Sexual Assault of a Child [TX] Sexual Abuse of Minor (u/17)

Fort Worth Sexual Assault of a Minor

Sexual Assault of a Minor in Fort Worth (and throughout Texas) is 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.)

There are few things worse than being falsely accused of sexual assault of a minor. While the law says you are presumed innocent, an allegation almost inevitably leads to an arrest, stringent bond conditions that impede your freedom, and a long process through which you are fighting for your life and your reputation. That is because even an aggressive defense doesn’t change the legal thresholds that apply to the inception of the case. Arrests are made on the basis of just probable case. We stop at nothing to show prosecutors, judges, and juries that a false allegation cannot be proven by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It is an arena in which we have been successful, time and time again.

What is a “minor” for purposes of sex offenses in Texas?

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 offenses 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 in Texas

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.

second degree felony punishment range in texas
Second Degree Punishment Range

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.

statements in child sexual assault investigations

Understanding Key Statements in a Texas Child Sexual Assault Investigation

Outcry Witness Statement

An outcry witness statement is the first account given by a child who has experienced sexual assault to a trusted adult, known as the outcry witness. This statement holds significant importance in the investigation process, as Texas law requires that the first person the child reports the abuse to, other than the accused, must testify in court as the outcry witness.

The primary purpose of an outcry witness statement is to corroborate the victim’s allegations, providing valuable evidence to support the case. Examples of potential outcry witnesses include family members, teachers, counselors, or medical professionals.

Statement to Detective

In the context of a child sexual assault investigation, the statement to the detective is the formal interview conducted by a law enforcement officer, typically a detective specialized in handling child abuse cases. This statement is crucial for gathering detailed information about the incident and assessing the credibility of the child’s allegations.

During this interview, the detective will ask the child open-ended, non-leading questions to elicit a narrative about the alleged abuse. Detectives are trained to approach the subject with sensitivity and use age-appropriate language to ensure the child feels comfortable sharing their experiences. In many cases, this interview may be recorded to preserve the child’s testimony for potential future use in court proceedings.

Statement to Forensic Interviewer

A statement to a forensic interviewer is a specialized interview conducted by a professionally trained in child forensic interviewing techniques. The primary purpose of a forensic interview is to obtain information about the alleged abuse in a manner that is legally sound and minimizes the risk of re-traumatizing the child. These interviews are typically conducted at a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) or a similar child-friendly environment.

Forensic interviewers follow a structured protocol designed to ensure the interview remains objective and non-leading. They use developmentally appropriate language and questioning techniques to facilitate a thorough account of the child’s experiences. The forensic interview is often recorded, which may later be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Example of a Forensic Interview Question

During a forensic interview, the interviewer might ask the child, “Can you tell me about the time when something happened that made you feel uncomfortable?” This type of open-ended question encourages the child to provide a detailed account of the incident without suggesting any specific details.

Statement to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

A statement to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) is an integral part of the medical forensic examination process. SANEs are registered nurses with specialized training in conducting medical evaluations and collecting forensic evidence for patients who have experienced sexual assault. Prosecutors love these statements because they often fall under a hearsay exception.

The primary goals of the SANE examination are to assess and treat the child’s medical needs, document any physical injuries, and collect forensic evidence that may be crucial in the investigation and prosecution of the case. During this process, the child will provide a statement to the SANE detailing the alleged abuse, which may include information about the perpetrator, the nature of the assault, and any relevant circumstances.

Example of a Statement to a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

A child might tell the SANE, “He touched me down there and it hurt,” while pointing to the affected area. This information helps the SANE understand the nature of the assault and determine the appropriate medical treatment and evidence-collection procedures.

Statement Type Purpose Interviewer/Recipient Setting/Environment Key Features
Outcry Witness Statement Corroborate victim’s allegations, providing initial evidence Adult trusted by child (outcry witness) Informal, often private setting First account of abuse; witness must testify in court
Statement to Detective Gather detailed information and assess credibility of allegations Law enforcement officer (detective) Police department or other official setting Open-ended, non-leading questions; may be recorded
Statement to Forensic Interviewer Obtain legally sound information about alleged abuse, minimizing risk of re-traumatizing the child Forensic interviewer Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) Structured protocol, objective and non-leading questions, developmentally appropriate language; often recorded
Statement to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Assess medical needs, document injuries, and collect forensic evidence for investigation and prosecution Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Medical facility Part of medical forensic examination, informs medical treatment and evidence collection, details about the assault and perpetrator

false accusation in child sex cases

False Accusations in Child Sexual Assault Cases

There are a number of reasons that false accusations are made in child sexual assault cases.

False accusations of child sexual assault can have devastating consequences for the accused and their families. It is essential to understand the reasons behind these false allegations in order to effectively defend against them and protect the rights of the accused.

Manipulation in Child Custody and Divorce Cases

In some instances, false accusations of child sexual assault may stem from a contentious child custody or divorce proceeding. One parent may manipulate the child into making false claims against the other parent to gain an advantage in the legal battle. This may involve coaching the child to provide specific details, or repeatedly questioning the child until they provide the desired allegations. In these cases, the child may not fully understand the implications of their statements but may be influenced by the manipulative parent to provide false information.

Children Lying to Deflect Responsibility

Children may sometimes make false accusations of sexual assault in order to deflect responsibility for their own behavior. This could occur when a child is caught misbehaving, engaging in inappropriate conduct, or struggling academically. By accusing an adult of sexual assault, the child may believe they can avoid punishment or negative consequences for their actions. In these situations, the child may not grasp the severity of their false allegations and the potential impact on the accused’s life.

Children Lying to Deflect Responsibility

Children may sometimes make false accusations of sexual assault in order to deflect responsibility for their own behavior. This could occur when a child is caught misbehaving, engaging in inappropriate conduct, or struggling academically. By accusing an adult of sexual assault, the child may believe they can avoid punishment or negative consequences for their actions. In these situations, the child may not grasp the severity of their false allegations and the potential impact on the accused’s life.

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken identity is another possible defense against sexual assault charges. This defense asserts that the accused was not the individual responsible for the alleged assault. To establish this defense, the accused may provide evidence that:

  • They were not present at the scene of the alleged assault.
  • They have a credible alibi, supported by witnesses or documentation.
  • There are discrepancies in the accuser’s description of the alleged perpetrator.

For example, the accused can present time-stamped security footage proving that they were at a different location during the time of the alleged assault, this evidence may be enough to establish a mistaken identity defense. The real challenge lies in the fact that most allegations do not relate to a specific date or even range of dates because the prosecution is allowed to allege an “on or about” date and the law gives wide latitude to the possibility that a child victim may not know the date of an offense.

Insufficient Evidence

In some cases, the prosecution may lack sufficient evidence to prove the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A defense attorney can argue that the evidence presented is inconclusive, unreliable, or insufficient to support a conviction. This defense may involve:

Witness Credibility

If the prosecution’s case relies heavily on the testimony of a single witness with a history of dishonesty, the defense may question the credibility of that witness, thereby casting doubt on the strength of the evidence against the accused.

What is Statutory Rape in Texas?

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.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of a Minor?

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 the 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 Child in Texas – First Degree

Sexual assault of a minor under 17 also becomes a first degree offense if 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).

What is “Super Aggravated” Sexual Assault?

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 Defined

Sexual Assault of a Child under 17 is codified in Texas Penal Code 22.011. Sexual assault can occur a number of ways:

  • The defendant is alleged to have penetrated the child’s anus or sex organ
  • The defendant is alleged to have penetrated the child’s mouth
  • The defendant caused the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the defendant
  • The defendant causes the anus of the child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the defendant
  • The defendant causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of the defendant

Is Sex Offender Registration Required for Sexual Assault of a Child under 17?

Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault require lifetime registration as a sex offender. Click here to learn more about Sex Offender Registration in Texas.

What are the Potential Outcomes to a Sexual Assault of a Child Charge 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 a minor is unlikely to come back with a sentence of 10 years or less and recommend that the sentence be probated.

What are the Average Prison Sentences for Sexual Assault of a Child in Texas?

sexual assault prison

Is All Lost Because an Allegation is Made?

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.

  1. The case may get no-billed at the grand jury stage;
  2. The case may get dismissed after indictment;
  3. You may be able to plead charge that does not require prison time;
  4. You may be able to plead to a charge that does not require registration as a sex offender.
  5. You may take your case to trial and be found not guilty.

Call an Attorney for Help Defending Against Statutory Rape Charges in Fort Worth

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.

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About the Author Board Certified Lawyer Benson Varghese

About the Author

Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has successfully handled thousands of state and federal cases, ranging from misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases to capital offenses, showcasing his commitment to preserving justice and upholding the rights of his clients. His firm covers criminal defense, personal injury, and family law matters. Benson is also a legal tech entrepreneur. Benson is a go-to authority in the legal community, known for his ability to explain complex legal concepts with clarity and precision. His writings offer a wealth of in-depth legal insights, reflecting his extensive experience and his passion for the law. Not only is Benson an accomplished litigator, but he is also a dedicated advocate for his clients, consistently striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. His authorship provides readers with valuable legal advice and an understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. CriminalPersonal InjuryFamily Law Contact
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