Under Texas law, some incidents of sexual assault are considered so heinous that they are charged as a higher felony than standard sexual assault. These so-called aggravating factors can involve victims of a certain type, or assaults committed while in possession of a deadly weapon. A conviction for aggravated sexual assault can lead to spending the rest of your life in prison. Your best chance for protecting your reputation and your freedom involves selecting a criminal defense attorney that will vigorously defend your life.
What Constitutes Aggravated Sexual Assault in Texas?
For you to be convicted of aggravated sexual assault, you must first be found to have committed sexual assault under Texas law. If, in addition to being accused of committing a sexual assault, a prosecutor believes certain aggravating factors are present, the charge can be upped to aggravated sexual assault.
Generally speaking, the crime of sexual assault is the non-consensual sexual contact with another person. If the alleged victim is an adult, this includes any form of penetration. If the alleged victim is a child, this includes any sexual contact whatsoever. Under Texas law, sexual assault can fit within eleven specific sets of circumstances:
- You compel the other person to submit or participate by the use of physical force, violence, or coercion;
- You compel the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against the other person or to cause harm to the other person, and the other person believes that you have the present ability to execute the threat;
- the other person has not consented and you know the other person is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
- you know that as a result of mental disease or defect the other person is at the time of the sexual assault incapable either of appraising the nature of the act or of resisting it;
- the other person has not consented and you know the other person is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;
- you intentionally impaired the other person's power to appraise or control the other person's conduct by administering any substance without the other person's knowledge;
- you compel the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against any person, and the other person believes that you have the ability to execute the threat;
- you are a public servant who coerces the other person to submit or participate;
- you are a mental health services provider or a health care services provider who causes the other person, who is a patient or former patient of the actor, to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the actor;
- you are a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person's emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser; or
- you are an employee of a facility where the other person is a resident, unless the employee and resident are formally or informally married to each other.
The Texas Penal Code sets out a specific list of factors that will aggravate a charge of sexual assault. If any of these factors are present, you can be charged with aggravated sexual assault. Generally speaking, the aggravating factors are:
- If during the course of the sexual assault you cause serious injury or death;
- If you threatened human trafficking, death, kidnapping, or serious injury;
- If you used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the sexual assault;
- If you used a date rape drug;
- If the victim is under the age of 14;
- If the victim is elderly; or
- If the victim is disabled.
Potential Punishment for Sexual Assault
Aggravated sexual assault is classified as a first-degree felony under Texas law. A first-degree felony is the second most severe type of crime in the state. The sentencing range for a first-degree felony is between 5 and 99 years or life in the state penitentiary. It also carries a maximum fine of $10,000.
While the crime typically carries a minimum of 5 years, some factors could raise that minimum. In cases where the victim is younger than six, the minimum sentence is 25 years. There is also a minimum sentence of 25 years in cases where the victim is between 6 and 13 years of age, and the defendant had used certain aggravating factors including using a deadly weapon, causing serious injury, or threatening child trafficking.
Defenses for Aggravated Sexual Assault
In criminal cases, there are defenses that can apply to any type of crime, and defenses that are limited to specific crimes. The most common defenses in aggravated sexual assault cases are usually crime-specific.
While more common in cases of sexual assault, consent also is frequently raised in aggravated sexual assault cases. Consent occurs when the alleged victim gives permission for the sexual contact in question to take place
The most obvious defense is that you simply didn't commit the crime. This can be proven in a number of ways. It could involve convincing a jury that you had an alibi and were somewhere else at the time of the assault. It could also involve proving that you were mistakenly identified by the victim as the perpetrator.
Finding the Right Aggravated Sexual Assault Attorney
Aggravated sexual assault is one of the most severe charges you can face. Merely being charged with aggravated sexual assault can stigmatize you for life; a conviction could see you lose your freedom entirely. These consequences make your choice of a criminal defense attorney critical.
E. Jason Leach is a board-certified expert in criminal defense law. His law practice focuses specifically on defending the accused. That singular focus allows E. Jason Leach to focus solely on providing a vigorous defense for his clients. If you have been charged with a crime in the Odessa, Texas area, the Law Office of E. Jason Leach is ready to help you defend yourself. Contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today for your free consultation.