Houston Burglary with Intent to Commit Sexual Assault Attorney

Tad Nelson & Associates: Burglary With Intent to Commit Sexual Assault – Houston, Texas

How “Intent to Commit Sexual Assault” Can Elevate a Burglary Charge in Texas

Many Houston-area residents confuse burglary and theft. Both are considered crimes against property. But while theft involves the unlawful appropriation of property, burglary refers to the act of unlawfully entering a property without the owner’s consent. What then distinguishes burglary from mere trespassing is that the defendant commits, or intends to commit, one or more additional felonies after illegally entering the property.

Section 30.02 of the Texas Penal Code states there are three conditions where burglary of a habitation or residence occurs:

  1. The defendant enters the habitation “with intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault.”
  2. The defendant “remains concealed” in the the habitation “with intent to commit a felony, theft, or an assault.”
  3. The defendant enters any part of a habitation or building “not then open to the public” and “commits or attempts to commit a felony, theft, or an assault.”

So as you can see, while burglary may involve theft, it can also be connected to any other intended or attempted felony, such as sexual assault. This is among the most serious types of burglary-related crimes in Texas. Burglary of a habitation is a second-degree felony. But when it involves an attempt to commit a felony other than theft, including sexual assault, it is a first-degree felony.

Intent May be Inferred From Victim Testimony

It is critical to note that Section 30.02 of the Penal Code only requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant “intended” or “attempted” to commit sexual assault as part of the burglary. Whether the attempt succeeded is irrelevant. Indeed, Texas juries often find defendants guilty of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault based on the victim’s statement that such an attempt occurred.

For instance, in a 2013 case, a defendant in Fort Worth was convicted of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault based on the following testimony. The victim and her son were asleep in their house. Around 4:30 a.m., the victim said she awoke to find a “man wearing dark clothing with a hoodie pulled over his head” in the bedroom. She said the man proceeded to choke and punch her. She said she bit him in the finger.

At one point, the victim testified the man “began pulling of her pajama bottoms.” She told him “she had herpes,” which she said stopped what she presumed to be an attempted sexual assault. The man then took the victim’s cellphone and left the house.

Police traced the cellphone to another residence in Fort Worth. The man who had the phone said he got it from his son-in-law, the defendant in this case. The police found the defendant at a local park. He agreed to speak with the police for about an hour without an attorney. The police told him was not arrest and could leave at anytime.

During the interview, the defendant admitted that he entered the victim’s bedroom and taking her cellphone. He also confirmed that she bit his finger. But he denied he attempted to sexually assault her.

At trial, the prosecution introduced DNA evidence that showed blood from the defendant’s finger on the victim’s pajama bottoms. The state also introduced the defendant’s confession to the police as rebuttal evidence when a defense witness testified that the defendant had an alibi. The jury convicted the defendant of both burglary with intent to commit sexual assault and burglary with intent to commit assault.

There have been a number of cases in Texas where prosecutors have charged defendants with two separate acts of burglary arising from the same incident. In 2006, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled this practice violates the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on “double jeopardy,” i.e., you cannot punish a defendant twice for the same offense. As that was the case here, the appeals court dismissed the “lesser count” of burglary with intent to commit assault but affirmed the conviction on burglary with intent to commit sexual assault.

Always Work With a Qualified Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer

The defendant in the case above made the mistake of speaking to the police without an attorney. Anytime the police want to “interview” you in connection with an alleged crime, especially a first-degree felony, you should assume that you are a suspect and assert your right to counsel. Remember, anything you say may be used against you. Even if you think you are “just” admitting to stealing a cellphone, your words may end up condemning you as a sex offender for life.

At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we have experience helping defendants charged with burglary and sex crimes. Contact us today at our offices in Houston, Galveston, or League City if you have been accused of a serious felony and need assistance right away.