Serious Crimes Takes Serious Work. Tad Law is ready!
Sex crimes carry a social stigma that is often stronger than those attached to murder or other violent offenses. A mere accusation can tarnish a person’s image forever in the eyes of the public. And if a person is convicted of a sex crime, there is enormous pressure on prosecutors and judges to impose the harshest possible sentences.
Even after someone has served their sentence, Texas law requires many people convicted of sex crimes to permanently register as a sex offender. So it is imperative to defend yourself aggressively when facing any kind of sex crimes charge. The Galveston sex crimes lawyers at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates are prepared to help. We represent clients accused of a wide range of sexually based offenses ranging from sexual assault to prostitution. We understand that even a misdemeanor sex crimes conviction can have a serious effect on your life–which is why we will make every effort to provide you with a robust defense.
What Are Considered Sex Crimes in Texas?
Sex crimes under the Texas Penal Code can be broken down into three broad categories:
- Someone engages in sexual conduct with another person without their consent;
- Someone engages in sexual conduct with another person who is considered legally incapable of giving consent;
- Someone engages in sexual conduct that violates public policy, regardless of whether another person was involved or gave consent.
Some of the more common felony sex crimes charges that we defend clients against include:
- Sexual Assault: This is the term used to describe rape in the Texas Penal Code. Sexual assault does not necessarily require proof of sexual intercourse. Sexual assault can also include making unwanted contact with the sexual organ of another person without their consent.
- Aggravated Sexual Assault: A sexual assault is considered “aggravated” if there is a threat or use of physical violence, such as displaying a firearm. Prosecutors can also charge aggravated sexual assault whenever the victim is a minor under the age of 14, elderly, or disabled.
- Attempted Sexual Assault: Under Texas law, a person can be tried and convicted of an “incomplete” offense. This includes attempting to commit a sexual assault that ultimately proves to be unsuccessful.
- Burglary to Commit Sexual Assault: Burglary is when someone enters or remains on private property without the owner’s consent and with the intent to commit some other felony. While we often associate burglary with theft, it can also be connected to sexual assault offenses.
- Possession of Child Pornography: It is a crime to possess or promote child pornography, which is broadly defined as a visual depiction of anyone under the age of 18 engaging in sexual conduct. Even a first offense for possession is classified as a third-degree felony in Texas.
- Promotion or Solicitation of Prostitution: A person can be charged with a felony under Texas law if they act as a “pimp” and promote or solicit prostitution on behalf of someone other than themselves.
Indecency with a Child and Statutory Rape
One of the more complicated areas of Texas sex crimes law involves the offense known as “indecency with a child.” This is an offense sometimes referred to as “statutory rape.” Basically, it is a felony to engage in sexual contact with a child under the age of 17, or for either party to expose their genitals or anus with the intent to sexually arouse any person. A person charged with indecency with a child cannot argue they did not know the other person was under the age of 17. Proof of such knowledge is not required for conviction.
There are, however, several affirmative defenses available to a statutory rape charge, including:
- The defendant was not more than 3 years older than the victim and a member of the “opposite sex”;
- The defendant did not use any kind of duress, fraud, or threats against the victim;
- The defendant was not already a convicted sex offender; or
- The defendant and the victim were legally married.
Internet Sex Crimes
Many sex crimes involve the use of the Internet. This creates additional risks for persons accused of such offenses, as they may face both federal and state charges. Here are just a few examples of Internet sex crimes that you need to know about:
- producing and distributing child pornography;
- soliciting minors online to engage in sexual activities;
- promoting or facilitating the sex trafficking of minors;
- forcing minors to engage in prostitution.
All of these crimes carry significant penalties. In the case of federal Internet sex crimes charges, a defendant could face upwards of 20 years in prison. And many Texas state-level Internet sex crimes are prosecuted as second- and third-degree felonies.
Misdemeanor Sex Crimes in Texas
While the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction are not as serious as a felony, it can still leave a person with a criminal record and label them as a “sex offender” even if they are not required to register as such. Some common misdemeanor sex crimes under the Texas Penal Code include:
- Indecent Exposure: It is a Class B misdemeanor for a person to expose their anus or genitals in public “with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” Conviction also requires proof that the defendant acted “recklessly” with regard to whether someone else would be present and “offended or alarmed” by their actions.
- Prostitution: It is against the law to knowingly offer or agree to receive a fee in exchange for engaging in sexual conduct. First offenses are generally prosecuted as a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, but repeat offenders can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor or even a state jail felony.
- Public Lewdness: A person can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they engage in sexual intercourse or commit an act of sexual contact in a public place, or do so recklessly in a non-public place in the presence of others who “will be offended or alarmed.”
- Voyeurism: Secretly observing another person in their home with the intent to sexually arouse themselves is considered criminal voyeurism. First offenses are generally prosecuted as Class B misdemeanors in Texas, but a person can be charged with a felony if the person being observed was a minor.
What Are the Penalties for Sex Crimes in Texas?
Texas divides all criminal offenses, including sex crimes, into various felony and misdemeanor categories. Misdemeanors carry jail sentences of one year or less, while felony charges carry sentences ranging from 180 days to life imprisonment.
Here is a brief rundown of each type of misdemeanor or felony and their associated maximum punishments:
- Class C Misdemeanors: No jail time and a fine of $500.
- Class B Misdemeanors: 180 days in county jail and a fine of $2,000.
- Class A misdemeanors: 1 year in county jail and a fine of $4,000.
- State Jail Felonies: 180 days to 2 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Third-Degree Felonies: 2 to 10 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000.
- Second-Degree Felonies: 2 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of $10,000.
- First-Degree Felonies: 5 to 99 years (or life) in state prison and a fine of $10,000.
These classifications and punishments only apply to sex crimes prosecuted under Texas law. Federal sex crimes are based on a different system. Federal judges use a complex set of “sentencing guidelines” to determine the acceptable range of punishments before assessing a final sentence. These guidelines take into account a wide number of factors, including the nature and circumstances of the offense and the need to promote “retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.”
Sex Crimes Carry Consequences Beyond a Jail Sentence
Even after a person convicted of a sex crime has served their prison time and paid any criminal fines, they may still need to register with the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program. Registration is required as a condition of parole or release for certain “reportable convictions or adjudications,” which include many common sex offenses. This applies not just to convictions in Texas but also to persons who have a reportable conviction or adjudication in another state where the underlying offense is considered “substantially similar” to a sex crime in Texas, as determined by the state’s Department of Public Safety.
A person subject to registration must register with the local law enforcement of the Texas city or county where they reside. This must be done within seven days of the person’s arrival in the area or the first date where the local law enforcement authority allows registration, whichever is later. The registration itself must include the person’s full name and identifying characteristics (sex, weight, eye color, et cetera), as well as information about their offense and where they are or plan to work or attend school.
The Sex Offender Registry is considered public information. So anyone can access these records and know that someone in their area was previously convicted of a sex crime, even years after the fact. Indeed, Texas requires lifetime registration for most serious felony sex offenses, and registration for at least 10 years in all other cases.
How a Galveston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Can Help You
Tad A. Nelon is a former Texas assistant district attorney who has spent the past two decades defending Galveston-area residents accused of sex crimes. While every criminal case involves a unique set of facts and circumstances, there are a number of possible defense strategies that he can advise you on.
With that in mind, here are just a few things to know if you are under investigation or arrest for a sex crime in Texas:
- Know Your Rights. You always have a constitutional right to remain silent. You do not have to talk to the police. You do not have to answer their questions. And you should especially never speak to a police officer or prosecutor until you have consulted with a qualified sex crimes defense attorney.
- False Allegations Are Common: Many sex crimes prosecutions arise from false allegations. There are a number of reasons why this happens. A person in the midst of a bitter divorce may falsely accuse their spouse of sex crimes in order to gain custody of the children. Someone who regrets a voluntary sexual encounter may turn around and falsely claim they were raped. Or a minor may be unduly influenced by an adult authority figure to make a false molestation allegation.
- The Prosecutor Has the Burden of Proof: In any criminal case, a district attorney or federal prosecutor must prove a defendant’s guilt on all elements of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This is more difficult than you might realize when it comes to sex crimes. Many cases lack scientific evidence such as DNA testing and often come down to the word of the accuser. And even when such evidence may exist, there may be issues with how it was gathered or handled.
- There Are Often Multiple Defenses: Again, every case is different, but some common strategies used in sex offense cases include challenging eyewitness identification, showing the accuser actually consented to sexual conduct, or simply lack of proof that the defendant formed the requisite criminal intent.
Contact Tad Nelson & Associates Today
Nobody wants to be accused of a sex crime. But if the worst happens and you are facing such charges, you must be prepared to defend yourself in court. The dedicated Galveston sex crimes attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates can assist you in preparing a zealous defense. We can help you explore all possible avenues for resolving your case, including seeking a plea bargain or reduction of charges, or by fighting for a jury acquittal. The important thing to remember is that you do not have to face these serious charges alone.So if you need to speak with a member of our Galveston criminal defense team, call us today at (281) 280-0100 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.
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