Man being handcuffed

How are indecency with a child cases defended in Texas?

By Jose Ceja
Managing Attorney

Indecency with a child is frequently charged in the Houston area and is an extremely serious offense. Indecency with a child can be charged in a variety of situations and can cover accusation of touching or exposure. If you have been charged with indecency with a child, it is critical that you speak with an experienced sex crimes attorney as quickly as possible. This post discusses the best approach to defending an accusation of indecency with a child and what the role of a sex crimes attorney is. 

As noted above, indecency with a child can be charged as a result of either exposure or touching. Under Texas Penal Code 21.11 a person commits indecency with a child (a child is defined as being 17 or under) by engaging in sexual contact with the child or exposing the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals knowing a child is present, or causing a child to expose the child’s anus or any part of their genitals. 

The penalties for indecency with a child vary depending on whether it is alleged that the incident involved touching or exposure. Indecency with a child by touching is the more serious way that this offense can be charged. Indecency with a child by touching is a second-degree felony punishable by 2-20 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration. Indecency by exposure is a third-degree felony punishable by 2-10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine and 10-year sex offender registration. Probation (whether regular probation or deferred adjudication) may be possible but there are certain limitations that an experienced sex crimes defense attorney can explain. For example, when an indecency with a child case goes to trial, a defendant may not receive probation from a judge upon a conviction, but may receive probation from a jury, as long as the complaining witness is not alleged to have been younger than 14. 

Whether a defendant is charged with indecency with a child by showing, or indecency with a child by touching, the stakes are extremely high. As a result, it is critical to hire an experienced team of sex crimes attorney to defend your case. Sex cases are highly specialized cases that involve unique types of evidence and laws that are only applicable to sex cases. 

The first thing an experienced sex crimes attorney should do in your case is gather the evidence and conduct his own investigation. In an indecency with a child case, after an allegation is made, a child is typically taken to a special center for a forensic interview where a trained interviewer will ask the child questions relating to an alleged incident. The purpose of this interview is to ask questions in a non-leading way that will avoid contaminating the child’s statement. A child’s statement should be taken as soon as possible after an outcry of sexual abuse has been made. In the Houston area, however, it is not uncommon for several weeks to go by before a child is taken for a forensic interview. The truthfulness of the child’s statement – and whether the child’s statement has been contaminated – should always be challenged in an indecency with a child case. 

In addition to the forensic interview, a sex crimes attorney will need police reports, witness statements, therapy records, school records, medical records and CPS records to evaluate the case. The State of Texas is obligated to provide the defense with any evidence in its possession and evidence in the possession of other government agencies, particularly if the evidence is exculpatory or can be used for impeachment. However, an experienced sex crimes attorney should be proactive when handling an indecency with a child case. Some records, for example, won’t typically be provided to the defense in an indecency with a child case. In these cases, an experienced sex crimes attorney should send out his own subpoenas (court orders) to obtain any other evidence that is needed, or to force witnesses to appear at trial. 

Depending on the facts of the case, it can be extremely helpful for an attorney handling an indecency with a child case to work with experts to assist with various aspects of the defense. The type of expert needed will depend on the nature of the allegation but Ceja Law Firm regularly works with psychologists and nurses who can interpret the evidence in the allegation for exculpatory evidence. If a defendant does not have the funds to hire an expert, it may be possible for a sex crimes attorney to obtain court funding for an expert if it is established that a defendant cannot afford one.  An experienced sex crimes attorney may also work with an investigator to conduct interviews with potential witnesses. 

If there has been a false allegation of indecency with a child, a sex crimes attorney must work hard to understand the background of the child making the allegation and what the motives to fabricate might be. Of course, the exact defense used in an indecency with a child case will vary depending on the facts, but understanding a complaining witness’ motive to fabricate is always critical. 

In the Houston area, District Attorney’s offices treat indecency with a child cases very harshly, and any offer to resolve the case may involve prison time. This is one reason that an effective sex crimes attorney should investigate and prepare an indecency with a child case as if it is going to trial. Very frequently, due to the harsh offers and the little evidence needed to charge someone with indecency with a child in the first place, these cases will go to trial. 

When your sex crimes attorney has conducted his own investigation in an indecency with a child case, a defendant will have to decide how to proceed. Of course, the goal of an indecency with a child case is to obtain a dismissal of the charges. But only the District Attorney can dismiss an indecency with a child case, and prosecutors are typically extremely reluctant to dismiss any case alleging the sexual abuse of a child. If a sex crimes case is not dismissed, the choice will be between trial and a plea agreement. 

When hiring an attorney to handle an indecency with a child case, it is critical that the attorney be a trial attorney. Unfortunately, the reality is that many attorneys who accept indecency with a child cases rarely, if ever, go to trial. That means that if a defendant hires an attorney who is not a trial attorney, the attorney might encourage the defendant to accept a plea agreement, even if that is not in his best interests, or be too inexperienced in trials to give the defendant the best chance of winning. Perhaps more than in any type of case, you pay for what you get with a sex crimes attorney.  

Attorneys Jose Ceja and Abigail Anastasio are highly experienced sex crimes attorneys that have obtained excellent results for clients charged with indecency with a child. If you are charged with indecency with a child or any sex crime in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Jose Ceja is the managing attorney of Ceja Law Firm. He has practiced law since 2007 and has devoted his career to the practice of criminal law. Mr. Ceja began his legal career as a felony drug prosecutor, where he prosecuted drug, gang, and violent offenses. Mr. Ceja has first or second chaired almost 100 trials, including murders, drug cases, DWIs, and assaults. In his career as a defense attorney, he has regularly obtained dismissals, not guilty verdicts, and grand jury “no bills” in a wide variety of cases.