By: Mark Diaz
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Things That Can Increase Sexual Assault Sentence In Texas
Being charged with sexual assault in Texas is both terrifying and humiliating. This severe criminal charge can ruin your personal life, and career and devastate your reputation in the community. If you are convicted, you will face heavy fines, prison time, and sex offender registration. Because of the tremendous stigma of being a sex offender, a conviction can wreck your life.
Even if the charge is dismissed, you still could face consequences for years. Learn about sexual assault charges in this article, and if you have questions about a criminal case, our Chambers County sexual assault lawyers can help today.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Like many states, Texas no longer uses a traditional definition of rape. The penal code in Texas states that non-consensual sexual intercourse is called sexual assault. This offense is a second degree felony which is punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
However, this offense can be charged as a first degree felony if the offense is committed against a blood relative or stepparent, or against a purported spouse in a situation of bigamy.
The Texas sexual assault statute also has a provision listed for statutory rape. This is sexual intercourse with someone who is 17 or younger. Unlike sexual assault against an adult victim, statutory rape does not involve the concept of consent. This means that any sexual intercourse with a child is a crime, whether the victim consented or not.
What Is Aggravated Sexual Assault?
In certain circumstances, a sex crime in Texas may be prosecuted as aggressive sexual assault and will increase the criminal sentence. This includes sexual assault involving a weapon, making the victim afraid for their life, using a date rape drug to commit the crime, or committing the crime against a child under 14 years of age, elderly, or disabled person. If you are convicted of aggressive sexual assault, it is a first-degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison.
Sex Between Young People May Not Be A Criminal Offense In Texas
A wrinkle in many states’ sexual assault laws is where the alleged perpetrator and victim are young and close in age. In Texas, if the defendant can prove that the alleged victim is older than 14 and not more than three years younger than the defendant, it may not be a crime. This is commonly referred to as the Romeo and Juliet law. This is intended to protect young people from criminal prosecution for having consensual sex with someone of a similar age.
If you or someone you know has been accused of sexual assault with a minor, it is essential to understand if the Romeo and Juliet defense is applicable. Even if the facts of the situation appear to fit this defense, you still should have an attorney to defend you. Any time you have been accused of sex with a minor, you should treat the matter extremely seriously, even if the Romeo and Juliet defense appears to apply.
What Is The Best Defense To A Sexual Assault Charge?
If you were charged with sexual assault, you face years in prison, and if it is aggravated sexual assault, you could get an effective life sentence. Your reputation and freedom are at stake, so never think you are safe from being prosecuted and convicted because you are innocent. If you have been arrested, having an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner is essential.
Your attorney will gather all relevant information from witnesses, crime laboratories, social media, law enforcement, and more. Your attorney will construct the best possible defense to the sexual assault charge with this information. Some of the defenses that could be effective for your case are:
- Lack of criminal intent
- Lack of knowledge
- Victim consent
- You were no more than three years older than the minor when the offense occurred
Lack of intent is a potential defense because the law requires knowing or intentional sexual contact. So, accidental touching or penetration is not sexual assault. However, this defense may be ineffective unless you had a good reason to be close to the individual when they were undressed.
Victim consent is a common defense because the state has the burden of proof, meaning it must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that you did not have the victim’s consent. Many sexual assault charges are of the ‘he said, she said’ variety and the evidence is unclear. However, remember that consent is not considered when the alleged victim is a minor because children cannot give consent.
Additional Common Questions About Sexual Assault Laws In Texas
Below are more common questions and answers about sexual assault charges in Texas:
How Is Sexual Assault Defined In Texas?
Texas Penal Code Section 22.011 defines rape and sexual assault. It reads that sexual assault happens when there is non-consensual, unwanted sexual contact with another party that involves sexual organ penetration by any means. Lack of consent is defined as coercion, manipulation, physical force, and threats of violence.
How Long Can You Go To Prison For Sexual Assault?
According to Texas law, sexual assault is a second-degree felony, so you can get between 2 and 20 years in state prison.
Should You Attempt To Contact Your Accuser?
Usually, no. In most cases, the judge will issue an order stating that you cannot contact the alleged victim under the terms of your bail.
What If You Had A Consensual Relationship With The Alleged Sexual Assault Victim?
This is where a skilled criminal defense attorney can help you. They could hire a private investigator to look into the matter, perform physical evidence testing, and cross-examine witnesses. Sometimes, a consensual relationship can be proven with evidence and a sufficient investigation. It does not always have to be just your word against theirs.
Should You Talk To The Police?
The police may want to interview you as a person of interest, and it is natural that you will want to explain the situation and clear your name. However, you should never provide a statement to the police about a sexual assault accusation unless you have your attorney present. Even if you are sure you are aiding your case, you could easily say something in a police interview that incriminates you.
What Is The Difference Between Sexual Assault And Sexual Harassment?
The major difference is that sexual assault is a crime, while sexual harassment is typically a civil matter. Most sexual harassment claims arise in the workplace, and state and federal laws are in place that ban sexual harassment at work.
When a worker experiences a hostile environment at work, they can file a claim against the company. If the victim is successful, they could receive compensatory damages, including restitution.
In a sexual assault case, the state can file criminal charges against you. When the county prosecutor convinces the court that you committed sexual assault, you can be sentenced to prison.
How Long Can It Take To Clear Your Name?
There is no timetable for resolving a Texas sexual assault charge. Some cases can settle relatively quickly before there is an indictment. But others can go to trial and take over a year to conclude. The most crucial factor in clearing your name is to retain an experienced attorney immediately. Bringing in an attorney later in the case could be too late because many opportunities to resolve the situation may have been missed.
False Allegations Are Common
Any allegation of sexual assault must be taken seriously and investigated. That said, an innocent person can sometimes be accused of a sex crime. This could happen in a breakup or divorce, where one party accuses the other of sexual assault as revenge.
In other situations, a pregnant teenager might accuse their partner of sexual assault rather than admit to consensual sex. If you think you have been falsely accused, you should hire an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney to defend you. Our Chambers County sexual assault lawyer will review your case, and then determine the best way to fight the charges.
Contact Our Galveston County Sexual Assault Lawyers
A sexual assault charge and conviction can be ruinous for your life. But with the help of a skilled defense attorney, you can still have a favorable outcome in your case. This type of serious charge requires the help of an attorney who focuses only on criminal cases and will aggressively safeguard your rights.
Our Galveston County sexual assault lawyers routinely handle these challenging cases so please contact Mark Diaz & Associates at (409) 515-6170 for a case review. Once you are his client, Mr. Diaz will give you his cell phone number so that you can get the answers you need anytime.