Facing child sexual assault charges is an extremely serious matter. Such charges are felony offenses under Texas law that carry potential prison sentences ranging from two years to life behind bars. Once you get out of prison you will be required to register as a sex offender. Any felony conviction, especially a sex crime, can make it extremely difficult to find any type of rewarding job. Other consequences related to your conviction often will have a very detrimental effect on the rest of your life.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
At Stuckle & Associates PLLC, we are committed to fighting for individuals who are facing life-changing consequences due to child sexual assault allegations. We know what it means to be accused of abusing or molesting a minor, and we also know that there is usually more than one side to the story. When you engage our firm to represent you, our attorneys will take the time to get to know you, understand what happened from your point of view, and execute a comprehensive and aggressive defense strategy designed to protect you to the greatest extent possible.
Understanding Your Child Sexual Assault Allegations
Child-related sexual offenses can involve allegations of abuse, exploitation or neglect. These terms are defined in Section 261 of the Texas Family Code. Section 261 lists 13 forms of child abuse, many of which either directly or implicitly involve sexual intercourse, molestation or indecent behavior, while the definitions of exploitation and neglect are shorter in length but similarly broad in scope.
We have represented clients accused of all forms of child sexual assault. We have heard it all when it comes to allegations of improper conduct and we have tried numerous cases involving allegations of:
- Child Sexual Assault – The specific crime of “child sexual assault” is defined in Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code. Child sexual assault is a second-degree felony in Texas and aggravated child sexual assault is a first-degree felony offense.
- Child Molestation – While Texas does not have a statute that specifically defines the offense of “child molestation,” acts prosecuted as molestation in other states still constitute criminal offenses in Texas. In most cases, child molestation cases will fall under Texas Penal Code Section 21.11(c), which prohibits touching a child “with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desires of any person.”
- Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child – Continuous sexual abuse of a child is typically charged as a first-degree felony. Abuse is considered “continuous” under Texas Penal Code Section 21.02 if a person commits two or more acts within a 30-day period, and the statute applies in cases involving one or more victims who are under age 14. The statute covers all forms of child sexual abuse and child sexual assault.
- Indecency with a Child – Texas has two “indecency” laws: (i) indecency with a child by contact and (ii) indecency with a child by exposure. These are second and third-degree felonies, respectively, and they apply in cases involving children who are age 17 or younger.
- Child Pornography – In Texas, taking sexually-explicit photographs or video of a child, charging for sexually-explicit images or video, possessing sexually-explicit imagery, and failing to report sexually-explicit imagery can all lead to charges for child pornography. Texas’ child pornography laws apply to all forms of media, and child porn charges can range from Class B misdemeanors to first-degree felonies.
- Online Solicitation of a Minor – In order to be found guilty of soliciting a minor online in Texas, you do not actually have to solicit a minor. Texas’ online solicitation law applies in situations where a person represents himself or herself to be under 17, or where the alleged offender believes he or she is communicating with a child under the age of 17.
- Statutory Rape – The age of consent is 17 in Texas. While Texas does not have a specific “statutory rape” statute, engaging in sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 17 will result in prosecution for sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault.
- Child Sex Trafficking – Child sex trafficking involves transporting, enticing, recruiting, providing or obtaining by any means a child under the age of 18 for purposes of engaging in or facilitating sexual assault, exploitation or abuse. In most cases, child sex trafficking is a first-degree felony.
10 Key Facts About Defending Against Charges of Child Sexual Assault
1. Child Sexual Assault Charges Carry Substantial Penalties
Child sexual assault and the other child sex-related offenses carry substantial penalties under Texas law. While there are limited circumstances in which these offenses can qualify as Class A or Class B misdemeanors, if you have been accused of sexually assaulting, abusing or exploiting a child, you are most likely facing felony penalties. Texas’ felony penalties include:
- Third-Degree Felony – Two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Second–Degree Felony – Two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- First–Degree Felony – Five years to life imprisonment and a $10,000 fine
Certain offenses, such as Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child and Sexual Assault of a Child under 6, are in special category of first-degree felonies. These offenses, often referred to as Super Aggravated felonies, carry with them 25 years to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. In addition to fines and prison time, individuals convicted of child sex offenses can face other penalties as well.
2. False Accusations are Common in Cases of Alleged Child Sexual Assault
While there is no question that child sexual assault is a very real problem, it is equally undisputed that false accusations of child sexual assault lead to unjust prosecution of many innocent individuals. If you have been falsely accused, we can use this to protect you, but there are steps you need to take to protect yourself as well.
3. Texas’ Definition of “Child Sexual Assault” is Broad
In Texas, all different forms of intercourse, penetration, touching and molestation can be charged as “child sexual assault.” Unlike other states, Texas does not have the separate crimes of rape and statutory rape. If you are accused of engaging in improper contact with a minor, you will be charged with child sexual assault, and you will be at risk for a lifetime of negative consequences.
4. The Prosecution Must Prove Your Guilt Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
When you are accused of child sexual assault, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof that exists and it requires the judge or jury to be absolutely convinced that you are guilty of the crime alleged.
While this is a high burden to meet, the prosecutors who handle child sexual assault cases are highly-experienced, and you will need an experienced defense attorney on your side in order to level the playing field.
5. You Should Never Assume You Will Be Found Guilty
Regardless of the allegations against you, and regardless of what has happened in your case to date, you should never assume that you will be found guilty at trial. There are numerous ways to prove that allegations of child sexual assault are false, and we can make sure the truth comes to light.
6. There are Numerous Potential Defenses to Child Sexual Assault Charges in Texas
There are numerous potential defenses to child sexual assault charges. False allegations do happen, and there are numerous reasons for them. This can include bad divorces, child custody situations, anger from a child, amongst other things. The best defense will depend on the unique facts of your case.
7. You Need to Be Very Careful Before Accepting a Plea
With the government’s burden of proof, the laundry list of potential defenses and the extreme consequences of having a child sexual assault felony on your record, you need to be extremely careful before accepting a plea. From having your charges reduced to negotiating a minimum sentence (or even having your charges dropped entirely), there are a variety of ways that our attorneys can help you avoid unnecessary consequences.
8. A Child Sexual Assault Conviction Will Change the Rest of Your Life
While many aspects of a child sexual assault case are uncertain, there is one thing that is absolutely clear: A conviction will change the rest of your life. You need to take your case seriously and you need to do everything in your power to protect your future.
9. Mistakes While You are Awaiting Trial Can Be Costly
In addition to taking steps to protect yourself, when facing child sexual assault charges, you also need to avoid costly mistakes. These include things like:
- Talking to the police or Child Protective Services without legal representation
- Talking to friends and family about the alleged incident
- Posting on social media
- Attempting to retaliate against your accuser
10. Hiring an Attorney Can Make a Significant Difference in the Outcome of Your Case
When your future is on the line, you need to entrust your case to an experienced criminal defense attorney who is willing to fight to the end to protect you. At Stuckle & Associates PLLC, defending clients accused of child sexual assault is a main focus of our practice, and we have decades of experience securing favorable results for our clients.
FAQs: Awaiting Trial on Child Sexual Assault Charges
Q: If I am convicted, will I be required to register as a sex offender?
Yes. If you are convicted of child sexual assault in Texas, you will be required to register under the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program. This means that your neighbors, friends, extended family and potential employers will all have access to information about your child sexual assault conviction.
Q: Is it worth trying to defend myself if I am facing false accusations from my child’s other parent?
Yes, absolutely. Once again, you should never assume that you will be found guilty in court. Along with talking to the police or Child Protective Services, assuming there is nothing you can do is one of the biggest mistakes you can make if you have been falsely accused of child sexual assault. No matter the circumstances, our attorneys can build a strong case on your behalf.
Q: Can the government seize my computer?
Yes, under certain circumstances. For example, if you have been accused of creating, possessing or distributing child pornography and the police obtained a search warrant for your home, then they may have had legal authority to seize your computer.
However, the government’s authority to conduct searches and seizures is not absolute. There are limits on why and when the police can obtain and execute search warrants. A search conducted without a valid warrant may violate your constitutional rights, and any evidence obtained during an unlawful search could be deemed inadmissible at trial.
Q: Is there any way to prevent the allegations against me from being made public?
Unfortunately, no. Arrest records for crimes classified as Class B misdemeanors and higher are public record in Texas. However, it is possible to limit the publicity of the charges against you, and one of the most-effective ways to do this is to resolve your case in your favor prior to trial.
Q: How soon should I hire a defense lawyer?
If you have been accused of child sexual assault or any other child-related sex offense in Texas, the time to hire an attorney is now. You need to start building your defense immediately and, if at all possible, you want to secure a favorable resolution prior to trial.
Have You Been Accused of Child Sexual Assault?
If you have been accused of child sexual assault in Texas, our attorneys are here to protect you. To discuss your case in a free and confidential consultation, call 972-423-4405 or request an appointment online now.