How The New Texas “Campus Amnesty Law” Will Impact Sexual Assault

Sexual assault, commonly referred to as rape, is a serious crime in Texas. A sexual assault crime occurs when an individual knowingly and intentionally commits a prohibited sexual activity under Texas sexual assault laws without a victim’s consent.

The state of Texas severely punishes those who commit sexual assault. Two new laws, State Bill 968 (SB 968) and State Bill 969 (SB 969) go into effect on September 1, 2017. These laws amend the Education Code of Texas in order to protect both employees and students under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 regarding stalking, interpersonal violence, or sexual assault.

Lawmakers want to promote easier access to reporting rape, sexual assault, stalking, and interpersonal violence. If you are accused of a serious assault crime, you need a criminal defense attorney now.

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Background on State Bill 968 and State Bill 969

Advocates of the law and administrators at the state’s colleges and universities have expressed concerns that students are less likely to report sexual assault, stalking, or interpersonal violence crimes if they fear other disciplinary actions, such as underage drinking. Preliminary reports (known as “Know Your IX”) said that underage students are known to bear the highest risk of assault but many fail to report incidents. They fear the school will punish them for drinking or using drugs at the time the assault occurred.

Legislators decided that the adoption of “explicit amnesty policy” must be part of the Texas educational institution’s code of conduct. According to advocates, victims may suffer poor grades or be forced to drop extracurricular activities or classes after an assault incident.

The federal government is investigating 10 universities in Texas for alleged Title IX violations. The new law says that Texas educational institutions must now take additional steps to protect all students against discrimination, harassment, and gender-based violence. Prevention programs should include transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and gay students from stalking, harassment, and abuse.

In response to the new laws, Rice University announced it will require all students to take a sexuality course that addresses interpersonal relations and consent.

State Bill 968 and State Bill 969

Under SB 968, educational institutions in Texas must offer an electronic reporting method to victims of stalking, sexual assault or interpersonal violence. The University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) has used the MySafeCampus electronic report system for the past several years.

SB 968 says that employees and students must have the ability to anonymously report offenses and that the reporting system must be easily accessed from the educational institution home page.

In addition, the new law requires educational institutions in Texas to define prohibited behavior, violations sanctions, and the required protocol for responding to or reporting alleged sexual assault reports. It requires the post-secondary institution to make its sexual assault “available” to faculty, staff, and students by publishing the policy in its personnel and student handbooks.

Each post-secondary school in Texas must require new freshmen and/or undergrad transfer students to attend a sexual assault policy orientation during the first term in which the student enrolls at the school.

SB 969 goes further. It requires educational institutions in Texas to grant amnesty to employees and students if the individual witnesses or is victimized in a sexual assault incident. Amnesty is available only if the employee or student reports the stalking, interpersonal violence, or sexual assault incident and a resulting institutional policy violation is triggered by the incident. Amnesty isn’t extended to the employee or student that reports his or her sexual assault action. The law is intended to provide employees and students with the necessary confidence to submit sexual assault, stalking, or interpersonal violence allegations without fear of retaliation or reprisal for doing so.

How the New Legislation Affects Title IX

Title IX, part of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688, was later referred to as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act (2002). The law says that no U.S. person may be excluded from participating in, denied benefits of, or suffer discrimination by an activity or education program that receives federal financial aid.

In addition, Title IX provides students with a confidential channel through which to report alleged sexual assault, stalking, or interpersonal violence without fears of discrimination. It protects the student from concerns of exclusion or discrimination based upon sex.

The Texas Sexual Assault Statute

SB 968 and 969 are intended to decrease consistently high rates of sexual assault, stalking, and interpersonal violence. Under the Texas Sexual Assault Statute (Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Chapter 22, § § 22.011 and 22.021), the elements of sexual assault include:

  • The victim did not consent to sexual acts
  • The victim was threatened or applied to facilitate sexual assault
  • The law establishes lack of consent if the victim could not physically resist the aggressor or comprehend the nature of the act
  • Consent is not given in any scenario in which the defendant provides care to or has power over the victim, e.g. health care services providers, public servants, members of the clergy, or is employed at the victim’s residential facility.
  • A charge of sexual assault may be elevated to aggravated sexual assault if the defendant caused death or serious bodily injury to the victim, caused the victim to fear death, kidnapping, or serious bodily injury, used/exhibited a deadly weapon in commission of the crime, acted in concert with another person in commission of the crime, or used a date rape drug such as ketamine or rohypnol to facilitate the commission of sexual assault. The charge may be elevated if the victim is less than 14 years old or a disabled or elderly person.
  • For purposes of the law, a child is considered an individual less than 17 years old.

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Defenses against a Sexual Assault Charge

Not everyone charged with a sexual assault crime is guilty. In fact, many influential people in business and government are accused of rape or sexual assault because his or her partner experiences remorse or guilt after consensual sexual relations; after an argument, one of the parties wants to retaliate against the other; one of the partners desires to ruin the reputation of the other; or the alleged victim wants financial compensation from the alleged offender.

Many people accused of sexual assault are innocent, but they face devastating emotional and reputational damage as a result. If you’ve been falsely accused of a sexual assault crime in Houston, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to diligently fight for your rights and the best possible case outcome.

A sexual assault charge is very serious, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can help his clients to defend against rape or assault allegations.

There are many possible defenses against a charge of sexual assault, stalking, or interpersonal violence. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all defense. Know that if you have been accused of sexual assault in Texas, you need an experienced sexual assault attorney to defend your rights as soon as possible to avoid severe punishments.

Penalties and Sentences of a Sexual Assault Conviction

A sexual assault conviction is often a second-degree felony resulting in a minimum two-year to maximum 20-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine. Elevation of the crime to a first-degree felony may occur in some situations.

If convicted of a first-degree felony charge in Texas, the offender faces a minimum five-year to maximum 99-year prison sentence plus a maximum $10,000 fine.

Contact a Sexual Assault Attorney in Houston

The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp realizes that your story must be properly told to the court. Prosecutors want you to make a plea–even if there’s little or weak evidence to convict the defendant. We will work to aggressively defend you with the goal of having the charges against you dismissed. Call Matthew D. Sharp to arrange an initial case review now.

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