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Criminal Procedure in Child Sex Abuse Cases

There is universal condemnation for any type of child abuse, and there are especially strong feelings when allegations of child abuse are sexual in nature. While our society aims to protect the most vulnerable among us by aggressively prosecuting alleged offenders in these cases, it is important to recognize that false accusations are troublingly common—especially in cases involving divorce or child custody issues.

Despite every person’s legal right that he or she is innocent until proven guilty, the sad truth is that investigators too often treat alleged offenders with a presumption of guilt in many cases involving alleged child abuse of a sexual nature. These charges carry significant consequences for any person convicted of such offenses, including possible imprisonment, fines, and mandatory sex offender registration.

Dallas Lawyer Helping with Criminal Procedure in Child Sex Abuse Cases

If you have been accused of any type of sexual abuse involving children, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statement to case investigators. Stuckle & Associates PLLC vigorously defends clients in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, Arlington, and Garland as well as many other communities all over the state of Texas.

Paul Stuckle has more than a quarter-century of legal experience and he literally wrote the book on the laws of arrest, search, and seizure that is used by several police departments. Our firm can review your case during a free, confidential consultation when you call (972) 423-4405 or send us an online message today.

Texas Child Sex Abuse Criminal Procedure Overview

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Definition of Sexual Abuse in Texas

Chapter 261 of the Texas Family Code contains the following definitions for sexual abuse of a child:

  • Texas Family Code § 261.001(E) — Sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes:
    • The offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children
    • Indecency with a child
    • Sexual assault
    • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Texas Family Code § 261.001(F) — Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child
  • Texas Family Code § 261.001(G) — Compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct, including conduct that constitutes an offense of:
    • Trafficking of persons
    • Prostitution
    • Compelling prostitution
  • Texas Family Code § 261.001(H) — Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene or pornographic
  • Texas Family Code § 261.001(K) — Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child
  • Texas Family Code § 261.001(L) — Knowingly causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a child to be trafficked or the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent a child from being trafficked

Under Texas Family Code § 261.003, reports of child sexual abuse may be made to:

  • Any local or state law enforcement agency
  • The Department of Family and Protective Services
  • The state agency that operates, licenses, certifies, or registers the facility in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred
  • The agency designated by the court to be responsible for the protection of children

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Child Protective Services Investigations of Child Sex Abuse Cases

When a report is made to the Department of Family and Protective Services, it will be investigated by caseworkers from Child Protective Services (CPS). These reports are then assigned a priority based on the information available that determines how quickly an investigation begins.

  • Priority I Reports — Includes cases of children who face immediate risk of abuse or neglect that may result in death or serious harm. These investigations must start within 24 hours of receiving the call report.
  • Priority II Reports — Cases of abuse or neglect that are not assigned as Priority I. Investigations must start within 72 hours of receiving the report.

If reports do not meet the legal definition of abuse or neglect established by the Texas Family Code, then they are not assigned a priority or investigated. The primary goal of CPS is to ensure a child’s safety in his or her own home.

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North Texas Law Enforcement Investigations of Child Sex Abuse Cases

Unlike CPS, police officers investigating allegations of sexual abuse involving children are more interested in criminal prosecution of alleged offenders than preserving family homes. This means that law enforcement officials often focus on acquiring incriminating evidence, and their investigations may involve:

  • Scheduling forensic interviews
  • Obtaining instruments of abuse or other items at alleged crime scene
  • Photographing alleged crime scenes and injuries on alleged victims
  • Providing forms for parents to complete when children have been placed in protective custody

Another important difference between CPS investigations and police investigations is that law enforcement does not have any time limits on when they are required to investigate a case.

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Find a Lawyer for Assistance with Child Sex Abuse Criminal Procedure in Dallas

Have you been falsely accused of sexually abusing a child? As a former attorney for the Fort Worth Police Department and trial attorney for Colin County, Paul Stuckle understands how prosecutors handle these charges and knows what weaknesses to look for in such cases.

Stuckle & Associates PLLC represents clients all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area in addition to cities across the state of Texas, from Houston to Austin to San Antonio. Call (972) 423-4405 or send our firm an online message right now to receive a complete evaluation of your case during a free legal consultation.