If you’ve been investigated or arrested for indecency with a child in Texas, you likely have many questions. Make no mistake, these are tough charges with tough penalties. It’s important that you understand the allegations against you, the consequences of a conviction, and then choose the best criminal lawyer in Dallas to represent you.
What is Considered “Indecency with a Child” in Texas?
In the Texas Penal Code, Section 21.11. Indecency With A Child describes the crime, which falls under two categories:
- Exposure, which the law states is exposing “the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present” or “causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.” These charges hinge on whether there was “intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.”
- Sexual contact, which 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” or “any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing, with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.” Informally and in other jurisdictions these types of charges may be known as “child molestation.”
With both exposure and sexual contact, the alleged victim must be under 17, which is the age of consent in Texas.
Additionally, indecency with a child does not include acts of penetration. In many cases, sexual intercourse with a minor would fall under Section 22.011. Sexual Assault.
Exceptions to the Law
There are two exceptions, called an “affirmative defense,” where the indecency with a child laws are not applicable:
- The two parties are married.
- In certain circumstances, the person being accused is not more than three years older. This is often called a “Romeo and Juliet clause” or a “close in age exception.” But in Texas, just being close in age is not enough. The following must also be true:
- The two parties are of the opposite sex.
- The accused did not use force or threat.
- The accused is not required to “to register for life” as a sex offender and “was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section.”
Keep in mind that not knowing someone’s age or being misled about someone’s age is not a defense against indecency with a child charges.
Little boy suffering from child abuse curled up on the sofa with his teddy.
Penalties for Indecency with a Child in Texas
Depending on the particulars of the case, indecency with a child is either considered a second or third degree felony. According to Chapter 12. Punishments:
Sexual contact is a second degree felony. The penalties are a prison sentence of anywhere from two to 20 years and fine of up to $10,000.
Exposure is a third degree felony. The penalties are a prison sentence of anywhere from two to 10 years and fine up to $10,000.
In addition to prison time and fines, a conviction may also mean:
- Being on both the Texas Sex Offender Registry and the National Sex Offender Registry
- Restrictions on places you can go, called “Child Safety Zones”
- Public pools
- Other “premises where children commonly gather”
- A loss of employment and restrictions on future employment
- The revocation or suspension of professional licenses
- Mandated sex offender treatment
- Difficulty finding an apartment that will rent to convicted sex offenders
The penalties for indecency with a child hit parents and others with young children in their lives particularly hard. Imagine not being able to drop off or pick up your child from daycare. You may not be able to attend extracurricular activities like sporting events, dance recitals, or school plays. And not to mention the social stigma that comes with being a registered sex offender.
When Should I Contact an Attorney?
You should speak with an attorney as soon as you are arrested or otherwise contacted by law enforcement. Investigators may try several tactics to get you to speak. They may even come across as helpful or on your side. Don’t fall for it. Tell them you’re not answering any questions until you speak with an attorney.
And do not contact your accuser or their parents, no matter what your relationship to them was. You won’t be defusing the situation, only hurting your defense. It’s easy to record conversations and save emails. Anything you say WILL be used against you by the prosecution.
Choosing a Plano Criminal Defense Lawyer
A conviction for indecency with a child will turn your life and the lives of those you love upside down. If you’re facing these charges, you need an experienced sex crimes attorney to represent you. There are several questions you should ask a criminal defense attorney before hiring them:
Have you handled cases like mine? Indecency with a child charges can be highly nuanced. You need someone who has handled these charges before and knows the tactics used by the prosecution.
How often do you go to trial for sex crime charges? Simply handling sex crime cases is not enough. Many attorneys settle out of court, whether or not it’s in the client’s best interest to do. Some may be intimidated by the prosecution, are following the status quo of settling, or are just plain lazy. Negotiating a plea deal so you can get on with your life may be tempting, but it’s not always the best option. There are times when going to trial and having a jury of your peers hear your case is the best option and may result in an acquittal. And if that’s true for your case, Attorney Kent Starr isn’t afraid to represent you.
As both a highly rated Collin county criminal defense lawyer and a bail bondsman, Attorney Kent Starr is uniquely poised to help you, right from the start. You will save money and time, and have aggressive legal defense. Call his office today at 214-982-1408 for a free, confidential consultation.