Most people associate sexual assault with rape. Under the Texas law, however, sexual assault covers both non-consensual sexual acts and consensual ones.
That means a person can be charged with sexual assault even if they have what they believe is a consensual sexual encounter with another person.
It’s important to understand that there are effective defense strategies for these kinds of sexual assault cases in Texas.
In fact, there are typically five ways out of a Texas sexual assault charge. Here’s what you need to know about them and the penalties associated with sexual assault upon conviction.
What is Sexual Assault in Texas?
The Texas Penal Code defines sexual assault in Texas as:
- Penetration and Intercourse without consent
- Penetration, sexual contact, or intercourse with a minor
- Coercive sexual acts
- Sexual abuse of someone unable to give consent due to mental capacity or a disability
- Violent and forcible intercourse, sexual contact, or penetration, even with consent
Aggravated Sexual Assault
Another important segment of the code explains that a sexual assault charge can become aggravated if during the commission of the act, the defendant:
- Attempts to cause the death of the victim or inflicts serious bodily harm
- Places the victim in fear of serious bodily injury or death
- Showed or used a deadly weapon during the crime
- Used the date rape drug to make the assault easier
- Acted with another person to commit the crime
- Assaulted a disabled or elderly person
- Assaulted someone under the age of 14
Penalties for Sexual Assault in Texas
Penalties for sexual assault convictions are fairly straightforward. In most cases, sexual assault is a second-degree felony in Texas. So, a convicted offender faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Aggravated sexual assault penalties are elevated in Texas to those accompanying first-degree felony convictions. You could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years along with those fines.
The Five Possible Defenses in a Texas Sexual Assault Case
Finding an experienced attorney to represent you in court is paramount to a good defense against charges of sexual assault.
There are generally five strategies for preparing a solid defense: innocence, consent, mental issues, botched police work, and a plea bargain. Learn more about each below.
If you can prove that you did not commit the act that you are being charged with or that you did not take actions that warrant the sexual assault allegations you’re being accused of, then you can plead innocence in court.
This can be a tough road to take but if you are innocent, then a good attorney can help you to prove it in court.
Sometimes a defense strategy involving innocence also involves the element of consent. As a defense strategy or an element of one, it can be powerful. This is because prosecutors are responsible for proving the victim did not consent to the acts someone is accused of.
A defense lawyer, however, is still required to present direct evidence that the victim did consent to the interaction. When a defendant has a prior sex crime conviction, things can get tricky, though.
Furthermore, consent is no defense when a victim was under the age of consent or lacks the mental capacity to consent.
A plea of mental illness before the court is complicated but it can be done. The offender must show they were either temporarily or permanently insane at the time the crime took place.
Botched Police Work
If the police did not properly handle evidence or they did not use the right tools in their investigation of the crime, then this miscondut can cast doubt on the prosecution’s case.
Sometimes a defendant will consider plea bargaining. Depending upon the circumstances surrounding your case, the prosecutor may present a deal in exchange for an admission of guilt.
Plea deals typically involve reduced sentencing. However, there are disadvantages to accepting a deal like this, and you should consult an experienced Texas attorneybefore to agreeing to one.