If you or someone you love has been accused of sexual assault of a minor, you may feel frightened and hopeless. Your fears are not unreasonable. All sexual crimes are subject to severe punishments in Texas, and the potential penalties in many of these cases are significantly harsher than if the victim were an adult. This is especially true in cases involving very young children, when the accused is much older or in a position of power relative to the alleged victim. In many of these cases, the charges may be elevated to “aggravated sexual assault,” which can mean anywhere from five to 99 years in prison. Certain aggravated assault convictions come with a minimum prison sentence of 25 years. In most cases, the convicted offender will also be required to register as a sex offender for a minimum of 10 years.
Because the accusation of sexual abuse is often made after the passage of a significant amount of time, prosecutors may bring charges based solely on an interview of the child conducted by the police, long after the alleged occurrence. The interviewer may phrase questions in such a way as to elicit a particular response and may even create “memories” of abuse that never occurred. In some cases, another adult with an agenda may have coached the child in how to respond to the interviewer’s questions. A good criminal defense attorney is often able to identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case, especially when there is little or no credible corroborating evidence to back up the interview.
Circumstances vary significantly. In some cases, the minor is not a child but a teenager who may appear to be older than the statutory age of consent. In other cases, the minor “victim” is a romantic partner who is only slightly younger than the accused, possibly another high school student. Sexual contact with a minor under the age of 17 (“statutory rape”), even if it is consensual, is illegal and subject to prosecution.
Having the right attorney can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Because the stakes are so high, you should hire an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer who understands the law and can present a thoroughly prepared and convincing case to a jury. This is no time to rely on a public defender, who may be responsible for several hundred cases at a given time and, however dedicated, cannot possibly give your defense the time and focus that will be required to beat these serious charges.
Texas law delineates certain types of sexual assault on a minor that are deemed to be more serious and may result in enhanced penalties for aggravated assault. While a charge of non-aggravated sexual assault is a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in a Texas prison and a fine of up to $10,000, aggravated sexual assault, which often involves victims who are minors, is a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Below are the types of assault involving minors that may be charged as aggravated assault:
These are some possible defenses your attorney may raise if you have been accused of sexual assault on a minor. Some are common to any criminal charges levied against a defendant, and others are specific to the charges against you:
Dating relationships pose a particular problem when it comes to charges of sexual assault of a minor when the victim and the accused are close in age, because it is common for older high school students to date younger high school students who may be under the legal age of consent. In Texas, although you may still be prosecuted for having consensual sex with a minor under age 17 but at least age 15, if you were no more than four years older than the “victim,” you will not have to register as a sexual offender.
If you have been accused of sexual assault involving a minor, the possibility of the loss of your freedom and damage to your reputation and future is daunting. With the help of the seasoned attorneys at Houston’s top-rated Mary E. Conn Law, you may be able to achieve an outcome that will spare you the most severe penalties.
Mary E. Conn brings more than 30 years of successfully representing people who have been accused of the most serious crimes and has earned the highest possible ratings from Martindale-Hubbell and AVVO. With stakes this high, you can’t afford to accept any less.
For the quality legal representation that could potentially spare you the devastation to your life that comes with a conviction for a serious sexual offense, call Mary E. Conn Law today. The first consultation is free, and affordable payment plans are available.