Possible defenses if you’ve been accused of child molestation in Texas
The consequences of child molestation in Texas are severe. Unquestionably, children must be protected. This is why the law in most states, including Texas, regard children as a protected class of citizens.
However, some people may use this section of the law to wage a personal vendetta. A mere allegation of this crime can ruin your life in the blink of an eye, regardless of whether or not the allegations are unfounded.
If you’ve been accused of child molestation, reach out to the Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today and let our experienced lawyers fight for your rights.
What is considered child molestation?
The general definition of child molestation is indecency, sexual abuse, or contact with anyone under 18. Indecency with a child includes an offender’s attempt to expose their private parts or the minor’s for sexual gratification. There doesn’t have to be touching for the accused to be found guilty.
On the other hand, sexual abuse or contact is more concrete. It includes the following acts:
- Engaging in sexual acts that harm a child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being
- Compelling, urging or enticing a child to have sexual contact
- Not taking action to protect a child from sexual abuse
- Permitting, causing and encouraging the filming of child pornography
- Permitting the sexual performance of a minor
Penalties for child molestation in Texas
Being convicted of child molestation in Texas attracts harsh punishment. The severity of the penalties depends on the particulars of your case. For instance, if you assaulted the victim in addition to the sexual offense, you face a longer prison sentence.
Here is a breakdown of the penalties you could face.
Jail time and fines
Child molestation and indecency is a felony. The accused can face a 20-year jail sentence if they’re found guilty. Similarly, child pornography attracts 20 years behind bars. For aggravated sexual assault against a minor, the sentence is 99 years.
Continuous sexual abuse of a child is invoked if the minor is under the age of 14 years. This crime is persecuted as a first-degree felony in Texas. The sentence is 25 to life without the possibility of parole. In addition to jail time, you could also be fined up to $10,000.
Other legal consequences
A prison sentence and fines are not the only legal consequences of a sexual molestation conviction. Some of these may happen even if you are acquitted of the charges. These are:
- Registration as a sex offender. If found guilty, the laws require you to register as a sex offender for either 10 years or a lifetime. Sex offender registration in Texas is required even while an appeal is in court. Carrying this tag has political and emotional consequences.
- Loss of custody. Your spouse or ex-spouse can use your status as a registered sex offender to deny custody of your children. Usually, the argument is that you are a danger to your kids.
- Restricted residency. Although Texas has no statutes to enforce this law, local municipalities have ordinances that restrict registered sex offenders from living within 2500 feet of where children gather. If you don’t meet that requirement, you may have to move.
- Loss of employment. As a convicted sex offender, you are not allowed to be around kids. That means you can’t work anywhere with kids. This disqualifies you from working in schools, hospitals, clinics, malls, most stores and others. Even if your job doesn’t fall under the restricted list, the chances are that your employer will let you go due to bias, intolerance and prejudice.
Possible legal defenses
Although society will be quick to judge before anything is proven, you will have a chance to defend yourself in court. It helps to have an experienced attorney on your side during your trial. If you choose to hire a lawyer, these are the possible defenses they may employ.
Under American criminal law, everyone is “innocent until proven guilty.” Establishing guilt requires concrete evidence. The standard of proof in criminal cases is beyond a reasonable doubt.
For instance, if you have an airtight alibi, you can prove you were nowhere near the scene when the crime was committed.
Lack of evidence
Sex crimes typically require the state to table evidence, such as DNA. Given the serious nature of child molestation charges, the accused can’t be convicted without evidence. An experienced attorney like Matt Sharp can point out the lack of evidence during the trial and get the case dismissed.
Can a child be charged with molesting another child?
The answer is yes. In fact, a larger proportion of child molestation cases in Texas are against teens molesting other minors. However, just because they are under 18 doesn’t mean they walk free. Rather, these cases are tried in juvenile court.
The sentence can range from a few hours, weeks or years in a juvenile facility, possibly followed by state or federal prison. The age difference and use of violence play a part in sentencing. If the age difference is minimal and no violence was used, a light sentence or community service is enough.
In Texas, the juvenile must register as a sex offender if they confess or are found guilty of the crime.
Seek help from a Houston child molestation defense attorney
The presumption of innocence only goes so far where child molestation is involved. You could lose everything from just an allegation. The longer the case drags out in court, the worse the consequences will be, even when you are eventually acquitted. Don’t take chances with your freedom and reputation.