Child Sex Crimes Lawyer in Texas
Serving Plano, Dallas, McKinney, Frisco, Allen, and Surrounding Areas
Have you or a loved one been falsely accused of a sexual crime? If so, an experienced child sex crimes lawyer at Stuckle & Associates PLLC can protect your rights. Our attorneys will help you understand the intricate criminal investigations and procedures that surround sex crime cases in Texas and fight to secure the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Understanding the Investigation Procedure
Any report of an alleged sex crime involving children will usually trigger two types of investigations. The Child Protective Services (CPS) program of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) will typically conduct a civil investigation that is intended to determine whether a child has been the victim of a sex crime and could be at risk of future abuse and neglect. However, law enforcement will often conduct the criminal investigations of alleged sex crimes. For an alleged offender, it is enormously critical to have legal representation as soon as he or she is aware that police are conducting such an investigation.
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.
If you have been accused of any type of sexual abuse involving children in Texas, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney before making any statement to case investigators. 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 and determine the best legal defense possible for your situation.
What Alleged Crimes Constitute Sexual Abuse of Children 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
- 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
Who Is Obligated to Report Any Suspected Sex Crimes Involving Children?
Texas Family Code § 261.101 requires specific people having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person to immediately make a report to any local or state law enforcement agency, DFPS, 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, or the Texas Youth Commission.
Individuals who are licensed or certified by Texas or employees of facilities licensed, certified, or operated by Texas and, in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, have direct contact with children are required to make a report within 48 hours of having cause to believe that a child has been abused. This includes:
- Day-care employees
- Employees of clinics or health care facilities that provide reproductive services
- Juvenile probation officers
- Juvenile detention or correctional officers
This requirement also applies without exception to individuals whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including:
- Clergy members
- Medical practitioners
- Social workers
- Mental health professionals
- Employees or members of boards that license or certify professionals
- Employees of clinics or health care facilities that provide reproductive services
How Child Protective Services Handles Investigations
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.
How Police Investigate Sex Crimes in Texas
Law enforcement may conduct its own investigation or in conjunction with CPS. While CPS is investigating family matters, police will conduct criminal investigations in which they collect any evidence related to the alleged sex crime. However, 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.
Generally, law enforcement investigations of these cases will often involve:
- Interviewing victims, witnesses, and alleged offenders
- Obtaining instruments of abuse or other items at alleged crime scene
- Collecting photographic evidence of injuries
- Medical examinations of alleged victims for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Conducting diagnostic imaging studies (such as x-rays or CT scans) of alleged victims
- Providing crisis intervention and counseling
- 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. This is why it is crucial for anyone accused of a child sex offense retain legal counsel as quickly as possible.
Issues With Child Sex Crime Victim Interviews
One major recurring issue with investigations of alleged sexual abuse of children is improper lines of questioning in alleged victims interviews. Police officers who have personal biases or were insufficiently trained may commit any one of the following errors during an interview of an alleged victim:
- Exerting Influence — Children are naturally inclined to believe adults and, thus, want to satisfy people who they perceive as having authority. An adult may garner a false confession from a child if the interviewer incorporates his or her own point of view or casts the alleged offender in an unfavorable light.
- Forms of Reinforcement — Rewarding or punishing a child for his or her answers or interview conduct can clearly influence how he or she responds to questions. Some examples of reinforcement during an interview of an alleged victim may include praising the child for making allegations, calling the child a liar for not making allegations, implying that the child would be helpful by making allegations, or providing any type of gifts for making allegations.
- Indirect Interviewing — Interviews of alleged victims should rely on direct descriptions of what they saw or experienced, but an interviewer may compromise accuracy if he or she asks the child to speculate about what could have happened, encourages the child to pretend or imagine during any part of the interview, or utilizes dolls or puppets as part of the interview.
- Peer Pressure — It is inappropriate for an interviewer to introduce what other friends or family members have supposedly said about an alleged offender when interviewing the alleged victim. Children are extremely likely to make their answers conform with the responses already given by their peers.
- Repeated Questions or Misinformation — An interviewer might elicit a false response by repeating the same questions multiple times, often causing the child to believe his or her first answer was incorrect. If misinformation is introduced and repeated across multiple interviews, it can cause children to give inaccurate responses.
- Suggestive Questioning — Ambiguous questions about “touching” can be interpreted by the interviewer as implying sexual abuse when a child may not have made such a distinction between appropriate and inappropriate contact. This problem is indicative in questions about specific body areas of inappropriate touching when a child had not mentioned any such touching or forced choice questions like, “Was it a good touch or bad touch?”
What Happens If Alleged Offenders Do Not Have Legal Representation?
As soon as a person learns that he or she is under investigation for any type of sex crime involving a child, it is critical for him or her to be represented by a capable criminal defense lawyer. Individuals who attempt to handle these situations without attorneys often make any one of a number of mistakes that have profoundly negative impacts on their case.
Even when people are completely certain that they are innocent of alleged sex crime charges, it is important to understand that inaccurate statements or inappropriate actions can easily result in additional consequences. Some examples of errors people without legal representation may make include, but are not limited to:
- Agreeing to polygraph tests
- Allowing police search or seizure without a warrant
- Being confrontational with law enforcement or resisting arrest
- Discussing the case with inmates, jail staff, or on jail phone
- Making statements to police
- Providing voluntary samples of fingerprints or bodily fluids
- Using false or inaccurate alibis
Speak With a Lawyer at Our Firm Today to Discuss Your Options for Defense
If you are being investigated for any type of sex crime involving children, you should immediately seek the help of a knowledgeable and hard-working child sex crimes lawyer. Paul Stuckle has more than 25 years of legal experience with these types of cases and will help you achieve the most favorable outcome. Call (972) 423-4405 or send our firm an online message to take advantage of a free consultation so our attorneys review your case.