What’s the Statute of Limitations When You’re Accused of Sexually Assaulting a Child?
With certain crimes in Texas, the prosecutor must file charges within a specified time. If they don’t, they can never file charges against you for that specific crime ever again.
For example, if you commit a misdemeanor in Texas, the prosecutor has 2 years to file charges. Here’s a brief list of various misdemeanors you can be charged with in Texas:
- Pimping – Class A – the most serious, which includes up to a $4,000 fine and a year in jail
- Carrying a gun without a permit – Class A
- Possessing up to 2 ounces of marijuana – Class B – punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a $2,000 fine
- Theft of property worth less than $50 – Class C – the least serious, which is punishable by a $500 fine but will not include any jail time
For crimes like those (and many others too), the prosecutor must file the charges within 2 years of the date of the crime. If they don’t, you can never be charged with the crime again.
Statutes of limitations also apply to personal injury cases (civil cases, but not crimes), and debt collections too.
But What Happens When You Sexually Assault a Child?
Make no mistake about it. Our nation, and Texas, have no sympathy whatsoever for sexual crimes against children. That’s why there is absolutely no statute of limitations for those crimes at all.
Commit a sexual crime against a child when you’re 20, and you can be punished with a fine and serious jail time when you’re 70. This applies to:
- Sexual assault of a child
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Indecency with a child
- Continuous sexual assault of a child
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure’s article 12.01 states:
“(1) No limitation for
- sexual assault under § 27.011(a)(2), or aggravated sexual assault of a child under §27.012(a)(1)(B)
- continuous sexual abuse of a young child (§ 21.02)
- indecency with a child (§ 21.11)”
What defines these different sexual crimes against children?
Here’s some clarification:
- Continuous sexual assault of a child is defined by 2 or more acts of sexual abuse of a child at least 30 days apart
- “Aggravated” sexual assault of a child includes penetration of the victim’s sexual organ or anus by an object, penetration of their mouth by a sexual organ, and contact between the victim’s mouth and anyone else’s sexual organ or anus.
- “Super” aggravated sexual assault of a child means the victim is 5 years old or younger, faces attempts to cause death or serious bodily injury, or threatens death or serious bodily injury to any other person in the presence of the victim.
- Sexual assault of a child means the victim is 14-16 years old and experienced any of the conditions discussed as “aggravated sexual assault.”
- Indecency with a child by contact means you engage in sexual contact, or cause a child to engage in sexual contact with another person. You can also expose the child to any person’s anus or genitals or cause the child to expose their anus or genitals to anyone else. In this case, a “child” is someone under the age of 17, and you must be less than 3 years older than the child.
This was meant to be a brief list of actions that constitute sexual crimes against children. You can actually commit sex crimes against children in many other ways.
What Should You Do if Someone Accuses You of a Child Sex Crime?
The mere accusation of the crime can completely ruin your life. You could instantly be fired, divorced, and lose contact with nearly all your friends and family. That could happen even if the accusation turns out to be false.
And then you have overzealous prosecutors looking to make an example out of you, and they’re willing to bend and break the law just to get a conviction. That goes even if you’re not truly guilty.
And if you are guilty, Texas prosecutors will do what they can to make sure you spend decades in prison and pay thousands in fines. And they’ll do this even though they know it’s fair you don’t deserve such a harsh punishment. That makes them look good so they keep their jobs when it comes time for their election or re-appointment.
It’s a sad and unfortunate reality people accused of sex crimes face.
Many clients say they’d rather be accused of murder than sex crimes against children. Because, in prison, criminals that sexually harm children get looked down on too.
So if you find yourself accused of a child sex crime, you’re wise to find an experienced criminal defense attorney with a track record of success defending these types of crimes before. They’re high-profile cases, which means you don’t want the public defender or an inexperienced junior attorney.
Instead, you want one with a solid decade of experience and a sound legal strategy to make sure you get a fair deal from the State of Texas. And that may mean you don’t go to prison at all, or have the charges completely dropped.
Don’t talk to authorities on your own. If you get arrested, identify who you are, where you live, remain silent, and call an experienced attorney instead.