By Benson Varghese

Last Updated: August 10th, 2021 at 9:53 AM
Published on: October 26th, 2015 at 4:40 AM

Indecency by Contact vs. Indecency by Exposure: What’s the Difference?

In Texas, indecency with a child is an extremely serious offense that can be committed two ways – either by sexual contact (fondling) or by exposure. Both offenses involve children under 17 and can have devastating consequences on your personal and professional life, as well as your reputation. If you are facing accusations of indecency with a child in Fort Worth or North Texas, it’s imperative to reach out to a skilled sex crimes attorney as soon as possible. These can be complicated charges to defend and you will need an attorney who has had success handling sex cases with you every step of the way.

Quick Navigation
  • What is Indecency with a Child by Contact?
  • What is Sexual Contact?
  • What is Indecency by Exposure?
  • What are the Potential Punishments for Indecency with a Minor?
  • Is Deferred Adjudication a Possibility?
  • What legal defenses apply indecency with a child?
  • What kinds of sentences are imposed for indecency charges?
  • Is Indecency with a Child a 3G Offense in Texas?
  • Registration as a Sex Offender
  • Defenses in Sexual Assault Cases
  • How We Are Different
  • Seek Help Defending Against Charges for Indecency with a Minor in Fort Worth

What is Indecency with a Child by Contact (Fondling)?

Under Penal Code 21.11(a)(1) a person may be charged with Indecency with a Child by Contact, or fondling, if he or she has sexual contact with a child under 17. This refers to sexual touching of a child. It does not involve penetration.

What is Considered Sexual Contact?

Sexual contact means touching, even through clothing, of a child’s anus, breast, or any part of the child’s genitals. It also means touching, even through clothing, any part of the child with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of the person.

What is Indecency by Exposure?

Texas Penal Code 21.11(a)(2) criminalizes the conduct of an individual who exposes their anus or any part of their genitals, knowing a child is present, or causes a child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.

What are the Potential Punishments for Indecency with a Minor?

Indecency with a child by contact is a second-degree felony and carries a prison range of two to twenty years and up to a $10,000 fine. Indecency with a child by exposure is a third-degree felony and carries a prison range of two to ten years and up to a $10,000 fine.

Is Deferred Adjudication a Possibility?

In rare instances, a prosecutor may agree to place a person on deferred adjudication for Indecency with a Child. While deferred adjudication may avoid a conviction for many purposes, it is still a reportable conviction for purposes of sex offender registration. In other words, a person placed on deferred adjudication for indecency with a child must register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Is Probation a Possibility?

A judge may place a person on probation of Indecency by Exposure. However, it is only by the recommendation of a jury that a judge can place a person on probation for Indecency by Fondling.

What Legal Defenses Apply to Indecency with a Child?

There are two statutory defenses to a violation under Texas Penal Code 21.11:

The first defense requires that:

  • The actor was not more than three years older than the child;
  • The actor is the opposite sex than the child;
  • The actor did not use duress, force, or a threat against the child at the time of the offense; and
  • The actor was not required to register, for life, as a sex offender or was not a person who has reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under section 21.11.

The second defense states that if the actor is married to the child then no offense has occurred under Section 21.11.

While those are the enumerated defenses, there are a number of other defenses that may apply to these cases. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to discuss possible defenses with you if you are facing a charge of indecency with a child in Fort Worth .

What Kinds of Sentences are Imposed for Indecency Charges?

Although our recent results page has examples of phenomenal outcomes we have achieved for our clients, the data compiled by the Texas Tribune shows how harshly these offenses are punished.


Is Indecency with a Child a 3G Offense in Texas?

Indecency with a child is a 3G offense under certain circumstances. For example, indecency with a child by contact is a 3G offense. However, indecency with a child by exposure is not. Because a 3G offense has a significant impact on sentencing, it is important to understand the nuances of a case and how charges will be applied.

Is Registration as a Sex Offender Required if Convicted of Indecency with a Child in Fort Worth?

An indecency with a child by exposure conviction will result in having to register as a sex offender for 10 years and, for a subsequent conviction, for life.

An indecency with a child by contact conviction will result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. Indecency by contact is defined as a sexually violent offense under 62.001(6). Registration is for life if it’s a sexually violent offense.

Reportable conviction or adjudication means a conviction or adjudication, including an adjudication of delinquent conduct or a deferred adjudication, that, regardless of the pendency of an appeal, is a conviction for or an adjudication for or based on: (a) a violation of … Section 21.11 (Indecency with a child).

Defenses in Sexual Assault Cases

Every allegation of sexual assault is unique. It is important to understand that when an allegation is made, the State’s prosecution arm springs into action and what happens next is almost clockwork: the alleged victim may be asked to do a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examination), and give a statement to the police. If the accusation involves a child, a CPS worker will take a “forensic interview” of the child. A detective (or a CPS worker) will reach out to the accused and ask for them to come in for a statement. This is very important: whether the accused goes in or not, an arrest warrant will be issued at some point. To be clear, if the accused goes in, they will be asked to give a statement. The accused will not be arrested at that time and will be free to leave and go home. The detective will then seek a warrant to go back and arrest the accused. Nothing the accused says during the interview will prevent this from happening. It is also true that if the accused does not give a statement, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Imagine a series of dominos are stacked in a row. Understand the accusation being made is the first domino falling. Regardless of what the accused does, the next domino is in line just waiting to fall. Put another way, I have never seen anyone talk themselves out of a sexual assault charge. Also be aware of phone calls and text messages are a ruse to get the accused to make an incriminating statement or an apology that will later be treated like a confession.

Our defense includes looking for evidence the police overlooked – bar and hotel camera footage, text messages, social media posts, statements from friends etc.

There are a number of defenses that can be raised in a sexual assault case. This list of defenses is not exclusive, but these are examples of defenses we have successfully raised:

Lack of Opportunity

A lack of opportunity may be raised as a defense in a sexual assault case. For example, in a case where a child makes an accusation of sexual assault, if there is a way to show that the accused was never alone with the child, that could become grounds to show there was a lack of opportunity to commit the offense.

Mistaken Identity

Sometimes accusations of sexual assault draw identity into question. In some cases, we have volunteered DNA samples to prove our client was not the individual guilty of the sexual assault.

False Accusations

False accusations are made for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there are financial reasons to make a false accusation. In other instances, one parent is trying to gain primary custody of a child. In other cases, the alleged victim may regret the fact they had sex with someone – consensually – because their spouse or significant other found out and accused them of cheating.


One of the most common ways false accusations are made is when one person lies about whether consent was given. This often comes up in cases involving young adults and university students, especially if there was alcohol involved. While society is quick to condemn the accused and cry “date rape,” our office has proven consent circumstantially, and sometimes directly, time and time again. Call our office for more details on some of our successes in this area.

Late Reports

While many sexual assault offenses have no statute of limitations, and while the law allows for delayed outcries, this does not mean that the delay in reporting cannot become a feature of the defense strategy. For instance, a report that is not made until the accused has reached a certain level of affluence, or a report that is made after the alleged victim finds themselves in trouble might bring the reliability of the accusation into question.

Surrounding Circumstances

It is important to never ignore the circumstances surrounding an allegation. For instance, false accusations are sometimes made during the course of a divorce. Unfortunately, children are sometimes coached to give a particular statement or lie about one of the parents, so that the other parent can gain full custody of the child.

Is a lack of predilection a defense?

A question that often comes up is whether a lie detector test or a plethysmograph can prove that the accused did not commit the crime? The short answer is no, but these tools may help in the negotiating process. First the results of a lie detector are not admissible in court. Second, a sex therapist will not say the results of a plethysmograph are absolute proof that a person did not commit the crime. A penile plethysmograph is a device that measures the amount of blood in a penis. It is used to detect the state of arousal in a male in response to certain stimuli. For instance, the plethysmograph can be used to measure whether the accused has a response to a narrative about children or if the accused has a response to violence. Like a lie detector test, depending on the reliability of the expert conducting the test, this may have some value in the negotiating process. It is of the utmost importance that you do not take a polygraph for a police officer. Our attorneys will explain why, and why we use some of the best polygraphers in the state to assist in our cases.

Why You Should Listen to Us

Collectively, our attorneys have been handling criminal cases exclusively for over 100 years. We don’t operate a volume practice or take every case that comes in the door. We pride ourselves on knowing our clients, their needs, and thereby putting the best arguments forward to defend them. Each of our partners has tried over 100 jury trials. Three of our lawyers are Board Certified in Criminal Law. Our team includes powerful female attorneys, an important asset when most allegations are made by females.

Get Help Defending Charges of Indecency with a Child in Fort Worth

The truth is if you are reading this article, the time has already come for you to hire a criminal defense attorney who knows how to protect you.

If CPS or a detective has contacted you regarding an allegation involving a child or if you have been arrested for indecency with a child in Fort Worth, call us before you talk to anyone with law enforcement or CPS. Call today for a free case evaluation.

Client Review

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N/A Varghese Summersett PLLC 300 Throckmorton St Suite 1650 Fort Worth TX 76102 Phone: (817) 203-2220
Description: I thought I had found the lawyer to represent me, but then I spoke to Anna over the phone and I knew I wanted to hire her instead. Between her and Mary, my experience with this firm was exactly what I hoped it would be. Anna was very honest and never "sugarcoated" any possible outcome despite how hard it was to hear. Mary was persistent in contacting the people that needed to be contacted and months later I am happy to say that the case has been closed and no charges will be filed! This was all done without ANY court action. I know that if I had not hired them, the outcome would have been different. I am incredibly thankful for them & their work and definitely recommend their services should you find yourself in a sticky situation.

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Indecency with a Child in Fort Worth | Indecency by Contact or Exposure
Varghese Summersett PLLC
Varghese Summersett PLLC