Sex related crimes are always a serious matter. When the alleged victim is a child, Texas law—and especially Texas judges and juries—can be especially harsh towards defendants. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates understand the severity of charges such as indecency with a child and can assist the accused at all stages of the investigation and trial process.
Sexual Contact vs. Exposure
The Texas Penal Code defines a number of “sexual offenses” that are considered felonies. Section 21.11 of the Penal Code expressly addresses “indecency with a child.” In this context a “child” is anyone under the age of 17.
“Indecency” refers to two separate categories of conduct. The first is “sexual contact” between the accused and the child. This includes any touching of a child’s anus, breast, or genitals, “including touching through clothing,” where the person’s intent is to “arouse or gratify sexual desire.”
The second category of indecency involves “exposure.” Specifically, it is a crime for a person to either expose their own anus or genitals in the presence of a minor, or to cause the minor to expose his or her own anus or genitals.
Severe Penalties for Indecency
Indecency with a child carries serious criminal penalties. Indecency arising from exposure is a third-degree felony under Texas law. That means conviction carries a prison sentence of between two and 10 years and a fine of $10,000, even for a first offense. A sexual contact offense is even more serious as it is a second-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Affirmative Defenses to an Indecency Charge
The law does provide some “affirmative defenses” to an indecency charge. For example, if the accused and the minor were legally married at the time of the alleged offense, it is not a crime. In addition, it is generally not a crime for two teenagers to make out or engage in other conduct that might otherwise qualify as indecent sexual contact or exposure. But there are certain conditions that must be met.
First, the person accused of indecency can be no more than three years older than the other party. So a 25-year-old engaged in sexual contact with a 16-year-old cannot assert this affirmative defense. Second, the accused person must prove there was no “duress, fraud, or threat against” used against the accuser when the exposure or sexual contact occurred. Finally, the accused cannot be a registered sex offender or have a prior “reportable or adjudication” for any prior sex crime.
Fighting False Allegations of Sex Offenses
While inappropriate sexual contact or exposure involving a minor is never acceptable behavior, there are many scenarios where a person may be falsely accused of indecency. A troubled teenager seeking attention may manufacture an indecency allegation. A parent locked in a heated custody battle may pressure a child to fabricate a sexual contact allegation to gain the upper hand against the other parent. Or a high school student in an unhappy dating relationship may use the threat of a false allegation as a form of revenge.
If you were falsely accused of a sex crime, do not assume the matter will blow over or end up in your favor. Prosecutors and police frequently take indecency allegations at face value, especially when they come from a child. The absolute worst thing you can do is try and resolve the matter on your own, either by speaking to the accuser in an attempt to convince them to recant, or by speaking with law enforcement without the assistance of an experienced sex crimes attorney who knows how to handle these sorts of situations.
There are also cases where a person may be factually guilty of indecency with a minor but there are mitigating circumstances. It is not uncommon for individuals suffering from a mental disorder to engage in socially unacceptable conduct. Even if an accused person does not have a diagnosed mental illness, there may be other psychological factors that indicate a person needs treatment rather than 10 or 20 years in a Texas state prison. Again, this is why it is essential to work with a Houston sex crimes defense attorney who understands the system.
Call the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates Today
Indecency with a child is not a minor crime. A conviction can result not only in multiple decades in jail, but also permanent branding as a registered sex offender. Houston attorneys Tad A. Nelson and Amber Spurlock have more than 30 years of combined experience in defending people accused of indecency with a child and many other sex crimes. Contact us today at (713) 659-0909 if you are in trouble with the law and need assistance.