Am I Eligible for Probation for Sexually Assaulting a Child?
When you got charged with the sexual assault of a child in the past, you could get probation. But the law has changed over the years, and especially because public opinion supports it.
In Texas, we have two kinds of probation:
- Deferred – In this type of probation, you plead guilty and get put on probation. If you successfully complete it, the case is dismissed, and you do not get convicted of the crime.
- Regular (adjudicated) probation – You get a sentence of 10 years or less and then the sentence gets probation from the judge or jury.
In Texas, probation gets viewed as “community supervision,” an agreed-upon alternative to serving time in a penal institution. Now, if someone accuses you of certain child sex crimes, you cannot get probation at all (except in one rare situation).
While judges and juries can offer probation for most sentences, they cannot do so for any sentence lasting 10 years or more. And you can’t get probation for these charges:
- Sexual performance of a child, regardless of the child’s age
- A variety of charges involving a child under 14
- Indecency with a child by contact
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Sexual assault of a child
- Aggravated kidnapping with intent to harm the child sexually
In rare cases, you can get an exception, but only with a recommendation from the prosecutor. Exceptions cannot be made by the judge or jury. If you want to get this exception, you need the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney who can work out a deal with the prosecutor.
The Possible Consequences of Being Charged with a Child Sex Crime
While most charges come up for valid reasons, sometimes false ones happen. Children can be misled. Prosecuting teams get overzealous and want to look good to the public. According to HG.org, Texas has 114 prisons (not including jails, federal penitentiaries, and juvenile facilities), and around 750,000 residents under at least some kind of criminal supervision. You know you’re at risk for charges you don’t deserve, and those numbers help put that into perspective.
And here’s what can happen if you get charged and convicted with a child sex crime. Most often, it means you’ll be convicted of a second-degree felony, which carries up to 20 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Aggravated sexual assault stiffens the punishment against you. To be “aggravated,” a few conditions can apply:
- Causing serious bodily harm or killing the victim
- Threatening to kill the victim
- Causing the victim to fear for their life
- Brandishing a weapon during the commission of the act
- Using drugs to reduce the victim’s resistance against the act
- Having someone else assist with the crime
- Committing the act against someone under 14
That isn’t a complete list of “aggravating” factors, but it gives you a good idea of what they can be. For aggravated sexual assault, that becomes a first-degree felony that comes with a 25-year sentence. It’s possible you could end up not being eligible for parole and having to register as a sex offender for the rest of your lifetime.
What If Your Act is a Repeat Offense?
If you get convicted of sex crimes against a child for a second time, the outlook for you gets way worse. At a minimum, you’ll get 25 years in prison or life without parole. This enhancement came about as a result of “Ashley’s Laws,” which passed in 1995 after 7-year-old Ashley Estell from Plano was strangled and killed by Michael Blair in 1993.
If you do become eligible for parole, “Ashley’s Laws” say you must serve at least 50% of your sentence first. Realistically, you’ll end up doing around 80% at a minimum.
How Do You Defend Yourself from Child Sex Assault Charges?
After reading all this, you might think your situation is hopeless. Texas loves to prosecute child sex crime offenders severely. The public has no sympathy for you. Your friends, family members, and coworkers may want nothing to do with you, even if you are innocent.
But, there’s good news for you.
Because the best time to attack the prosecution’s case happens before it ever goes to trial. That’s because most of the cases are simply based on the testimony of the victim (and nothing else). It’s much easier for an experienced lawyer to dispute someone else’s verbal claim than physical evidence.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer:
- Uses your criminal record in your favor (if good)
- Goes after any false accusations the victim made before
- Examines the victim’s educational records
- Brings forth polygraph test results
- Has the victim psychologically evaluated
- Solicits letters that show the good character of the defendant
- May show the victim mistook you for someone else
- Shows you have a verifiable alibi for the time the alleged crime happened
- May show authorities used improper questioning to twist a false accusation out of the victim
There’s also what Texas law calls “affirmative defenses.” With this type of defense, you admit you committed the act, but due to certain reasons allowed by Texas law, your act shouldn’t be considered a criminal offense. So in this situation, you don’t admit any guilt.
These reasons for affirmative defense could be:
- You were married to the victim when the offense happened
- You didn’t threaten the victim’s life, use force, or duress
- Your alleged victim actually consented
- In statutory rape cases, you were less than 3 years older than your alleged victim
What Should You Do If You Get Charged of Child Sex Crimes?
To defend yourself successfully, you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Don’t wait for one minute.
When you actually get charged, authorities have spent considerable time building their case against you. So, they’re already ahead.
Hire a criminal defense attorney, and look for one who already has successfully defended people from child sex crimes.