Child Molestation Lawyer in Houston: Brazoria, Ft. Bend, Galveston, Harris & Montgomery Counties
Child molestation charges have the potential to carry grave consequences. With more than three million children who have been sexually victimized in the United States today, prosecutors regularly seek to deliver the harshest sentences possible. Many different crimes can be prosecuted as child molestation charges, resulting in cases that can be complex and difficult.
In most jurisdictions, sexual activity, child sexual abuse or indecency by an adult over age 17 with a minor under age 17 can be prosecuted as child molestation. This can include indecent exposure charges, lewd behavior or exchanging graphic sexual material with a minor. In many cases, the age of the minor is considered in the punishment, with abuse of very young children punished most severely. More examples of child sexual abuse charges are explained below.
Child pornography is considered a serious crime because it victimizes minors. Authorities can charge two different types or levels of child pornography:
- Possession – the ownership of child pornography; images depicting minors (a child under the age of 18) participating in sexual behavior.
- Promotion – the distribution of images; possession of multiple identical copies of an image of children under 18 participating in sexual behavior.
Possession is the lesser charge, but both are sex crimes. Anyone convicted of possession or promotion will be required to register as a sex offender. They may also be required to obtain psychiatric therapy.
Because the charge is so serious, almost everyone convicted of child pornography possession or promotion receives a prison sentence.
- Possession – up to 10 years
- Promotion – up to 20 years
Besides a criminal record, those convicted also face restrictions on where they live and may have limited cell phone and computer privileges. They may not be eligible for federal financial aid for education, reducing the available job market. They may be ineligible for employment in specific industries as well as potentially losing their occupation license.
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse includes any behavior that has the potential to harm the mental, physical, or emotional well-being of a child.
Physical contact is not required. Lewd and lascivious behaviors are prosecuted as child abuse, too, including:
- Indecent exposure
- Vulgar sexual speech or comments
- Attempting to distribute or possess pornographic materials depicting minors
Child sexual abuse is a felony. The penalty includes prison time plus substantial fines.
- Sexual indecency with a child – third-degree felony with two to ten years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Child sexual assault – second-degree felony with two to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child – first-degree felony with five to 99 years in prison and fines up to $10,000
Child sexual abuse also includes failing to make a reasonable effort to prevent or report sexual behavior with a child. Encouraging or forcing a child to engage in sexual activities also comes under the definition of child sexual abuse.
Indecency with a Child
The Texas Penal Code states an individual commits indecent exposure by exposing the anus or any portion of the genitals with the intent to arouse or sexually gratify any individual. The individual does not care if another person is alarmed or offended by these actions.
The intention must be to gratify or arouse sexual desire in any person. The actor need not do this knowingly, only recklessly. The actor’s assessment of offense or alarm is not required.
Indecency with a child includes both exposure and physical contact. However, the law does not include the exposure of female breasts or male or female buttocks.
Examples of indecency with a child include:
- Exposing one’s sexual organs to a child for the purpose of sexual arousal
- Intentionally exposing a child’s sexual organs for sexual gratification
- Engaging in illicit sexual behavior in the presence of a child
The penalties for indecency with a child are harsher when it involves physical contact. Indecent exposure may be charged as a Class B misdemeanor with up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000 when it involves only adults. However, for repeat offenders, the charge may include the requirement to register as a sex offender.
- Indecency with a child, exposure only, is a third-degree felony with two to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- Indecency with a child that includes touching is a second-degree felony with two to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Suppose someone has been previously of a sex crime. In that case, the charges can be enhanced, even if the conviction took place elsewhere but required the person to register as a sex offender.
Sexual Assault of a Child
Sexual assault of a child is a term including a variety of acts.
- Child pornography
- Inappropriate physical conduct, such as fondling
- Lewd behavior in the presence of a child
- Indecent exposure
- Indecency with a child
- Sexual abuse of a child
- Sexual contact with anyone under 18 years of age
- Engaging in sexual acts that harm a child’s emotional, mental, or physical well-being
- Urging, enticing, or compelling, a child to have sexual contact
A person who does not take action to protect a child from sexual abuse can also be charged with sexual assault of a child.
Child Molestation Penalties
The punishments for sexual misconduct with a minor are almost always very harsh. They can include lengthy prison terms, denial of certain rights and lifelong sex offender registration. The various sex crimes penalties can include:
- Sexual contact with a minor under age 17 is classified as a third-degree felony. This crime can be punished by two to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- More than one count of sexual indecency with one or more children in a 30-day period is a first-degree felony. The sentence for this crime can include five to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- In many states, failure to report incidences of sexual abuse of a child is also punished as a crime. According to the Texas Family Code, failure to report such activity can be classified as a class A misdemeanor and the punishments can include a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
- Other penalties for child molestation charges can prevent convicted offenders from obtaining certain jobs, pursuing some educational programs and require a lifetime registration as a sex offender. The sex offender registration list is freely available to view by any member of the general public.
Legal Defenses Against Child Molestation Charges
A qualified child molestation attorney can work to prevent conviction for sexual indecency allegations. Because the prosecutors in these cases must prove every aspect of the alleged crimes to prove guilt, a child molestation attorney can seek to introduce evidence that points to errors in the prosecution’s case.
A sex crimes attorney may also attempt to discredit the reliability of the prosecution’s witnesses. If the testimony of one or more witnesses is a critical piece of evidence, discrediting those witnesses can make a conviction difficult. The potentially severe nature of child molestation charges makes the advice of a sex crimes lawyer very important.
People can make false allegations of almost any crime. However, false allegations of child molestation are some of the most common. Unfortunately, the victim of the false allegation is often considered guilty until proven innocent, the very opposite of how the American system of law should operate.
False allegations are often used by parents in child custody cases or a difficult divorce, by stepchildren against a stepparent attempting to discipline them, or by students to punish a teacher. Individuals can fight false allegations by contacting an experienced attorney immediately if someone intends to accuse them, even if law enforcement is not already involved.
An attorney will ensure the prosecutors have the facts before a decision is made to charge them, keeping them from being charged with a crime they did not commit. An aggressive attorney can keep them from being charged or ensure a lesser charge in the pre-charging stage. The attorney also further protects the defendant’s Constitutional rights and improves their ability to obtain a more favorable disposition.
The attorney does so by pursuing every line of investigation, questioning the competency of witnesses, and objecting to any attempt to present “expert medical opinion” testimony on non-medical issues.
Consult With a Child Molestation Lawyer in Houston, TX
For more information concerning charges of child molestation and the potential penalties for such crimes, talk to Houston defense attorney Greg Tsioros by dialing (832) 752-5972