There is nothing more grave and serious than an accusation of child sexual abuse. The prosecution of child sex abuse cases are aggressive and, short of capital murder, the consequences are more severe than any other type of criminal case.
Cases of child sexual abuse are regularly prosecuted on the word of the child alone. There is no requirement in the law that an allegation of child sex abuse be corroborated by medical evidence or scientific evidence, such as DNA.
The levels of child sexual abuse cases range from third-degree felony up to first- degree felony, meaning an individual charged with child sex abuse will be faced with possible time in the penitentiary. The most serious charges carry a MINIMUM sentence of 25 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). If it is a repeat sex offense (depending on the specific charges), you can face an automatic life sentence. Further, all offenses involving child sex abuse (with rare exceptions) require sex offender registration for life.
If you find you are facing allegations of sexually abusing a child, or suspect that you will be accused, it is of vital importance to have representation immediately. Our attorneys are experienced at defending child sex crimes. Call us today for a free consultation. Time is of the essence.
What are the various child sex abuse charges in Texas?
There are a number of child sex abuse charges in Texas, all of which are extremely serious. They include continuous sexual abuse of a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child by contact, indecency with a child by exposure, prohibited sexual conduct, online solicitation of a minor, sexual performance by a child and possession of child pornography. We break down the elements and punishments of each offense below.
This offense is charged when there are allegations of at least two acts of sexual abuse against a child AND that the two acts occurred over a period that is greater than 30 days. Under this statute, there is no requirement that the two acts of sexual abuse be against one child. The case can be charged if the two acts are alleged to be committed against one child or more than one child. In order to be charged with this type of offense, the accused must be at least 17 years of age at the time of the alleged abuse and the child must be younger than 14 years of age at the time of the alleged abuse. Acts that qualify as sexual abuse are defined in the penal code and include acts such as fondling (over or under clothing) and sexual assault. This offense is a first degree felony and carries a range of punishment of 25 years to LIFE in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and up to a $10,000 fine. A reportable conviction for this offense requires sex offender registration for life. Learn more: Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
This offense is charged when the accused is alleged to have intentionally or knowingly committed an act of sexual assault against a child younger than 14 years of age. The specific acts that qualify as “sexual assault” are contained within the statute and include sexual intercourse, penetration by any means, and genital to genital contact. Allegations of one act alone are sufficient to support a charge. Any additional alleged acts of sexual assault can be prosecuted as an additional case. (If the acts are alleged to have occurred over a period greater than 30 days, the higher charge of Continuous Sex Abuse will be sought). More than one case can result in “stacked” sentences, meaning that separate sentences could be added up and not served at the same time. Aggravated Sexual Assault is a first degree felony and carries a range of punishment of a minimum 5 years to LIFE in the TDCJ and up to a $10,000 fine. However, the minimum increases to 25 years if the allegations are that the child was less than six years of age at the time of the alleged offense. The minimum also increases to 25 years if the allegations are that the child was less than 14 years of age and serious bodily injury was caused, or there was an attempt to cause death to any person in the course of the alleged episode.
This offense is charged the accused is alleged to have intentionally or knowingly committed an act of sexual assault against a child younger than 17 years of age. The specific acts that qualify as “sexual assault” are listed in the statute and are the same as the acts listed for Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child above. As with aggravated, separate acts can be prosecuted as additional charges and can result in “stacked” sentences. Sexual assault is a second-degree felony and carries a range of punishment of a minimum 2 years to 20 years in the TDCJ and up to a $10,000 fine. A reportable conviction for this offense requires sex offender registration for life. Learn more: Sexual Assault of a Child.
This offense is charged when the allegations are that the accused, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, engaged in sexual contact with a child younger than 17 years of age. The act of “sexual contact” is defined in the statute and includes touching of any part of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals. Allegations of more than one act of sexual contact can result in separate cases which also can be “stacked.” Indecency with a Child by Contact is a second-degree felony and carries a range of punishment of 2 years to 20 years in TDCJ and up to a $10,000 fine. A reportable conviction for this offense requires sex offender registration for life. Learn more: Indecency with a Child.
This offense is charged when the allegations are that the accused, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, exposes his/her genitals or anus to a child younger than 17 years of age, knowing the child is present; OR causes a child younger than 17 years of age to expose the child’s genitals or anus. Allegations of more than one act of exposure can result in separate cases which also can be “stacked.” Indecency with a Child by Exposure is a third-degree felony and carries a range of punishment 2 years to 10 years in TDCJ and up to a $10,000 fine. A reportable conviction for this offense requires sex offender registration for 10 years, unless there is a second reportable conviction, which would then require sex offender registration for life. Learn more: Indecency with a Child.
Prohibited Sexual Conduct
This offense is often referred to as incest and concerns allegations of sexual relations between relatives. It can involve an offense against a child when the allegation is made that the accused had sexual relations with either their own child (by blood or adoption) or a step-child. (Other offenses in the statute concern relations between parent/descendant, siblings, aunt or uncle/niece or nephew, cousins). If the allegations are that the accused had sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with their own child, the offense is a 2nd degree felony, which carries a range of punishment of 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. If the allegations are that the accused had sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a step-child, the offense is a 3rd degree felony, which carries a range of punishment of 2 to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. A reportable conviction for this offense requires sex offender registration for life. Learn more: Prohibited Sexual Conduct (Incest).
Online Solicitation of a Minor
Online Solicitation of a Minor is the solicitation to meet a minor through the internet or through a text message. Under Penal Code Section 33.021, a person commits an offense if he or she, over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service, knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person, including the actor, with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with the actor or another person.
Sexual Performance by a Child
Sexual Performance by a Child is an offense that focuses on “performance” which can be any picture, photograph, or visual representation of a child under 18. (Notice this is different that the general age of consent in Texas.) This is a second degree offense with a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison. When the child is under the age of 14, it is a first degree felony punishable by between 5 and 99 years, or life in prison. Penal Code 43.25. Learn more: Sexual Performance by a Child.
Possession of Child Pornography is the possession of visual material that depicts a child younger than 18 years of age engaging in sexual conduct. Possession of Child Pornography is a third-degree felony with a punishment range of 2 to 10 years in prison. Possession of Child Pornography with the Intent to Distribute or Promote a second degree offense with a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison. Penal Code 43.26. Learn more: Child Pornography.
What is statutory rape in Texas?
Statutory rape is an allegation of sexual assault against a person who cannot legally consent, such as a child younger than 17 years of age.
What should you do when CPS contacts you?
You may get the call at work. Or while watching the Cowboys on Sunday. Perhaps you were just about to sit down to dinner with your family when there’s a knock on the door.
No matter how or when, it is never a good time to be contacted by Child Protective Services. So what do you do when CPS wants to talk? This is a question that rarely, if ever, crosses your mind until the unthinkable happens. Below we outline eight things you should if CPS contacts you.
What is CPS and what does it do?
Child Protective Services, or CPS, is a state agency charged with investigating reports of suspected child physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect of children under the age of 17. Generally speaking, a CPS investigation begins in one of two ways: a detective notifies CPS that a police investigation has begun or CPS receives a report or “tip” on a hotline. The primary responsibility of a CPS worker is to determine whether or not abuse has occurred in the home by parents, family members, or other household members. You should know that there is no formal screening process for evaluating the credibility of the individual making the complaint or the motivation behind the allegation. Accusations can also be made anonymously without regard for the potential damage baseless accusations can cause.
What happens in a CPS investigation?
CPS workers will attempt to interview all of the individuals involved. The recency and details of the allegation will dictate the speed with which an investigation is initiated and completed. CPS will conduct what can be a lengthy forensic interview of a child on videotape. Depending on the circumstances, it is also not uncommon for CPS to visit and interview a child at his or her school. In cases of child sex abuse allegations, a child will undergo a complete sexual assault exam. When allegations of physical abuse arise, children will oftentimes be sent for a complete physical exam. CPS workers will also speak to other potential witnesses and those closest to the alleged victim. This may include family members, neighbors, teachers, medical professionals and law enforcement. Lastly, a CPS worker will attempt to question the accused.
How do CPS investigations end?
At the conclusion of the investigation, CPS will issue a formal “ruling” concerning the allegations. CPS may find there is “reason to believe” the allegation. If however, CPS is unable to determine the validity of the allegation, they will rule the case “unable to determine.” And finally, if CPS determines the allegation to be false, CPS will rule the investigation “unfounded.” CPS will prepare a report and a permanent record will be made of the entire investigation.
Eight things you should do if CPS contacts you:
- Take any accusation seriously. No matter how difficult it is to comprehend, the CPS worker will treat the matter with the utmost urgency. Every claim, regardless of the absurdity, may result in felony charges being filed. Every felony involving physical or sexual abuse of a child carries the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.
- Know that the clock is running. As a general rule, most CPS investigations are completed within 30 days. By the time you learn that you are under investigation, you are behind and every minute counts. Your children may have already been interviewed. You may know of witnesses who can provide invaluable evidence in your favor- alibi witnesses, character witnesses, witnesses as to the motivation behind the initial report, or witnesses who can conclusively establish your innocence.
- Go into any CPS investigation with your eyes open. CPS will have gathered all of the necessary information to render their decision before they ever contact you. You will be the last one interviewed and in most cases, their minds are made up.
- Be informed of your rights. CPS will not tell you that you do not have to speak to them. The decision whether to say anything concerning the accusation is entirely yours. You also have the right to stop talking to CPS at any point.
- Understand the consequences of talking. Anything you say to CPS can be used against you in the CPS investigation, police investigation and ultimately a court of law. CPS works with law enforcement, meets weekly with the detectives responsible for investigating the criminal case and are oftentimes housed in the same building as the police.
- Do not talk to anyone about the allegations. Seemingly innocuous admissions can be transformed into confessions later in a court of law.
- Never invite CPS into your home unless they have a warrant or court order to do so. CPS many not enter your home without your authority or the appropriate legal authority to do so.
- Prepare a list of relatives or friends who are willing to care for your children in the event CPS removes them from your home.
The prospect of defending yourself when you’ve done nothing wrong can be daunting. The moment you learn that you are being investigated, contact an attorney who is experienced in handling and defending physical and child sex abuse cases. Choosing the right attorney to shepherd you through what can be a frightening and intimidating process is critical.
The attorneys at Varghese Summersett have decades of experience handling what matters most in these types of cases — your family, your freedom and your future.
Facing a Child Sex Abuse Accusation? Call for a Complimentary Case Evaluation.
If you or a loved one is facing a child sex abuse accusation, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced child sex abuse attorney as possible. We can help. We have a vast amount of experience handling these types of cases. Call today for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will:
- Discuss the facts of your case;
- Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
- Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.
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