Fort Worth Child Sex Crime Lawyer

Charged with Child Sex Crimes in Texas?

Getting arrested and charged with a child sex crime in Texas can be a nightmare for you and others who are affected by it. The consequences of getting convicted are incredibly harsh: you could be locked behind bars for life, your career could be ruined, you could become a registered sex offender, and your family and friends might disassociate themselves from you. This is why it is so important to take allegations of a child sex crime seriously and to hire an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney who will be in your corner when you need it the most. Here’s a basic overview of child sex crimes in Texas and what you can do if you ever have a run-in with the law.

Sexual Assault Of A Child

It is illegal in Texas to commit sexual assault of a child, which means: penetration of a child’s anus or sexual organ by any means; penetration of a child’s mouth by your sexual organ; penetration of your mouth by a child’s sexual organ or anus; or causing a child’s mouth or anus to contact your or another person’s sexual organ or anus.

Notably, Texas’ sexual assault law considers a child to be under the age of 17. The prosecutor does not need to show that you know the age of the child. There is also no requirement that you personally make contact with the child since sexual assault can include causing another person to commit the act.

However, the prosecutor must at least show that you know about committing the act or intend to commit it. What if you penetrate the child’s anus or otherwise touch the child’s genitals inadvertently upon picking the child up? You might not know or mean to commit the act.

Also, even if you commit an act which might be deemed sexual assault, you have a defense to prosecution in the following situations:

  • You are the spouse of the child
  • You are no more than three years older than the child and at the time of the offense, you are not required to register as a sex offender for life or otherwise required to report a past conviction or adjudication for sexual assault or another sex crime
  • The child is 14 or older and someone who you are not precluded from marrying or having sex with
  • You are administering medical care on the child and this medical care does not consist of making contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and your or another person’s mouth, anus or sexual organ.

In Texas, sexual assault is normally construed as a second-degree felony. This means that you could face a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence of 2-20 years. However, if you are legally precluded from marrying the child or having sex with the child, it could be construed as a first-degree felony, which if convicted could result in a $10,000 fine and a 5-99 year jail sentence.

Also, if the child is under the age of 14, then you are looking at aggravated sexual assault – a first-degree felony. In fact, there are two situations in which a 25-year minimum imprisonment term is assessed. The first is where the child is under the age of six when the offense takes place. The second is where the child is under the age of 14 and the offense is committed by you hurting the child, trying to kill the child, threatening to hurt the child or another person, using a deadly weapon, joining in with others to commit the act, or impairing the child to prevent his or her resistance.

Prohibited Sexual Conduct

Some forms of sexual conduct are illegal in Texas depending on who is involved. Namely, prohibited sexual conduct mainly applies to family members and includes incidents of sexual intercourse, meaning a male sex organ penetrating a female sex organ, or deviate sexual intercourse, where there is contact made between your genitals and the anus or mouth of another person.

More particularly, Texas considers incestuous relationships to be illegal. This includes sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with your ancestor (mother or father), descendant (son or daughter), brother, sister, former or current stepchild or stepparent, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin.

The law applies regardless of whether or not family members are half-blood or whole blood, and regardless of whether they are biological or adopted family members. However, a prosecutor must show that you know the relationship between you and the other person at the time of the act.

Notably, committing this act against your parents or children constitutes a second-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a 2-20 year jail sentence. Committing this act against other family members amounts to a third-degree felony which carries a $10,000 fine and a 2-10 year jail sentence.

Online Solicitation Of A Minor

If you have ever seen How To Catch A Predator, then you might know a thing or two about online solicitation of a minor – which is unlawful in Texas. This means using your computer or phone to communicate with a minor in a sexually explicit fashion or by sending or texting explicit materials to a minor. It could also mean using the internet or some electronic communication device to solicit a minor to meet you or someone else so that the minor engages in a sexual act, sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with you or someone else.

This law applies to minors who are under the age of 17. However, it could also include someone who you believe is under the age of 17 that is actually of age. Also, you cannot avoid prosecution just because a meeting never takes place. However, it is a defense if you are married to the minor or where you are not more than three years older than the minor and the minor provides you with consent.

Online solicitation of a minor is punishable as either a second or third-degree felony. Specifically, if the minor is under the age of 14 (or you believe that the minor is under the age of 14), then it is considered a second-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a 2-20 year jail sentence. Also, it is a second-degree felony if you solicit the minor for sex.

Moreover, if your conduct is deemed by a Texas prosecutor to be online solicitation of a minor as well as another offense, then it is possible for you to be charged with multiple offenses.

Sexual Performance By A Child

In Texas, it is illegal to cause a child under the age of 18 to engage in sexual conduct or sexual performance. Sexual conduct could mean many things including: sexual contact, simulated or actual sexual intercourse, masturbation, deviate sexual intercourse, sadomasochistic abuse or lewdness. Sexual performance means a visual representation for others to see including through videos and photos.

Basically, you commit this offense if you employ, induce, or authorize that child to commit the sexual act, whether it be sexual conduct or performance. This means that you could be liable even if you do not specifically instruct the child to commit the act. Notably, a parent, guardian, or custodian of a child under the age of 18 commits the offense if they consent to the child’s sexual performance. Also, this offense can occur if you produce, direct or promote sexual conduct and sexual performance by a child with knowledge of it containing that prohibited content.

When it comes to determining the child’s age, the court or jury could personally inspect the child, look at photographs or videos that shows the performance, take into account testimony from witnesses based on the child’s appearance, or even consider expert medical testimony or other legally authorized methods. Moreover, the prosecutor is not required to prove your knowledge of the age of the child.

It is possible for sexual performance by a child to be construed as a first or second-degree felony. It is a first-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a 5-99 year jail sentence if the child is under 14 when the act occurs irrespective of whether you know the child’s age at the time. If the child is 14 or older, it is a second-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a 2-20 year jail sentence.

There are some defenses to keep in mind that are applicable to sexual performance by a child:

  • You are the spouse of the child
  • You are no more than two years older than the child
  • The conduct is for medical, psychiatric, psychological, educational, judicial or other legislative purposes

Possession Or Promotion Of Child Pornography

It is illegal under Texas law to view material of a child who is under the age of 18 and who is engaging in sexual conduct when the material is made. Visual material can include photographs and videos in the physical or digital form. Namely, the law applies to those who knowingly or intentionally possess – or who knowingly or intentionally access to view – the forbidden material. This law is also applicable if you traffic a child and cause it to be subject to various sexual acts including pornography.

Defenses applicable to possession or promotion of child pornography include the following:

  • You are the spouse of the child
  • You are no more than two years older than the child
  • The conduct is for medical, psychiatric, psychological, educational, judicial or other legislative purposes

Generally, child pornography is considered a third-degree felony which is punishable by a $10,000 fine and a 2-10 year jail sentence. However, it constitutes a second-degree felony that carries a $10,000 fine and a 2-20 year jail sentence if you have been previously convicted, and it is a first-degree felony which carries a $10,000 fine and potential 5-99 year jail sentence if you have been previously convicted two or more times for committing the offense. However, for child pornography to constitute first or second-degree felonies, it must be shown in trial that you have the prior convictions for child pornography.

Notably, it is also an offense if you promote the materials or otherwise have the materials for the purpose of promoting it knowing that it contains material depicting a child. Further, Texas also considers you to have intentions of promoting the material if you have in your possession material comprised of six or more identical visual depictions of the child.

Promoting child pornography is a second-degree felony. However, it could be a first-degree felony if you have been previously convicted and this is shown at trial.

Finally, not all people who possess child pornography are breaking the law. Specifically, if you are a school administrator or law enforcement officer who obtains the material when conducting an investigation into allegations of electronic transmission of certain material depicting a minor, and you take reasonable steps to timely destroy the material, then this serves as a defense to prosecution.

Prostitution

In Texas, you engage in prostitution if you knowingly offer or agree to receive a fee from another person to engage in sexual conduct, whether it is with you or another person. It is considered a second-degree felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and a 2-20 year jail sentence if you solicit a child under the age of 18 or someone who you believe is under 18 (or represents themselves to you as being under 18). However, certain defenses apply such as where you are a victim of trafficking or compelling prostitution.

Also, it is illegal to promote prostitution online. If you own, manage or operate a computer service or information content provider, and you intend to promote prostitution of a child under 18 years of age or someone who you believe is under the age of 18, then you are facing a second-degree felony at a minimum.

Aggravated online promotion of prostitution, which is where you promote prostitution to five or more people, is a first-degree felony punishable by a $10,00 fine and jail sentence of 5-99 years if it involves two or more children under the age of 18 engaging in prostitution. It could also be construed as a first-degree felony if you knowingly own, finance or operate a prostitution enterprise using two or more prostitutes. Finally, if you force a child under the age of 18 to commit prostitution, then you have compelled prostitution under Texas law – a first-degree felony.

Indecency With A Child

Texas law makes it illegal to engage in indecency with a child under the age of 17 whether you know the child’s age or not. This means engaging in sexual contact with the child or causing the child to engage in sexual contact with another person. Specifically, you engage in sexual contact by any touching of the child’s body, including their anus, breast, or genitals and regardless of whether it is through their clothing. You also commit this offense if you expose someone’s anus or genitals with knowledge that a child is present, or by causing the child to expose their genitals or anus.

Notably, for you to be found guilty of this offense, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt your intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person upon committing the act. What if you touch a child inappropriately but with no intention of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of anyone, including yourself? Your intent makes a big difference as to your culpability.

Also, in Texas, you could defend yourself as to this charge if all of the following are true:

  • You are no more than three years older than the child
  • You do not use threats, force or duress against the child
  • At the time of the offense, you are not required to register as a sex offender for life or otherwise required to report a past conviction or adjudication for indecency with a child or another sex crime

Also, if you are married to the child at the time of the incident, then this is a defense to prosecution.

Indecency with a child constitutes either a second degree or a third-degree felony in Texas. A second-degree felony, which carries a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence of 2-20 years, applies if you engage in sexual contact with the child or cause the child to engage in it. Alternatively, a third-degree felony, which carries a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence of 2-10 years, applies if you expose your private parts or cause the child to expose theirs.

Continuous Sexual Abuse Of A Child

In Texas, it is against the law to engage in the continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children. An act of sexual abuse means sexual assault, sexual performance by a child, indecency with a child, compelling prostitution, and trafficking of persons. It also means aggravated kidnapping where you intend on sexually abusing or violating the child; indecency with a child where there is more than touching; and even burglary depending on the circumstances.

This law applies if you commit two or more acts of sexual abuse in 30 or more days in duration and you are 17 or older and the child is under the age of 14. Notably, you commit this offense whether you know the child’s age or not and regardless of whether you commit all of these acts against the same child or against multiple children. Notably, a jury doesn’t need to pinpoint the specific acts that you commit or the specific dates that they occur.

It is possible to defend against a charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child if all of the following is true:

  • you are not any more than five years older than the child (if multiple children are involved, then you are no more than five years older than the youngest child)
  • you do not use threats, force or duress against the child
  • you are not required at the time of the offense to register as a sex offender for life or required to report a past conviction or adjudication for an act of continuous sexual abuse or another sex crime

In Texas, continuous sexual abuse of a child is a first-degree felony that carries a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence of 25-99 years if not for life.

Hiring A Child Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a child sex crime in Texas, then your freedom and reputation are on the line. Although Texas law makes it rather clear that your lack of knowledge of the child’s age is not a barrier to prosecution, your knowledge or intentions of committing the act could make a world of a difference as to your culpability. You could have done something inappropriate or aggressive involving a child, but this does not automatically make it a child sex crime or you a pedophile. Moreover, you could be falsely accused.

For this reason, it is really important that you discuss your situation with an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows how to navigate child sex crime cases. The Fulgham Law Firm is a dedicated criminal defense firm with proven results. We protect the rights of the accused through assertive and effective representation. As a former prosecutor, founder Brandon Fulgham is well versed on strategies that prosecutors might use against you – and he knows how to get around them. If you have been charged with a child sex crime, call (817) 877-3030 or contact us online for a free consultation.