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Can a Parent Be Charged With a Crime If They Failed to Stop the Other Parent’s Sexual Abuse of Their Child?

When it comes to sex offenses and sex crimes, Texas prosecutors may look to charge someone other than the actual perpetrator. By law, a person is also guilty of a sex crime if they had a “legal duty to prevent the offense” but instead “acted with intent to promote or assist its commission.” To put this in plain English, if your objective is to see someone commit a sex crime and you fail to “make a reasonable effort” to stop them, you can be charged as a party to the offense.

Court of Criminal Appeals: Evidence Did Not Support Mother’s Conviction as a “Party” to Teenage Daughter’s Rape

As with any crime, the intent is a critical and necessary element. A mere failure to stop a sex crime–even if you suspect one may be committed–is not enough to send someone to prison. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently affirmed this principle in a case, Metcalf v. State, where prosecutors charged a mother with second-degree sexual assault because she allegedly failed to stop her husband from raping her then-teenage daughter.

In fact, the husband sexually molested the daughter over a period of many years. But the prosecution of the mother centered on one particular incident. In December 2010. The daughter had been out jogging with the husband. She told her mother that the husband “ had slapped her and tried to pull down her shorts.” The husband admitted to this, but “denied that it was sexual.” The defendant said she did not believe her husband and kicked him out of the house, only to “let him return later that day.” The defendant did not encourage her daughter to report the husband to the police; instead, she explicitly told the daughter to “call her” if something happened.

It was not until a few years later that the daughter, now 22, told another relative about the husband’s history of sexual abuse. The daughter then reported what had happened to the local sheriff. The father eventually pleaded guilty to 12 counts of second-degree sexual assault. Prosecutors also charged the mother as a party to the 2016 incident, arguing she “had a legal duty to prevent Allen from raping her daughter; but, acting with intent to promote or assist the offense, she failed to make a reasonable effort to prevent the commission of the offense.”

A jury agreed and found the defendant guilty. An intermediate court of appeals later set aside the conviction and ordered an acquittal, which prompted prosecutors to seek review from the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA). But a majority of the CCA agreed with the intermediate court that the evidence did not support convicting the mother as a party. Even if the mother thought her husband “was sexually interested” in her daughter, that did support the jury’s inference that “she must have known that [her husband] had been sexually assaulting [her daughter] or that he would in the future.”

Speak with a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

If you suspect a family member has been sexually assaulted, you should always encourage them to speak with law enforcement. At the same time, prosecutors should not allow their zeal for pursuing sexual abusers to justify going after other family members who did not actually participate in such heinous crimes. And if you have been charged with such a crime and need representation from a qualified criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston or League City today. Call (281) 280-0100