Few things are more devastating than being charged with a sex crime. Even mere accusations can damage personal and professional relationships. If convicted, you could spend years in prison and be forced to register as a sex offender upon release. Even if you hire a trusted and accomplished sex crime lawyer, you may wonder if any defense will make a difference.
These feelings are understandable. Sex crimes, especially those involving children, are so reviled in modern society that police and prosecutors can be aggressive about pursuing charges. Even your friends and family may regard you as guilty until proven innocent, which is the opposite of how the justice system is supposed to work.
At Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC, we know what you’re going through because we’ve helped many people in your position. For years, our San Antonio sex crime defense lawyers have successfully defended clients in state and federal courts. In some instances, we’ve even been able to challenge and resolve sex crime charges without the need for trial. This blog covers the various sex crimes in Texas, their penalties, and defenses that can turn your case around.
Sex Crimes in Texas – an Overview
The following acts are considered sex crimes under the Texas Penal Code:
Child Sex Offenses
Several crimes fall into this category, which involves minors under the age of 17. They include:
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Continuous sex abuse of a child
- Child trafficking
- Indecency with a child by contact or exposure
- Online solicitation of a minor
- Possession and distribution of child pornography
- Sex trafficking
- Sexual performance by a child
- Statutory rape
Given the age of the victim, the penalties are especially harsh. Aggravated sexual assault of a child, for example, is a first-degree felony punishable by life in prison.
Improper Relationship between an Educator and Student
The Texas Penal Code 21.12 prohibits public and private school employees from having sexual contact or sexual intercourse with students, regardless of the student’s age. As a second-degree felony, it carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
An individual can be charged with sexual assault or rape if they knowingly and intentionally perform sexual acts (or cause sexual acts to be performed) on a victim without their consent. If certain factors are present, the offense can be upgraded to aggravated sexual assault. They include:
- A victim under the age of 14
- Use of a date rape drug
- Using a deadly weapon
- Putting the victim in fear of bodily injury or death
- Inflicting serious bodily injury on the victim
A conviction can result in a sentence of between two and 20 years in state prison, a fine of $10,000, and sex offender registration. Aggravated sexual assault, which is a first-degree felony, is punishable by up to 99 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000 as well as sex offender registration.
This list of sex crimes is by no means exhaustive. Regardless of which charges you face, it is critical to hire a San Antonio sex crimes lawyer who can help you protect your rights as you navigate the criminal justice system.
Potential Defenses to Your Texas Sex Crime Charges
When you’re arrested for a sex crime, the police may pressure you to make a statement, saying that the evidence against you is conclusive and the only way to improve your situation is to confess. It’s not true. There are certain defenses you can raise to a sex crime charge, depending on your situation.
As the name implies, factual innocence means you’re not guilty of the crime. The most common method of proving factual innocence in sex crimes cases is DNA evidence. When the evidence at the scene or on the victim does not match your DNA, the charges against you may be dropped.
Other examples of exculpatory evidence include:
- Proof that the models are over the age of 18 if you’re charged with a child pornography offense
- The alleged victim recanting their story
- An alibi showing that you were at work, with friends, or elsewhere when the alleged offense took place
If the alleged victim was 17 or older and consented to the sexual activity, you have not committed a crime. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for false accusations to be made afterward out of anger. (For example, the other person anticipated a relationship and accused you of rape out of malice when you declined.)
Romeo and Juliet Defense
The “Romeo and Juliet” law in Texas protects teenagers who are close in age from being prosecuted for consensual sex. When the alleged victim was at least 14 years old at the time of the alleged offense, you may affirmatively defend yourself against statutory rape if you are not more than three years older than the victim.
In this case, the alleged victim claims a crime occurred while the accused denies it. False accusations can be inspired by a number of circumstances, including:
- Error on the part of the interviewer, which is of particular concern when it comes to cases involving children. For example, an adult can misinterpret a child’s descriptions of an interaction or ask a child leading questions without intending to.
- A divorce or custody dispute can motivate an adult to make false accusations of a sex crime out of anger.
If this happens to you, your attorney can investigate the false allegations and prepare the strongest defense possible.
With mistaken identity, the wrong person is accused of a crime. The ability to prove mistaken identity depends mainly on how the accused was initially identified. Disputing DNA evidence is more challenging than disputing eyewitness identification or video footage, but it can be done.
Tech-based evidence can also be used to prove mistaken identity. If you are accused of an Internet-based sex offense, it may be possible to prove that someone else accessed your computer or WiFi network without your knowledge.
When you are accused of an offense such as sexting or online solicitation of a minor, you have a statutory defense if the minor is your spouse. Educators accused of improper student relationships can also use marriage as a defense.
Illegally Obtained Evidence
If the police violated your constitutional rights while obtaining the evidence (for example, by illegally searching you or continuing to question you after you asked for an attorney), the evidence may be suppressed.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Standard
The standard of proof for sex crimes is known as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means it is the prosecutor’s responsibility to prove that a defendant is guilty. They must demonstrate that no other logical explanation can be determined from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime. The proof must apply to every element of the offense.
Since the stakes are so high, this standard of proof is used in criminal trials for things like aggravated sexual assault, which can send someone to prison for up to 99 years if convicted. A skilled sex crimes defense attorney will strive to build a case that raises enough doubt to result in an acquittal.
Speak to a San Antonio Sex Crime Lawyer Today
Sexual violence crimes are subject to justified public criticism. However, many alleged victims have been caught making false accusations to gain a personal or financial advantage. In other cases, defendants are arrested based on evidence that doesn’t justify the charges.
If you have been charged with a sex crime or suspect you are under investigation, contact Hunter, Lane & Jampala PLLC today by calling (210) 202-1076 or using our contact form to schedule an initial consultation. Let us help you protect your freedom and your future.