Some of the most severe sentences under Texas law are reserved for cases involving sexual assault. It's not hard to understand why; the repercussions of a sexual assault will last with a victim forever. The stigma of sexual assault is strong enough that merely being charged with the crime can drastically change your life. Having an experienced defense attorney is critical to protect your reputation and your freedom.
What Constitutes Sexual Assault in Texas?
In Texas, sexual assault is generally non-consensual sexual contact with another person involving penetration or contact. This includes any sexual penetration without the consent of an adult or any sexual act with a child whether or not they consented. Texas law defines “without consent” with 11 fairly specific instances. To be found to have committed a sexual act without consent, only one of the following need apply:
- 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.
Potential Punishment for Sexual Assault
In most cases, the crime of sexual assault is treated as a second-degree felony under Texas law. However, in certain circumstances, sexual assault can be charged as a first-degree felony. Sexual assault is a first-degree felony when the victim was “a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married.”
In Texas, a second-degree felony carries a sentence of between two and twenty years in the state prison system. In addition, it carries a maximum fine of $10,000. A first-degree felony carries a sentence of between five and ninety-nine years, or life, in state prison as well as a maximum fine of $10,000.
Defenses for Sexual Assault
There are a variety of defenses against a charge of sexual assault. Most of them are specific to sexually based offenses, but some will apply to other charges as well.
One of the most common defenses in a sexual assault case, consent involves the alleged victim giving permission for the sexual contact to take place. Since sexual assault is a crime of unwanted sexual contact, consent is a powerful defense.
It's important to know that it can be a complicated issue given that consent can be taken away as easily as it is given. In other cases, it is impossible for consent to exist. For example, under the law it is impossible for a child or a mentally incapacitated person to consent to any sexual contact. An attorney with experience defending sexual assault cases can use their experience to help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
The most straightforward defense possible is innocence. A defense of complete innocence means you argue you weren't involved in any crime whatsoever. It could involve an alibi proving you weren't present when the crime happened. Claims of total innocence can also be proven by showing that you have been misidentified. Your defense attorney can attack the state's case by providing proof of an alibi or by discrediting witnesses against you.
In some instances, a defendant may be able to prove to a jury that they suffered from a mental disease or defect that prevented them from understanding that what they were doing was a crime. A defendant with diminished capacity may face leniency on sentencing.
Finding the Right Texas Defense Attorney
Sexual assault charges can have a huge impact on your life. You're not just fighting for your reputation, you're also fighting for your freedom. Facing charges of sexual assault can be disorienting, and you may find that your options for outreach are limited. That makes the choice of a defense attorney so important.
Are you facing sexual assault charges in the Odessa, Texas area? The Law Office of E. Jason Leach is ready to help you prepare your defense. A board-certified expert in criminal defense law, E. Jason Leach is an experienced criminal defense lawyer that knows how to build an aggressive defense.
State prosecutors focus on nothing but criminal law. E. Jason Leach believes that focusing only on criminal law puts his clients on an even playing field with the state, and that is why he only accepts criminal defense clients. For a free consultation, contact the Law Office of E. Jason Leach today.