What constitutes sexual assault in Texas?

Sexual assault is sexual contact that is forced, coerced, or is a direct result of intimidation. Although rape is the most reported form of sexual assault it is not by any means the only action that constitutes sexual assault.

Forced

  1. If an individual forecably touches your genitals, your breasts, or rear end even after you said, “No,” that is sexual assault.
  2. The same is true of sexual intercourse or penetration of any form.
  3. If you did not give consent, it is sexual assault.
  4. If weapons such as guns or knives are used in rape and/or sexual contact.
  5. If your attacker has a partner, who aids them in raping you or achieving sexual contact.
  6. If you are drugged (date rape drugs) via alcohol or in any other way rendered unconscious prior to rape or any other unwanted sexual contact.

Coercion

If an individual in authority claims he/she will take actions against you unless you allow unwanted sexual contact or sexual intercourse. For instance, a teacher threatens to fail you in their class or give you a bad grade unless you have sexually intercourse with them or allow them to touch you in a sexual manner. Individuals in authority include but not limited to: your boss, your parent(s), teachers, principals, law enforcement officers and doctors.

Intimidation

Intimidation is the act in which one individual instills fear in another individual or group. Individuals known to intimidate include: bosses, law enforcement officiers, bullies at school or work, and even individuals you may feel are your friends. Sexual assailants often use intimidation to achieve sexual contact or sexual intercourse with their victims. Some intimidating threats used by these offenders include but are not limited to:

  1. Threatening bodily harm or death of you or persons close to you.
  2. Release of personal information or photographs that may harm you mentally or emotionally.
  3. Release of false information that may result in job loss or other occurences detromental to your livelihood.

Actions Constituting Sexual Assault

Sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. Outside of rape, sexual contact is outlined as touching, fondling, or grazing another person’s genitals or breasts without acquiring consent. Sexual contact is also considered touching, fondling, or grazing any part of another individual’s body with your own genitals or breasts without consent. Consent constitutes a fully functional adult giving approval for sexual contact. Coersion, intimidation, or forcing sexual contact is not consentual and is considered sexual assault.

Who Cannot Consent to Sexual Contact in Texas

Individuals younger than 16 years of age cannot legally consent to sexual contact. An individual who has sexual contact of any kind with a child under the age of 16, even if they too are under this consent age, are guilty of sexual assault. Individuals considered by law to be adults who have sexual contact with children under 16 will also face statutory rape, child molestation, or other serious charges. By law penetration is not limited to sexual intercourse. Penetration of any kind can constitute sexual assault; it can also constitute rape.

Incapacitated individuals cannot consent to sexual contact. Incapacitated applies to more than individuals with physical or mental disabilities. Individuals, who are rendered unconscious due to alcohol consumption or drug usage are also considered incapacitated. Any individual facilitating any form of sexual contact with incapacitated individuals is guilty of sexual assault.

Sexual Harrassment as Sexual Assault

Sexual harrassment is defined as:

  1. Threats to sexually contact another individual.
  2. Using suggestive language in a sexual nature.
  3. The display of pornographic, suggestive, or other sexually explicit pictures or materials.
  4. Usage of degrading language such as referring to a woman with who you are not romantically involved as “Babe” or other inappropriate names.
  5. Offering favors in exchange for sexual activity including that which is consentual.

Sexual harrassment involving unwanted sexual contact constitutes sexual assault. Once the harrassment crosses the boundary between talk and contact, the victim can file sexual assault charges against the aggressor.

Texas Federal Sex Crime Attorney

Some sex crimes are investigated by the FBI or other federal agencies and prosecuted in the United States District Courts, such as child pornography and internet sex crimes.

Building a defense in federal court is different from that in state court. The federal government brings fewer of these cases to trial, but they tend to be more serious and often easier to prosecute due to audio or video tape evidence or other strong evidence of guilt. Federal cases often involve multiple defendants further complicating the building of a strong defense.

Federal crimes carry very long prison sentences and are determined by the United States Sentencing Guidelines. An attorney with understanding of the Sentencing Guidelines and extensive experience working in federal court is absolutely essential to defending a federal case. If you have been accused of a sex crime in federal court, you need to immediately contact an attorney with experience in the federal system.

Texas Sex Crime FAQ

Q: Do I really need a Lawyer?

A: If you are charged with a crime it is extremely important that you speak to a lawyer. People often think their criminal problems will go away by themselves. Without proper counsel people often make incriminating statements to the police. To protect your rights and your freedom you should call an experienced defense attorney.

Understanding your rights is the first step in protecting them. People often cooperate with police for fear of appearing guilty, but they may also make incriminating statements to people working with the police. These deceptive tactics used by police may be used against you.

Q. Should I provide the police with a statement if I have been contacted by a police agency about a possible sex crime investigation?

A. Not without first speaking to an attorney. If you are considered to be a possible criminal suspect, you should never provide a statement to the police without having a lawyer present. Even if the police detective tells you they just want to chat, and are not requesting a formal statement. They may try to convince you that talking to them will help you and remaining silent will hurt you but this is not true. The police can say anything, even lie to you in order to get a statement.

Q: What will happen if a crime of sex is filed against me?

Once the District Attorney’s Office has filed charges, the first step is the arraignment. At the arraignment we will receive a copy of the complaint and the discovery packet with the police report and relevant evidence such as witness statements, photos, and physical evidence. We will then review the reports and continue our own investigation. If there are any motions to file we will draft and file those with the court. At the next hearing, we will discuss the merits of your case with a deputy district attorney and present additional or new evidence.

A misdemeanor charge is often dismissed or negotiated for a favorable plea by our attorneys before going to court.

A felony charge can be dismissed, reduced to a misdemeanor, or negotiated for a favorable plea prior to trial. If the case continues a preliminary hearing will be set. In the preliminary hearing the prosecution presents a summarized version of their case to a judge in an attempt to have the accused held over to answer at trial for the alleged crimes. The rules of evidence are more relaxed at a preliminary hearing than at trial as well as the standard used to determine whether someone should be held to answer.

The result of the preliminary hearing can be one of three things: (1) Not held to answer where there isn’t enough evidence and the case is dismissed (2) Reduction of charges against you down to a misdemeanor (3) Held to answer where we move to superior court and to trial.

Q: What are possible punishments for violating a sex crime law?

Punishments for sex crimes vary by type of crime and whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor sex crime conviction can be punished by up to 1 year in county jail, fines, mandatory counseling, AIDS testing, community service, and probation. A felony sex crime conviction can result in a sentence of probation with up to 1 year of county jail, or various state prison sentences. Some sex crimes are considered strike offenses and a third strike can result in a state prison sentence of 25 years to life. A conviction for some sex crimes may also result in lifetime registration as a sex offender or sexual predator. The punishment can also be affected by other factors such as prior criminal history or whether you are in violation of a previous probation or parole.

Q: What is sex offender registration?

The state of Texas requires violent and dangerous sex offenders to register with their local law enforcement agencies where they are placed on a list. In 1996 with the passing of “Megan’s Law” law enforcement agencies are now required to notify and provide warning to local communities about dangerous sex offenders in the area. A person required to register must do so yearly for the rest of their lives. Their name will be available to the public and they must report their location to law enforcement every time they move. Not all sex crimes require registration, but many do.

Q: Can a sex crime conviction be removed from my record?

Yes. Depending on the type of sex crime, it may be possible to get it expunged which results in your conviction being dismissed and/or having your guilty plea set aside. If you are a registered sex offender, you may be able to get out of the requirement with the help of our attorneys. If you have successfully completed the terms of your probation or parole and wish to know if you are eligible to get off the sex offender lists, contact us.