Sexual Assault of a Minor in Fort Worth (and throughout Texas) is a one of the most serious offenses a person can be charged with, not just because of the significant possibility of a prison sentence, but also because of the mandatory requirement for registration as a sex offender associated with any plea to the charge (even probation or deferred adjudication.)
Sexual assault of a minor most commonly refers to Sexual Assault of a Child under 17, but as we discuss in this article, a number of offense in Texas involve sexual allegations involving a minor. For most offenses in Texas, a “minor” is someone under the age of 17, but some offenses include anyone under 18. Other highly relevant ages, in terms of the possible punishment range, are the ages of 14 and 6.
Sexual Assault of a Child under 17, sometimes referred to as Sexual Assault of a Minor in Texas, is generally a second-degree felony that carries a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Under certain circumstances, the charge can be raised to Aggravated Sexual Assault. For instance, an allegation that a date rape drug such as Rohypnol was used or the victim was younger than 14 could raise the charge to an Aggravated Sexual Assault.
Similarly, an allegation of two or more acts that took place more than 30 days apart with one or separate victims under the age of 14 could give rise to a Continuous Sexual Assault charge.
Sexual Assault of a Child under 17 is often referred to as “Statutory Rape.” This is because, under Texas law, a person under the age of 17 is unable to give consent. This is true even if the alleged victim is a “willing” participant in the sexual activity or relationship.
There is no statute of limitations for statutory rape in Texas, however that has not always been the case. For certain offenses involving child victims, the statute of limitations was once 10 years and subsequently 10 years after the victim’s 18th birthday, before the limitation was finally removed altogether. If the defense can show the statute of limitations expired before the law change, including any tolling periods, the state will no longer be able to prosecute the matter. This is one of the possible defenses we might explore in a case after we have been hired on a case. Formulating this answer often takes a significant amount of research so this is not something we can do over the phone for non-clients.
Sexual assault of a minor under 17 also becomes a first degree offense is the accused is prohibited from marrying the victim under Texas Penal Code 22.011(f). This usually comes up in cases where the accused and victim are related and any sexual relationship would be incestuous. Note that Section 22.011(f) has been found to be unconstitutional as applied to in cases where the prohibition against marriage was bigamy, in that the law treated married and unmarried people differently. See Estes v. State, No. 02-14-00460-CR, 2016 WL 1164194, at *3 (Tex. App. Mar. 24, 2016).
Sometimes prosecutors will use the term “Super Aggravated Sexual Assault” to describe an Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child where the victim is under the age of 6 when the offense took place. This is considered a “Super Aggravated” offense because it carries a punishment range with a minimum of 25 years in prison up to life in prison, just like Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child.
Sexual Assault of a Child under 17 is codified in Texas Penal Code 22.011. Sexual assault can occur a number of ways:
Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault require lifetime registration as a sex offender. Click here to learn more about Sex Offender Registration in Texas.
Once a case has been accepted by a prosecutor, there are a number of possible outcomes to the case. First, understand that you cannot be offered deferred adjudication for this offense by a prosecutor or be given deferred adjudication from the judge. Deferred adjudication is prohibited for this charge under Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12 Section 5. Second, a judge cannot order probation for this charge pursuant to Code of Criminal Procedure 42.12 Section 3g. While a jury may be able to recommend probation, they can only do so on sentences that are 10 years or less in length. A jury that convicted a person of sexual assault of the minor is unlikely to come back with a sentence of 10 years or less and recommend that the sentence be probated.
No. While detectives are looking for information that is incriminating, a Tarrant County child sexual assault defense attorney can conduct their own investigation and uncover information that will assist in your defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney can guide you through the process of gathering information that may benefit you, and in appropriate cases, begin preparing mitigation evidence on your behalf. Additionally, your attorney may be able to secure one of the following outcomes for you.
Our defense attorneys are experienced in handling charges for the sexual assault of a minor in Fort Worth. Combined we have over five decades of experience exclusively in criminal law. Our partners are all former prosecutors. Several have worked in the Crimes Against Children Unit, and know how to find weaknesses in cases and identify investigative issues. We are experienced in analyzing forensic interviews, reviewing SANEs (Sexual Assault Nurse Examinations), and overcoming fabricated allegations.
By: Scott D.
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