a doctor, a member of the clergy, or a social worker working with the victim cannot receive consent from the victim because they have power.
The third issue raised by the law is the elevation of the crime to aggravated sexual assault.
A defendant may receive a more severe charge of aggravated sexual assault in the cases where:
- The assault resulted in serious bodily injury
- The assault was matched by an attempt to cause the victim’s death
- The assault included a kidnapping
- The assault resulted in the victim’s fear of injury, death, or kidnapping (to themselves or third party)
- The assault featured a deadly weapon
- The assault involved two defendants
- The assault was committed with Rohypnol or ketamine
- The assault involved a victim under 14
- The assault involved an elderly or disabled victim
Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony.
Assault – Offensive Contact
Not all nonconsensual contact falls under Texas sexual assault laws. Any nonconsensual physical contact that does not involve penetration or injury is a class C misdemeanor.
Texas makes an exception in cases when the victim is under 17 when an assault by offensive contact becomes a second-degree felony.
What is included under the assault by offensive contact? Grabbing, groping, and public masturbation are all misdemeanors unless there is a child involved.
Statute of Limitations
Are the police asking about events that allegedly happened years ago?
The statute of limitations on sex crimes differs from the state of limitations on many other crimes.
Crimes like burglary or kidnapping have a five-year limit. Misdemeanors often come with a two-year limit.
Sex crimes come with much longer time limits.
Some sex crimes committed against adults come with a ten-year time limit. However, as the severity of the crime grows, so too does the amount of time the state has to bring criminal charges.
Aggravated sexual assault charges have no statute of limitations. You can be charged at any time, even if the alleged event took place decades ago.
If the victim of the sexual assault was a child, there is also no statute of limitations because it falls under aggravated sexual assault.
Those who are charged with committing similar offenses against at least five people can also be charged at any point because there is no statute of limitations.
Punishments for Sexual Assault Crimes in Texas
Texas considers sexual assault and related crimes to be a felony offense.
Both the charge and the punishment grow as the crime become more severe. Sexual assault inflicted on a child or an elderly person comes with greater charges than does sexual assault against a ‘non-vulnerable’ person.
In many sexual assault cases, convictions come with a fine of around $10,000 and a prison sentence lasting between two and twenty years.
The judge may also require you to register yourself as a sex offender.
In cases where there is a significant age difference or the crime includes incest, the sentence may grow to a life sentence.
If the assault includes a grave forced physical attack, then it is a first-degree felony. The minimum period of incarceration may be
What to Do If You Are Charged
Sexual assault charges are a serious matter, and you absolutely cannot fight them on your own. The intricacies of the law combined with the long statutes of limitations and severe punishments mean that a guilty verdict is not only a possibility, but it could transform the rest of your life.
Hire a Lawyer
Depending on the crime, the state can weigh charges against you at any time. Because of the complexity of these cases, you need a lawyer from the very start.
Consider a Potential Defense
For the case to move forward, the prosecutor needs to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. A lawyer can help you present your alibi or poke other holes in the prosecutor’s case to break the reasonable doubt shield.
A second common defense is arguing that the defendant had consent. However, consent becomes difficult to prove in situations that do not involve the abuse of power, drugs or alcohol, or threats of physical violence. It requires that you have evidence of consent, which is difficult to come by especially if the alleged event happened several years or even decades ago.
Do You Have Questions About Criminal Sexual Assault Charges in Texas?
The combination of the extended statute of limitations with strict law enforcement means that people find themselves stuck with criminal sexual assault charges when they least expect it.
If you are under investigation or the subject of charges, the first thing you need to do is call a criminal defense attorney. Do not contact the victim or anyone else related to the case, as it could
What can a criminal defense attorney in Houston do for you? Get in touch today to learn more about your options.