Sexual assault of a child is one of the worst accusations a person can face, both under Texas law and personally. Depending on the nature of the allegation, a person accused of sexual assault of a child can face prison time and sex offender registration in addition to damage to a person’s reputation and career. If you are accused of sexual assault of a child in Houston, it is critical that you speak with experienced sex crimes attorneys right away.
Sexual assault of a child has a specific meaning under Texas law. Depending on the facts of the allegation, inappropriate sexual contact or communications with a minor can also be charged as indecency with a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, super aggravated sexual assault of a child, continuous sexual abuse, online solicitation, or improper relationship between educator and student.
If you are under investigation for any offense involving an allegation of inappropriate sexual contact with a child, you should be aware of your rights. Most importantly, you have the right to refuse to speak to law enforcement who wish to ask you questions about any allegation. Under the laws of the United States and Texas, a person who is accused of a crime has an absolute right against self-incrimination. This means that if the police want to question you regarding an alleged sex crime against a child, you have the absolute right to remain silent. If you choose to remain silent, your silence cannot be used against you as proof of your guilt later on. It would be a major violation for a prosecutor to even mention the fact that you exercised your right against self-incrimination in a trial, for example.
But isn’t it important to tell your side of the story if you have been falsely accused of a sex crime? Although it is understandable that a person falsely accused of a sex crime would want to tell his side of the story, it is virtually never in a suspect’s interest to talk to the police. The reality is that all that it takes to be charged with a sex crime against a child is an accusation. If the police have enough evidence to charge you with a crime, there is nothing that you can say that will prevent a charge being filed. On the other hand, if the police lack sufficient evidence of your guilt, then by speaking with law enforcement, you risk giving them whatever evidence they lacked. Virtually every experienced sex crimes attorney will strongly advise against talking with the police for any reason if you are a suspect in a sex crime against a child.
If you have been accused of a sex crime and an investigation is underway, it could be weeks or months before charges are filed. In a recent indecency with a child case our law firm defended, it took over a year before charges were filed. Generally, there is a very little that you can do to influence the outcome of an investigation and whether or not you are charged with a crime (although you could increase the likelihood of a charge by talking with the police). Once the police finish their investigation, they will generally send the case to the District Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to accept a charge and what the charge will be. In most instances, hiring a sex crimes attorney to represent you during the investigation phase is not necessary, although this depends on the facts of your case and you should always consult with a sex crimes attorney if you are the target of an investigation.
If a charge is accepted, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. It is possible that the police will come to your home to arrest you. If the police have a warrant to arrest you for a sex crime, you must cooperate, but you are not required to make any statements or answer questions, other than identify yourself. In most instances, a defendant charged with a sex crime in entitled to a bond under the Texas Constitution. The bond amount for crimes alleging sexual conduct with children can vary and you have the option of posting the amount yourself, or working with a bondsman, who will post the entire amount of your bond in exchange for a fee.
Once you bond out of jail, you should take your time to find the best sex crimes attorney to handle your case. As we have written elsewhere, it is important to find a sex crimes attorney who has experience in defending sex cases, as sex cases present unique challenges during the investigation phase and the trial phase. Sex cases are very difficult cases to defend an attorney should use every resource at his disposal to prepare a defense. Trials in sex cases are also uniquely challenging and involve special rules of evidence that are only applicable to sex cases. For example, if you are charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, special rules will likely apply to your case that could mean that hearsay statements (known as “outcry” statement) could be admissible in your trial.
The evidence gathering phase of a case can take close to a year or more. In a sexual assault of a child case, the evidence can include police reports, witness statements, therapy records, medical records, school records, CPS records and much more. Of course, the goal is to obtain a dismissal of the charges against you. But if your case is not dismissed, at some point you will have to choose between a trial or a plea agreement. Because a plea agreement in many sex cases will frequently involve prison time and sex offender registration, sex offenses go to trial more often than many other types of criminal cases. The stakes in a sex case can be huge in many cases. For example, a defendant charged with Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child will receive a minimum sentence of 25 years if he is convicted.
Being accused of – and charged with – a sex crime is among the most stressful experiences imaginable. The process can seem painfully slow at times, but with so much on the line, it is important things are done correctly, not quickly. If you are under investigation for, or have been charged with, any sex crime in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a consultation.