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Are you currently in a situation where you are facing criminal charges for Murder? Austin Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson represents clients charged with Homicide crimes throughout all of Texas. The Charles Johnson Law Firm can provide legal counsel at virtually any stage of your case, even if formal charges have not yet been filed against you. Currently, Texas has six types of Criminal Homicide charges:
Homicide is the act of killing another person, either intentionally or unintentionally. It is perhaps the most serious crime you could be accused of, and the potential penalties you could face if convicted are equally serious. Your lawyer must be well-versed in Texas and Federal Homicide laws to successfully represent you. If you or someone you love has been charged with any type of Criminal Homicide, you must take these charges very seriously and seek the legal advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Austin Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The Charles Johnson Law Firm will examine all the details of your case and will challenge the evidence against you. Austin Lawyer Charles Johnson has helped his clients either prove their innocence, or obtain a reduction in the charges against them. Whether you or guilty or not, you deserve to have an experienced attorney on your side who will work aggressively, to protect you and your rights. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day directly at 512-832-1200. He is always available to discuss your case.
Texas Penal Code Chapter 19: Four Types Of Criminal Homicide
TPC section 19.01 states that there are four types of Criminal Homicide. They are Murder,Capital Murder, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide.
Under TPC section 19.02 there are three basic ways to commit murder:
- intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;
- intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or
- commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission
or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.
Murder is usually a felony of the first degree, the possible punishment for which is imprisonment in the institutional division for life or for any term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years and/or by a fine not to exceed $10,000. The only exception to this that the crime is a felony of the second degree if the requirements of TPC sec. 19.02 (d) are satisfied:
At the punishment stage of a trial, the defendant may raise the issue as to
whether he caused the death under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising
from an adequate cause. If the defendant proves the issue in the affirmative by a
preponderance of the evidence, the offense is a felony of the second degree.
During the punishment phase of the trial, a defendant may argue that he caused the death while under the immediate influence of sudden passion arising from an adequate cause. “Sudden passion” is “passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation.”
“Adequate cause” is a “cause that would commonly produce a degree of anger, rage, resentment, or terror in a person of ordinary temper, sufficient to render the mind incapable of cool reflection.” Sudden passion is a mitigating circumstance that, if found by the jury to have been proven by a preponderance of the evidence, reduces the offense from a first degree felony to a second degree felony.
Thus, before defendants are allowed to have the judge or jury consider sudden passion, defendants must prove:
- that there was a adequate (legally recognized) provocation for the emotion or passion;
- an emotion or passion such as terror, anger, rage, fear or resentment existed;
- that the homicide occurred while the passion or emotion still existed;
- that the homicide occurred before there was a reasonable opportunity for the passion or emotion to cool (dissipate); and,
- that there was a causal connection between the provocation, the passion, and the homicide.
A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000. This is where the old offense of “voluntary manslaughter” ended up after amendments to the TPC effective in 1994. Thus, there is currently no offense of voluntary manslaughter in Texas.
A capital murder is a capital felony. The Texas Penal Code specifically defines Capital Murder(and, thus, the possibility of the death penalty as a punishment) as murder which involves one or more of the elements listed below:
- the person murders a peace officer or fireman who is acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty and who the person knows is a peace officer or fireman;
- the person intentionally commits the murder in the course of committing or attempting to commit kidnapping, burglary, robbery, aggravated sexual assault, arson, obstruction or
retaliation, or terroristic threat,
- the person commits the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration or employs another to commit the murder for remuneration or the promise of remuneration;
- the person commits the murder while escaping or attempting to escape from a penal institution;
- the person, while incarcerated in a penal institution, murders another:
- who is employed in the operation of the penal institution; or
- with the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination;
- the person:
- while incarcerated for an offense under this section or Sec.19.02, murders another; or
- while serving a sentence of life imprisonment or a term of 99 years for an offense under Sec. 20.04, 22.021, or 29.03, murders another;
- the person murders more than one person:
- during the same criminal transaction; or
- during different criminal transactions but the murders are committed pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct;
- the person murders an individual under six years of age; or
- the person murders another person in retaliation for or on account of the service or status of the other person as a judge or justice of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a criminal district court, a constitutional county court, a statutory county court, a justice court, or a municipal court.
A capital felony is punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole. If the prosecution is not seeking the death penalty, life without parole is the mandatory sentence. Prior to 2005, capital felony life imprisonment was life with the possibility of parole after 40 years.
Under current state law, the crimes of Capital Murder and Capital Sabotage (see below) or a second conviction for the aggravated sexual assault of someone under 14 is eligible for the death penalty.
Note: The Texas Penal Code allows for the death penalty to be assessed for “aggravated sexual assault of child committed by someone previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of child”. The statute remains part of the Penal Code; however, the Supreme Court of the United State’s decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana which outlawed the death penalty for any crime not involving murder nullifies its effect.
The Texas Penal Code also allows a person can be convicted of any felony, including capital murder, “as a party” to the offense. “As a party” means that the person did not personally commit the elements of the crime, but is otherwise responsible for the conduct of the actual perpetrator as defined by law; which includes:
- soliciting for the act,
- encouraging its commission,
- aiding the commission of the offense,
- participating in a conspiracy to commit any felony where one of the conspirators commits the crime of capital murder
The felony involved does not have to be capital murder; if a person is proven to be a party to a felony offense and a murder is committed, the person can be charged with and convicted of capital murder, and thus eligible for the death penalty.
As in any other state, people who are under 18 at the time of commission of the capital crime or mentally retarded are precluded from being executed by the Constitution of the United States.
Manslaughter (TPC sec. 19.04) is recklessly causing the death of an individual. Manslaughter is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Texas does not officially use the term “involuntary manslaughter” or “voluntary manslaughter” which can sometimes be a little bit confusing. Many states do make the distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. Instead, Texas combines involuntary and voluntary manslaughter together and it is known as just “manslaughter.”
To convict a defendant of manslaughter, prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant recklessly caused the death of another individual. There is no requirement of premeditation to this crime and no requirement for there to be intent or knowledge on the part of the defendant. The only requirement is that the defendant’s conduct was reckless.
Although manslaughter is defined broadly in Texas, there are specific types of manslaughter that are treated separately. For example, intoxication manslaughter is one, and vehicular manslaughter is another. Intoxication manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while intoxicated. Cases involving driving while intoxicated would probably be prosecuted under TPC sec. 49.08, Intoxication Manslaughter (see below), rather than under this section. Vehicular manslaughter deals with the defendant recklessly causing the death of another while driving a vehicle or vessel.
Criminally Negligent Homicide
Criminally negligent homicide (TPC sec. 19.05) is causing the death of an individual by criminal negligence. It is a state jail felony under which in general, a person can be confined in a state jail for not more than two years nor less than 180 days. In addition, a fine of not more than $10,000 may be assessed.
Criminally Negligent Homicide differs from Manslaughter only in terms of the culpability or mens rea. Criminally negligent homicide involves criminal negligence. Manslaughter involves recklessness. Thus, Manslaughter involves conscious risk creation (the actor is aware of the risk surrounding his conduct or the results thereof, but consciously disregards that awareness). Criminally negligent homicide involves inattentive risk creation. The actor ought to have been aware of the riskiness of his or her conduct but failed to perceive the risk.
Recklessness and criminal negligence are more serious forms of culpability than the negligence that can result in civil liability. Unlike civil or ordinary negligence, recklessness requires somesubjective awareness of the risk. Ordinary negligence is a totally objective standard. Criminal negligence requires a “gross” deviation from the standard of care a reasonable or ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances. Criminal negligence is roughly equivalent to “gross negligence” which is a more serious form of culpability than ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence can be made out by showing any deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise.
Texas Penal Code Section 49.08 Intoxication Manslaughter
The final type of criminal homicide found in Texas Code is found in TPC ch. 49, “Intoxication and Alcoholic Beverage Offenses.” A person is guilty of intoxication manslaughter if the person operates a motor vehicle in a public place, operates an aircraft, watercraft or an amusement ride, or assembles a mobile amusement ride and “ is intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication causes the death of another by accident or mistake.”
“Intoxicated is defined as having a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more or
“not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body . . .”
This offense is a felony of the second degree. A second degree felony is punishable by imprisonment for not more than 20 years nor less than 2 years, and/or a fine not to exceed $10,000
Note that this is a strict liability offense. Guilt attaches even if the death is caused by accident or mistake. Many observers are critical of strict liability offenses because they arguably punish conduct which is not blameworthy. Supporters of strict liability offenses counter that such offenses are usually fine-only offenses. This is clearly not the case for sec. 49.08 for which a person could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.
Section 49.08 does not apply to injury or death of an unborn child if the offense against the unborn child is committed by the mother of the unborn child. Thus, if a pregnant woman is driving while intoxicated and has an accident which kills her fetus, it is not a crime.
Texas Government Code – Section 557.012 Capital Sabotage
- A person commits an offense if the person commits an offense under Section 557.011(a) and the sabotage or attempted sabotage causes the death of an individual.
- An offense under this section is punishable by:
- death; or
- confinement in the institutional division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for:
- life; or
- a term of not less than two years.
- If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under other law, the actor may be prosecuted under both sections.
Possible Defenses for Murder Charges
Defenses to first degree murder charges fall into two major categories: claims that the defendant did not commit the killing in question, and admission that the defendant committed the killing, but did not commit first degree murder.
Defendants admitting to having killed the victim can assert defenses that they were justified in doing so (in self defense, for example), or that they were somehow incapacitated and thus not legally liable. These defenses require the defendant to put forth proof to support his or her defense.
First degree murder defendants also may simply argue that the prosecution has not proved all elements of a first degree murder charge typically that the defendant killed willfully, deliberately and with premeditation. Though the defendant may support such an argument with evidence, he or she is not required to do so, as proof of all elements of the crime falls on the shoulders of the prosecution.
As with statutes defining crimes, the defenses recognized for a specific crime can vary by state. Furthermore, which defenses a criminal defendant may have depends on the particular facts of the case in question. For guidance, defendants should consult an attorney well versed in his or her state’s criminal laws.
In first degree murder cases, as well as other homicide crimes, defendants often argue mistaken identity i.e., that the prosecution has charged the wrong person with the killing. A defendant arguing mistaken identity often asserts an alibi if possible, which he or she tries to support with evidence of being somewhere else at the time of the killing. Other arguments in a mistaken identity defense include challenges to evidence placing the defendant at the scene of the crime. This can include challenges to witness identification as well as challenges to forensic evidence. A mistaken identity defense may also point to evidence implicating another possible suspect, but courts do not require defendants to do so.
Not all homicides are crimes, let alone first degree murders. The most common legal justification for a killing is self-defense or the defense of others.
To succeed, a defendant arguing self defense must show that the killing resulted from a reasonable use of force to resist a reasonable fear of death or bodily harm. The defendant cannot have instigated the threatening situation. The degree of force used in self-defense must be proportional to the threat perceived, and the threat perceived must be something that would place a reasonable person in fear of death or great bodily harm. Mere words or insults do not suffice.
The defendant’s reaction to the threat cannot take place after the threat of death or bodily harm has passed. Many states require that the defendant attempt to retreat or avoid danger if possible before resorting to the use of deadly force.
For example, if someone incapacitates a mugger with pepper spray, he or she may need to attempt to flee to safety instead of taking out a pistol and shooting the mugger. States differ in the degree to which they require an attempt to retreat if the threat they face occurs in the defender’s home.
Defense of Others
The reasonable and proportional defense of others also justifies some killings. The same requirements as self-defense typically apply: the use of force must be timely and proportional to the threat faced, and the perceived threat of death or bodily harm must be reasonable.
Exercise of Duty
Certain killings by law enforcement and other public officers qualify as justified homicides. If an officer kills someone in the exercise of duty and without an unlawful intent, recklessness or negligence, that killing generally does not constitute murder, let alone first degree murder.
Accident or Misfortune
Killings committed by accident in the course of lawful activities do not constitute murder. Some such killings may result in liability for manslaughter, but unless an accidental homicide takes place during the commission of a crime or as a result of other criminal intentions, they would not be covered by first degree or second degree murder statutes. In certain cases, such as parental discipline of children which results in even accidental death, the use of physical force beyond excepted norms can push the killing into murder and possibly, depending on state law, first degree murder.
Most states recognize an insanity defense to charges of first degree murder. Even states which allow the defense, however, treat it differently and often apply different tests. Most states define insanity, for purposes of determining criminal liability, as cognitively being unable to appreciate the quality of the act being committed, or unable to realize that the act is wrong. Some states also recognize a volitional aspect to “insanity” giving some defendants with disorders affecting impulse control access to the insanity defense.
Hire the Best Criminal Homicide Lawyers: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Murder charges are of course the most serious of all charges and the most seriously pursued by the State Attorney’s Office or Federal Prosecutors. A person charged with homicide (murder) in Texas risks significant jail time and most convictions will result in never being released from custody. In some cases, they face being sentenced to death. Texas has become infamous in the country for the number of murders.
However not all deaths are criminal, and there are several powerful homicide defenses provided under Texas Law. If you or someone you know is charged with some form of a Homicide charge, then you need the best possible attorney. You are entitled to the best legal defense possible. Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Charles Johnson can deliver that defense for you.Austin Criminal Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson is available to discuss your case whenever you need him. Contact him directly at 512-832-1200. His Law Office is headquartered in Austin, with offices conveniently located in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.
Download “Arrested for Murder in Austin? Why Hiring An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Crucial” in PDF Format
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Crimes falling into the “sex crimes” category generally involve illegal or coerced sexual conduct by one person towards another. There are laws against unlawful sexual conduct in every state, and each state has its own time limit to bring a sexual-related lawsuit. People convicted of sex crimes are considered “sex offenders” by the state and face having their names added to state and federal sex offender registries. Below is a collection of crimes that are sexual in nature, and that carry severe consequences and penalties.
- Child Pornography – Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor.
- Criminal Solicitation of a Minor (Under 17) – On-line solicitation of a minor for a sexual purpose, that is, with intent to commit a sexual activity with that minor, is one of the most investigated and targeted activities by both federal and state law enforcement in this day and age.
- Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student – Although the relationships are typically consensual, the teacher is prosecuted under a specific provision of the penal code prohibiting an Improper Relationship Between Educator & Student. It is important to note that the offense is neither limited to teachers nor limited to sexual contact; risqué text messages are enough
- Indecent Exposure – Indecent exposure laws in most states make it a crime to purposefully display one’s genitals in public, causing others to be alarmed or offended. Indecent exposure is often committed for the sexual gratification of the offender, and may reach the level of a sexual assault if any physical contact is made.
- Public Lewdness – It is generally defined to be the intentional exposure of the genitals, buttocks or female breasts or committing or attempting to engage in a sexual act in public where there is reason to believe you will and can be observed.
- Prostitution – Generally, prostitution is the act of engaging in sexual activity by a person for a fee or a thing of economic value. But the scope of the crime of prostitution has been widened to include all prostitution related offenses. Thus a person is considered to commit an offense of prostitution if s/he engages in an act of prostitution willfully, solicits prostitution, or agrees to engage in an act of prostitution.
- Sexual Assault/Rape – Sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. These crimes can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape.
- Sexual Assault of a Child (Statutory Rape) – Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the “age of consent.” People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that sex with them, by definition, violates the law.
- Solicitation – It’s illegal to entice someone else to commit a crime (such as prostitution). This article explains the elements to prove solicitation, as well as defenses and penalties.
Austin Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Sex crimes can carry very significant criminal penalties, and even those that carry relatively short jail sentences can result in lifelong registration requirements, public notice, employment restrictions and many other problems.
If you’ve been accused of a sex crime, it’s critical that you understand all of the risks involved before taking any action. You may not have the knowledge and experience necessary to take the steps required to protect yourself and your future. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Attorney Charles Johnson for more clarification and guidance.
We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 512-832-1200 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
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Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the “age of consent.” People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that sex with them, by definition, violates the law.
Statutory rape laws vary by state, with states setting the age of consent differently, as well as using different names to refer to this crime. Many states punish statutory rape under laws addressing sexual assault, rape, unlawful sexual intercourse or carnal knowledge of a child. There are very few federal laws dealing with statutory rape.
No Requirement of Force
Statutory rape differs from other types of rape, and from child molestation, in that the act would not be a crime if all participants were above the age of consent. Unlike “forcible rape,” statutory rape can involve underage participants who willingly engage in sexual relations. However, because those under the age of consent cannot give legal consent to sex, the act is a crime whether or not force is involved. If the act involves force or coercion, many states prosecute the offender under the separate statutes punishing child molestation or aggravated rape.
Age of Consent
Individuals cannot legally have sexual contact with an individual who is not of age. The legal age of consent may vary by state. For instance, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. Some states have a legal age of consent as low as 14 while other states have a legal age of consent of 18.
An individual who has sexual contact with a person below the age of consent may face punishment. In general, sexual contact is considered any act intended to arouse another person. As such, an individual may be found guilty of statutory rape even if he or she did not have sexual intercourse with a minor.
Historically, statutory rape has been a “strict liability” offense, meaning that it does not matter whether what the perpetrator believed the victim was old enough to consent to sex. Some states now allow the defense that the perpetrator had reason to believe, and did believe, that the minor was above the age of consent. However, in many states this defense is not allowed, meaning that the act was a crime regardless of what the perpetrator believed the victims age to be. In states that do allow such a defense, it often cannot be used if the victim was particularly young, commonly under the age of 14.
Factors Affecting the Level of Offense Charges and Penalties
Laws punishing statutory rape often include a spectrum of offenses, ranging from misdemeanors to high level felonies. In general, two main factors affect the level of offense for an act of statutory rape: (1) the age of the victim; and (2) the age difference between victim and perpetrator. Other factors, including any prior sex offenses committed by the offender, whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and whether pregnancy resulted, can also affect the level of charge imposed.
Statutory rape is a felony offense, so an individual who is found guilty of the crime may face several years in prison. In Texas, for example, the crime is a second-degree felony, so an individual may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
Punishment for statutory rape can include mandatory prison or jail sentences, probation, fines, and mandated treatment services. Many states require those convicted of statutory rape to register as sex offenders.
Exceptions to Statutory Rape Laws
Though statutory rape laws make it illegal for individuals to have sexual relationships with people below the age of consent, some exceptions do exist. Generally, these exceptions include:
- The individuals are within a certain number of years of one another
- The individuals dated before one was above the age of consent
- The younger individual is within so many months of being at the age of consent
These rules may not apply in all circumstances, so individuals should contact a legal authority to learn more about their legal rights regarding relationships with minors.
Professionals Required to Report
Some states require certain classes of professionals to report knowledge or suspicion of statutory rape to authorities. Types of professionals required to report statutory rape often include teachers, medical professionals, public employees, and clergy, among others.
Austin Statutory Rape Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm
Statutory rape is a state sex crime that can be punishable by incarceration, fine, probation, and/or registry as a sex offender. If you are facing Statutory Rape charges, speak with an experienced and aggressive attorney from the Charles Johnson Law Firm in Austin, Texas.
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Child in Fayette County Lured into Sexual Abuse on Facebook
A sexual predator took sexual advantage of a young child after "grooming" them on Facebook. That is according to the Fayette County Sheriff's Department. Jeffrey Davis Adkins, Jr., 30, of Oak Hill was arrested on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016. He is charged with ...
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Lord Janner sex abuse investigation will continue
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Man guilty of sexual assault of a child
A 36-year-old Eau Claire man will be sentenced Dec. 19 for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl repeatedly since she was 5 or 6 years old. Donald G. Jinkerson, 5544 Christopher Drive, pleaded guilty Friday in Eau Claire County Court to felony counts of ...
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Jury finds Lincoln man guilty in sex assault; brother pleads
A Lancaster County jury Monday morning found a 33-year-old man guilty of four counts of sexual assault of a child. By afternoon, his brother had pleaded no contest to a single count for sexually abusing the same 10-year-old Lincoln girl. Felipe German Mora ...
Lincoln Journal Star - Oct 03 2016
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Texas takes cases of sexual assault against a child very seriously. If the state can prove that an act involving a child was for the perpetrator’s sexual gratification, it is considered a sex crime. If there was physical contact involving sexual penetration or intrusion between the child and the accused, a sexual assault charge is likely.
Sexual allegations where children are involved are delicate and complicated cases to defend. This type of sexual accusation can be devastating in every aspect of your life. The presumption of innocence in our legal system may do little to protect those accused. Indecency with a child, like other sexual allegations, is one area where accused people often find they are put in a position where they have to prove their innocence. You cannot allow embarrassment to keep you from getting a skilled criminal defense attorney on your indecency case IMMEDIATELY. Every minute you wait, there is potentially more damage being done to your life and potentially more false evidence being collected to prosecute you. Early on in a sex related case investigation and legal protection is imperative. Charles Johnson, Austin Sex Crimes Lawyer, will handle your case with discretion and skill. He will fight to keep you out of jail, keep your reputation intact, and fight to keep your life from falling apart.
It is well established and understood by experts that many accusations of indecency with a child and sexual assault of a child are false. Many are grossly exaggerated. The reasons giving rise to false accusations of such conduct are varied. A child can imagine or dream such an incident. Perhaps the child was abused by another previously and misinterpreted and then exaggerated innocent incidental contact. Children have been known to fabricate such accusations because they were angry at the accused or were jealous, even for the most trivial reasons. Children can be led to make such claims by another angry or jealous adult, such as the accused’s spouse or lover. They are too young to comprehend how grave such a false accusation can be.
Under Texas law, a sexual encounter with a child or sexual contact with a child is either Indecency with a Child, Sexual Assault of a Child, or Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child, depending on the nature of the incident or contact.
Indecency with a Child. Allegations of certain types of sexual contact with a child, exposure to a child or causing the exposure of a child, who is under the age of 17, can lead to charges of Indecency with a Child. Such an offense may be a second or third degree felony. A defense may exist where, in such an incident, no duress, force or threat was used and the accused was not more than three years older than the child at the time.
Sexual Assault of a Child. If more violative and egregious contact is alleged, the accused may be charged with Sexual Assault of a Child, also a second degree felony. Again, a defense may exist where, in such an incident, no duress, force or threat was used and the accused was not more than three years older than the child at the time.
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. Sexual Assault of a Child becomes “aggravated” (first degree felony) when force or threat of force is used or when the child is younger than 14 years of age, regardless of consensual behavior. This latter is also commonly known as “statutory rape”. No child under the age of 14 can consent to such conduct. Mistaken understanding about the child’s age is no defense.
The consequences of a conviction in such matters are extreme. Even if prison time is avoided, an adult’s conviction results in the requirement to register as a sex offender for the rest of one’s life, and to have one’s photograph and address flashed on the computer screen of anyone in the world who decides to access the state’s sex offender registry site.
Indecency with a Child
The commonly phrased crime of child molestation is titled Indecency with a Child in Texas. There are two types of indecency: Indecency with a Child by Contact and Indecency with a Child by Exposure (similar to Indecent Exposure but a child is present). Both are serious felonies. Both require registration as a sex offender upon conviction.
Indecency with a Child by Contact is the more serious offense. The Texas statute does not distinguish between touching under the clothes or touching over clothes ñ any sexual contact is punished as a second degree felony. A person commits the offense of Indecency with a Child by Contact if:
With a child younger than 17 years and not the person’s spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact.
Sexual contact means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:
(1) any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a child; or
(2) any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing, with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.
Indecency with a Child by Exposure is a third degree felony. A person commits the offense if with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person he:
(A) exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present; or
(B) causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.
The two crimes are often charged in conjunction as separate paragraphs of an indictment. Double jeopardy concerns are raised when the same act is used to prosecute a person for two different crimes. In a prosecution alleging Aggravated Sexual Assault, the acts constituting the assault may also constitute separate crimes of Indecency with a Child by Contact and Indecency with a Child by Exposure. In a prosecution for Indecency with a Child by Contact involving a child touching the genitals of an adult, the crime of Indecency by Exposure would logically also have to have been committed.
Why do these details matter?
Because the rules of evidence concerning extraneous offenses, double jeopardy, the right to election, and jury unanimity are incredibly important protections for innocent people falsely accused of child sex abuse. A three count indictment is more powerful psychologically than a single allegation. Even if all three counts reference the same incident, the news media, the general public, and potential jurors are given a false impression that there was more than one incident. Second, it bolsters prosecution based upon fear rather than proof. Since most people belief “where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” a juror may still convict an innocent person of a lesser charge because while they don’t believe the accused committed the most serious act alleged, he is probably guilty of something. Alleging indecency with a child by contact and indecency with a child by exposure provide two other bites at the apple. Finally, the fundamental nature of the criminal justice system is that the greater offense subsumes the lesser. If a person is accused of murder, the State does not also try to indict him for assault and aggravated assault en route to the completed homicide. When the appellate courts allow the trial courts to aggrandize the number of offenses, it creates inconsistencies in the system.
The fundamental principle of the Constitution is that it shouldn’t matter what you‘re charged with ñ you have the right to a fair trial. Because of political popularity of getting tough on sex offenses, the centuries of due process and presumption of innocence is being sacrificed for cheap political gain. While this damages the credibility of our justice system in general, it is most harmful to innocent people who are falsely accused. Now that the legislature and appellate courts have rewritten the rules to make it easier to convict a group of people charged with a heinous act, pray that you are never wrongfully accused of a sex crime in Texas.
Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child
Under most of the State laws, aggravated sexual assault against a child is clubbed with the section defining aggravated sexual assault. There are state specific laws on the subject which varies from state to state.
In Texas a person commits the offense of aggravated sexual assault against a child if he or she intentionally or knowingly:
(i) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child younger than 14 years of age by any means;
(ii) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child younger than 14 years of age by the sexual organ of the actor;
(iii) causes the sexual organ of a child younger than 14 years of age to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
(iv) causes the anus of a child younger than 14 years of age to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
(v) causes the mouth of a child younger than 14 years of age to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
A person can still be prosecuted for aggravated sexual assault of a child if the actor:
1. causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;
2. by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;
3. by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;
4. uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;
5. acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or
6. administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense.
The minimum term of imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault against a child is 25 years if the victim of the offense is younger than six years of age at the time the offense is committed; or the victim of the offense is younger than 14 years of age at the time the offense is committed and the actor commits the offense in a manner described by Subsection (a)(2)(A).
The law as it appears in the statute
Tex. Penal Code ß 22.021. Aggravated Sexual Assault
(a) A person commits an offense:
(1) if the person:
(A) intentionally or knowingly:
(i) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;
(ii) causes the penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that person’s consent; or
(iii) causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
(B) intentionally or knowingly:
(i) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
(ii) causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
(iii) causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
(iv) causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
(v) causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; and
(A) the person:
(i) causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person in the course of the same criminal episode;
(ii) by acts or words places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;
(iii) by acts or words occurring in the presence of the victim threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;
(iv) uses or exhibits a deadly weapon in the course of the same criminal episode;
(v) acts in concert with another who engages in conduct described by Subdivision (1) directed toward the same victim and occurring during the course of the same criminal episode; or
(vi) administers or provides flunitrazepam, otherwise known as rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense;
(B) the victim is younger than 14 years of age; or
(C) the victim is an elderly individual or a disabled individual.
(b) In this section:
(1) “Child” has the meaning assigned by Section 22.011(c).
(2) “Elderly individual” and “disabled individual” have the meanings assigned by Section 22.04(c).
(c) An aggravated sexual assault under this section is without the consent of the other person if the aggravated sexual assault occurs under the same circumstances listed in Section 22.011(b).
(d) The defense provided by Section 22.011(d) applies to this section.
(e) An offense under this section is a felony of the first degree.
(f) The minimum term of imprisonment for an offense under this section is increased to 25 years if:
(1) the victim of the offense is younger than six years of age at the time the offense is committed; or
(2) the victim of the offense is younger than 14 years of age at the time the offense is committed and the actor commits the offense in a manner described by Subsection (a)(2)(A).
What makes a Sexual Assault of a Child Charge “Aggravated?”
The offense of Sexual Assault of a Child is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.011. Basically, the offense involves sexual activity with a person under 17 years of age. Sexual Assault of a Child is Aggravated if the child is under 14 years of age, if a deadly weapon is used or serious bodily injury is threatened. Sexual Assault of a Child is, in most cases, a Second Degree Felony. (2-20 years.) Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child is a First Degree Felony. (5 to 99 years or life.) If the child was younger than 6 if the child was under six at the time of the offense or there was violence or a threat of violence involved.
What is Indecency with a Child?
Indecency with a Child is defined by Texas Penal Code Sec. 21.11 as either engaging in sexual contact with a child or exposure of one’s anus or genitals to a child under 17 or causing the child to expose his or her anus or genitals to the actor with the intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually. Sexual contact is basically touching of the genitals with intent to arouse or gratify someone sexually. Note that some forms of genital contact may be Sexual Assault of a Child. Indecency with a Child by Contact in most circumstances is a Second Degree Felony. (2 to 20 years.) Indecency with a Child by Exposure is a Third Degree Felony. (2 to 10 years.)
Does the Age of the Accused Matter?
It is an affirmative defense to Indecency with a Child and Sexual Assault of a Child that the actor was not more than three years older than the child, and did not have a prior conviction for certain sexual offenses, and the child was older than 14 and was not related to the actor.
What Should I do if I am Contacted by the Police to Speak to them About an Allegation Against You of Child Sexual Abuse?
The first thing to do is to get a skilled criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. We see may individuals that have placed themselves at a serious disadvantage by speaking with police investigators without the assistance of counsel. Most people have no idea how coercive police interrogations are. Many individuals come away from an intensive interrogation having said things that were not true. If you are contacted by the police to discuss an allegation of child sexual abuse (or any other type of allegation) you should immediately contact Austin Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson. You and Attorney Johnson can make a decision about whether you should speak to the police at all. If your lawyer advises you to speak to the police, he can be with you to make sure that the questioning is fairly conducted.
How Can I Defend Myself Against a False Accusation of Child Sexual Abuse?
Austin Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson will investigate your case factually and prepare a defense. It is important to determine why the child has made the accusation. Was the child influenced by an adult? Did the allegations result from improper questioning of the child by authorities? Experts may be added to the defense team to explain to the jury circumstances that could lead to false accusations.
Does Possession of Child Pornography Violate Both State and Federal Law?
Yes. Possession of Child Pornography is prohibited by both Texas law and federal law. Child pornography cases are investigated by local law enforcement, The Texas Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, United States Postal Inspectors and other agencies depending on how the images were discovered. Sometimes state law enforcement officials will begin an investigation but refer the case to the United States Attorney’s Office for prosecution in federal court.
How Can I Defend Myself Against an Accusation of Possession of Child Pornography?
In the age of the Internet, the vast majority of child pornography cases involve digital images found on computer hard drives. The defense lawyer’s first focus is on whether the discovery of the alleged illegal images was in violation of the constitutional rights of the accused. Also, the evidence must show that the accused knew that the images were on the computer hard drive. Examination of the computer’s drive by a forensic expert can sometimes uncover information about who may have place the images on the drive or whether they were intentionally placed there. Further, sometimes the evidence in the case does not prove that the images were of actual children rather than computer generated or altered images. Again, trained experts are needed to make this determination.
Laws in Texas Regarding Sexual Assault of a Child
Child sexual assault is a serious criminal offense in Texas.
Any kind of sexual conduct that harms children, whether physically, emotionally or both, is strictly prohibited in Texas. This includes sexual assault on a child, which is considered particularly heinous in the state. Consequently, engaging in these acts or failing to report this kind of abuse is a serious criminal offense, punishable to the full extent of the law.
Texas Family Code Chapter 261 outlaws any sexual conduct directed at or involving minors as well as failure to report these acts. This includes “fondling, lewd or lascivious exposure or behavior, intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, child pornography, child prostitution and any other sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional or physical welfare,” according to the website of the Texas Attorney General. Violators are prosecuted to the same extent whether or not children consent to these acts.
Sexual assault and child sex abuse carries severe penalties. Typically, Texas law classifies these offenses as felonies. Additionally, there are specific categories of felonies that different sexual violations fall into in Texas. As of 2010 and according to Texas Penal Code, indecent exposure to a child is a third-degree felony, punishable by 2-10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines, while aggravated sexual assault on a child is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. (See References 2 and 4)
Persons convicted of child sexual assault are required to register with law enforcement officials in Texas. Names and information regarding these convicted sexual offenders are then placed in an online database. This database is considered public record, and any member of the community may view it.
Longer Prison Terms
A series of laws known as Ashley’s Laws were enacted by the Texas legislature in late 1990s to increase penalties for those convicted of child sexual assault. Under these laws, offenders are required to serve at least 50 percent of a prison sentence before being granted parole, though they typically end up serving 80 percent of a sentence.
Also in accordance with Ashley’s Laws, those convicted of child sexual assault in Texas who have been proven to be repeat offenders may face harsher penalties for continued sexual offenses. For example, a repeat child sexual abuser convicted of a second-degree felony may be sentenced with the same penalties as a first-degree felony under these laws. Additionally, a “two-strikes” provision was added to Texas state law for child sex offenders. Normally, a person convicted of three felonies in Texas is automatically sentenced to life in prison. This provision allows for an automatic life sentence for only two felony convictions of child sexual assault.
Finally, Ashley’s Laws also make it a legal requirement for convicted child sex offenders to undergo treatment in Texas. Because many traditional forms of treatment have proven ineffective in reducing child sexual abuse recidivism rates, some alternative treatments may be used, including certain behavioral modification programs. Additionally, tests may be administered to monitor progress, including the “plethysmograph” test, which monitors sexual arousal when presented with certain materials.
Sexual Assault of a Child: Hire the Best Austin Criminal Defense Attorney Charles Johnson
- In Texas, for purposes of the Sexual Assault of a Child and Indecency with a Child crimes, a child does not become an adult until age 17. For other sexual-related offenses, including Possession of Child Pornography and Sexual Performance of a Child, the age of an adult is 18 years.
- In Texas, it is not a defense that the accused did not know the child’s real age. So, the alleged victim could have lied about her age to the accused and the accused will still face criminal charges.The alleged victim cannot legally consent to sexual relations unless the alleged victim is 14 years of age or older and there is only a 3 year or less difference between the ages of the alleged victim and the accused.
- In Texas, only one eye-witness, the alleged victim, is sufficient for conviction, so long as the jury believes the alleged victim beyond a reasonable doubt.
- In Texas, neither genital trauma nor DNA evidence is required for a conviction.
- In Texas, voluntary intoxication is not a defense. So, if the accused goes to a party, gets drunk and sleeps with an underage girl, he cannot use his intoxication as a defense to the crime of Sexual Assault of a Child.
- In Texas, each separate sexual act can be separately charged within one indictment and, if there is a conviction, each Count can be stacked or served consecutively.
With these types of sexual offenses, there are many other legal issues involved. If a person is charged with sexual assault of a child, possession of child pornography or any type of sex offense, it is important to retain a criminal defense attorney who is experienced defending Texas sex offenses.
If you or a loved one has been charged with the sexual assault of a child, it is important that you contact an experience defense attorney immediately. The consequences for the sexual assault of a child if convicted can be several years in prison and the requirement to register on the sex offender registry. It is never a good idea to represent yourself in court. In a case like this, it is especially important that you find an experienced defense lawyer right away. Even if you have not been charged yet, it would be helpful for you to contact us via phone, anytime night or day, for a free consultation. The defense attorneys at the Charles Johnson Law Firm have had extraordinary success in defending serious cases such as the sexual assault of a child as well as other sex crimes. There are different levels of charges as well as different penalties for charges of sexual assault of a child. During consultation we can explain to you the details of what is possible in your specific case once you provide us with details regarding the matter. Contact Austin Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson directly at 512-832-1200 today for a free of charge consultation.
News Stories Related to Sexual Assault of a Minor in Austin, TX:
Download “False Allegations of Sexual Assault of a Minor: Guilty Until Proven Innocent by Austin Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson” in PDF Format
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Charles Johnson |
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