In Dallas, a dance studio owner has been charged with two counts of indecency with a child.
As a self-proclaimed mentor and father figure, Vann Gilbert taught children dance as a form of expression.
Following a six-month investigation, Gilbert was arrested on sexual molestation charges. At the time of the alleged acts, the victim – who is now 33 – was 14 years old.
Cases like these bring up a number of important questions about sex crimes. The prevalence of sex crimes committed by adults who have constant access to children is alarming.
Let’s break down indecency with a child to better understand the crime, the law, and the penalties associated with it.
What is Indecency with a Child?
First, and most important, it should be known that in the State of Texas the testimony of a child, standing alone, is sufficient to support a sex offense conviction.
Indecency with a child is found in Section 21.11 of the Texas Penal Code.
There are two types of indecency with a child: 1) by sexual contact and 2) by exposure.
Indecency with a Child by Contact
This offense occurs when a person engages in sexual contact with a child younger than 17 years of age and who is not the person’s spouse and/or who causes the child to engage in sexual contact.
Under Texas law, “sexual contact” is defined as “any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a child” if committed “with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
Whether or not a person intended this contact to occur in the manner described may be inferred from his or her conduct and remarks, and all the surrounding circumstances.
Indecency with a Child by Exposure
Under Texas law, indecency with a child by exposure occurs when a person exposes the anus or any part of the genitals in the known presence of a child or causes the child to expose his or her anus or any part of their genitals “with the intention to sexually arouse or gratify any person’s sexual desires.”
Is “contact” and “exposure” separate offenses?
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled that “exposure” is not “necessarily subsumed” within “sexual contact.”
The state’s highest criminal court has ruled that “sexual contact” may be accomplished by way of “any touching by a person, including touching through clothing…”
Thus, it is possible to commit indecency with a child by sexual contact without necessarily committing indecency with a child by exposure.
It is also possible for a person to commit indecency with a child by exposure without necessarily committing indecency with a child by sexual contact because a person can commit the required exposure without ever engaging in contact.
In effect, the Texas Legislature with Tex. Penal Code § 21.11 created two distinct types of indecency with a child offenses.
Simply stated, if a person’s conduct does not result in “sexual contact” with very specific parts of the body or exposure of very specific parts of the body, there is no offense, regardless of the person’s mental state.
- 21.11 offers two affirmative defenses to indecency with a child.
First, there is an age difference of less than three years between the parties who are of the opposite sex and that there was no duress, force, or threat involved in the sexual activity and the defendant is not a registered sex offender.
Second, the parties are married. Individuals who reach the age of 18 in Texas may marry without parental consent buy those 14 or older must have parental consent to marry so long as that consent is given 30 days prior to applying for a marriage license.
Penalties for Indecency with a Child
Texas is known for its harsh stance on crimes, especially sexual offenses with children. Besides fines and prison time, you might also have to register as a sex offender – not to mention the impact a criminal conviction – especially for a child sex offense – can have on your life and reputation.
Indecency with a child is always a felony offense. But depending on whether it’s by contact or exposure, the penalties are slightly different.
Indecency with a child by contact is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by a fine up to $10,000, between 2 and 20 years in prison, or both.
Indecency with a child by exposure is a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by a fine up to $10,000, between 2 and 10 years in prison, or both.
If you have been charged or are under investigation, contact an experienced Texas indecency with a child attorney immediately. This serious felony offense can have devastating repercussions for all aspects of your life, so protect your rights and fight back today.