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Houston Child Molestation Defense Attorney
An accusation of sexually abusing a child can irreversibly damage your life in many ways. When you have been falsely accused, it can be tough to keep or attain a job, no matter the amount of evidence in your favor. If you have been accused of child molestation, the first thing you need to do is hire a Texas sex crimes defense lawyer to defend you on your behalf.
Child Molestation in Texas
Texas defines a child as “anyone younger than 17 years of age,” and sexual abuse and assault as knowingly or intentionally:
- Causing the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
- Causing the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
- Causing the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
- Causing the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
- Causing the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.
By Texas law, it is a defense to prosecution if any of these actions consisted solely of medical care, and did not involve genital-to-genital contact in any way.
Child Sexual Abuse Laws and Penalties
As previously stated, Texas has some of the strictest laws and harshest fines for child abusers. Any time a person touches in any fashion the genitals or other inappropriate regions on the child’s body, it is deemed sexual assault. Abuse is deemed continuous if there are two or more occasions of molestation in 30 or more days, perpetrated by someone 17 or older against someone aged 14 or younger.
Child sexual abuse is usually a second degree felony in Texas, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. After serving your jail sentence, you would have to register as a sex offender in the neighborhood to which you move. The penalty could potentially be a first degree felony in cases of bigamy, which has a minimum 25-year prison sentence along with a $10,000 fine.
Common Child Sex Offenses in Texas
In the state of Texas, it is illegal to have sexual contact of any kind with a child under the age of consent. Prosecutors punish sex offenses involving children very harshly, which can put you at significant risk of an unwarranted guilty charge. Child sex crimes can have a serious impact on your record, leading to damage to your financial standing, reputation, and ability to find housing.
Many child sex crimes occur in tandem with one another, and a person can receive multiple criminal charges for a single incident, depending on the circumstances. Common child sex offenses in Texas include the following.
- Continuous sex abuse of a child: This crime involves engaging in two or more acts of sexual abuse over a span of 30 days with a child under the age of 14. Sexual abuse can include crimes such as sexual assault, human trafficking, and child prostitution.
- Sexual assault of a child: Also known as statutory rape, this crime involves knowingly engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of consent. This assault can involve penetrative rape or forced oral sex.
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child: This crime involves sexual assault with aggravating factors such as the use of a weapon, violence or the threat of violence, and kidnapping.
- Child pornography: These charges include the possession, creation, distribution, or possession with the intent to distribute sexually explicit media involving children under the age of 18.
- Sexual performance by a child: This crime is not as well-known as other child sex crime charges, but is a serious offense in Texas. This crime involves inducing a child to show his or her genitals or breasts, either in person, online, or over the phone.
- Indecency with a child by contact: This crime involves an adult engaging in sexual contact with a child under the age of consent or causing the child to engage in sexual contact.
- Indecency with a child by exposure: This crime involves any adult exposing his or her genitals or anus to a child under the age of consent, with the intent to gain sexual gratification from the exposure.
Texas Sex Offender Registration
Texas requires people convicted of certain sex crimes, including child molestation, to participate in the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program. The purpose of sex offender registration is to inform the public of potentially dangerous individuals in their area, and to restrict the areas where a convicted sex offender can live, visit, and work.
Courts require adults convicted of sex crimes in Texas to register as sex offenders either for 10 years following their release from prison, parole, or state supervision, or for the rest of their lives. Typically, offenders convicted of sex crimes involving sexual assault, aggravated violence, or sexual contact with a child are lifetime registrants. Solicitation of a child, indecent exposure, and prostitution are some offenses where the court will impose 10-year registration.
Offenders must register as a sex offender within seven days of moving to a new municipality. Some offenders must update their personal information every 90 days while they are under supervision. Failure to register as a sex offender in Texas is a felony, and the penalties can range from 180 days in jail to 20 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Your Rights During a Child Protective Services (CPS) Investigation
If someone accuses you of sex crimes against your child or a child who lives in your household, Texas’s Child Protective Services (CPS) may investigate you. A CPS investigation can be intimidating, but you do hold certain rights during its course.
CPS has the legal right to investigate if they believe that child abuse is occurring, but you have the right to know exactly why the agency is investigating you and your family. The agency will not tell you who reported the crime, but they will inform you of the nature of the allegations.
Under the United States Constitution, you have the right to deny CPS access to your home. The Fourth Amendment protects you against unlawful searches and seizures, and the agency does not have the right to enter your home without a court order. If the agent does provide a court order, you will have to comply and allow him or her into your home.
In addition, you have the right to refuse to answer an agent’s question during the course of the CPS investigation. As the police state in your Miranda rights, the CPS agent can use what you say to him or her as evidence against you. Since you are not under arrest, you may not need to be silent during the entire investigation and failure to cooperate may lead to serious consequences. You should keep your questions and responses brief and avoid making any statements that could harm you in the future.
You also have the right to have an attorney present during a CPS investigation. For added protection, hire an attorney from the Law Office of David A. Breston to accompany you whenever you speak to CPS or when their agents enter your property.
What Is Jessica’s Law?
Jessica’s Law is a piece of legislation which imposes harsher sentences on people accused of sex offenses involving children, particularly those who have multiple offenses on their records and who target children specifically. Jessica’s Law originated in Florida after the 2005 kidnapping and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, and Texas lawmakers adopted this law in 2007.
The components of Texas’s Jessica’s Law include the following.
- Jessica’s Law imposes mandatory minimums on aggravated sexual assault cases involving children. A conviction for this crime will lead to a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.
- Child sex offenses in Texas are subject to higher felony charges than they were previous to 2007. For example, sex crimes originally charged as third-degree felonies increases to second-degree felonies — imposing harsher sentences along with the change.
- Jessica’s Law also added a number of child sex crimes to the list of crimes that Texas cannot punish with probation. In addition, this law also added certain child sex crimes to the list of crimes eligible for the death penalty.
- The statute of limitations for child sex crimes also increased after the passage of Jessica’s Law. Now, Texas does not impose a statute of limitations for most child sex crimes. Victims of sexual performance by a child, aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit sexual abuse, and burglary with intent to commit sexual abuse are subject to a 20-year statute of limitations after their 18th birthdays.
Defenses to Sex Crimes Involving a Child
If you are facing charges for a sex crime involving a child, it can feel impossible to create compelling defense strategies on your own. However, the attorneys at the Law Office of David A. Breston have significant experience assisting those facing child sex offense charges with their criminal cases — and as a result, our firm understands the strategies and processes necessary to advocate aggressively on your behalf.
We will work closely with you to create a compelling defense based on the circumstances of your case and the specific charges you are facing. Common defenses to sex crimes involving children can include the following.
- You may not have known that the alleged victim was under the age of consent at the time of the incident. The child may have lied about his or her age to you and it was only later that you realized the truth. This defense can improve your chances of the best possible outcome, since it is very likely that you would have not engaged in the crime if you knew the alleged victim’s true age.
- The alleged victim may have a reason to make false sexual abuse allegations against you. You and your attorney will work together to examine your history with the child, and the potential motives he or she may have with creating a false report.
- If you did not engage in sexual activity with the alleged victim at all, you can provide an alibi for where you were at the time of the alleged incident. Speak to every person you were with at that time, and ask he or she if he or she would be willing to testify on your behalf. You and your attorney will work together to collect all pieces of evidence to prove that you were not present at the time of the crime.
- All child sex crimes in Texas are subject to a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest burden of proof in the Texas criminal justice system. You and your attorney can work closely together to provide evidence that suggests reasonable doubt, such as evidence as to why the alleged victim might make a false accusation, evidence that you were not present at the time of the incident, and character testimony from others stating that you are not likely to commit that type of crime.
What To Do If You Have Been Accused
As previously mentioned, your very first step before even talking to anyone else or giving any sort of official statement is to hire an attorney. False accusations most commonly occur in bitter divorce cases, against teachers or coaches, and other family members. If this happens to you, gather any evidence you may have which could help prove your innocence. This could include anything, such as letters, emails, phone and GPS records, which may show that you were not with the child at the alleged time of the incident, plus any witnesses that may have been present. You and your lawyer can piece together a solid defense which shows that you were not the person who did this, or that the child was not molested at all.
If you have been falsely accused of sexually abusing or assaulting a child, you do not have to fight it alone. The Law Office of David A. Breston has a lot of experience handling these types of cases, and will come to your defense to ensure that you receive a fair trial. Call (713)224-4040 today for your free consultation.