Houston Child Sex Abuse Lawyer
There is not one blanket law that makes sexual activity with minors unlawful. There are numerous laws that prohibit sexual acts with children.
The specific offense you face depends on a number of factors, including your alleged actions, the harm caused, and the age of the child. Yet, no matter the specific charges against you, your first response should be the same – to hire an experienced Houston child sex abuse lawyer. Once you know you are under investigation or have been arrest for a sex crime involving a child, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett as soon as possible. Ned Barnett has over 30 years of experience in both bench and jury trials for sex crimes.
Call a Houston child sex crime lawyer today at (713) 222-6767 to find out how we can help you.
Child sex crimes are serious cases that need a strong defense. Houston child sex abuse attorney Ned Barnett has experience representing clients with sensitive cases such as this. Learn how The Law Offices of Ned Barnett can defend your rights in child sex crimes cases.
Child Sex Offenses
Common child sex offenses and related issues in Texas include:
- Sexual Assault – You may be convicted of sexual assault of a child if there is evidence you performed a sex act that involved penetration with a child. This is typically a second-degree felony that results in years in prison and registration as a sex offender. Learn more about this offense and how to defend against it.
- Indecency with a Child – If there is evidence you engaged in sexual contact with a child, though not involving penetrative sex, or your or the child’s sex organ or anus were exposed for the purpose of arousal or gratification, then you may be convicted of indecency with a child, a third- or second-degree felony. Learn more about how to defend yourself against this offense.
- Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child – If prosecutors have evidence you engaged in two or more sex crimes involving a child younger than 14 over a period of at least 30 days, then you may be charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child. These crimes may be indecency with a child, sex assault, aggravated sexual assault, sexual performance with a child, aggravating kidnapping, or burglary with the intent to commit a sex offense. If convicted, the punishment ranges from 25 years to life in prison. There is no possibility for parole on the sentence on this serious charge. Call a Houston child sex crime lawyer at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away to learn about your legal options.
- Child Pornography – It is illegal to create, purchase, distribute, or possess pornography that depicts minors under the age of 18 involved in sexual acts. A first-time offense for child pornography is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and sex offender registration. Call child sex crime defense lawyer Ned Barnett today to learn how to defend yourself and avoid these harsh consequences.
- Online Solicitation of a Minor – You can be charged with soliciting a minor online if there is evidence you knowingly sent an electronic message to solicit the minor who represents they are under 17 years old, even in a sting operation, with the intent to engage in a sexual act or if you intentionally communicate with a minor online in a sexually explicit manner or distribute sexually explicit material. This offense is a third- or second-degree felony. Learn more about the offense and how to best defend yourself.
- Sex with a Minor – If there is evidence you had sex with a minor under the age of 17, you can be charged with a felony. This is still true even if the adolescent consented to the sexual activity. Contact our Houston child sex abuse lawyer at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away to learn more about this crime and what is known as the Romeo and Juliet defense.
- Sexting and Minors – If you or your child is accused of sending explicit materials, usually via cell phone, then you may face a sexting charge. When the person in the images is under the age of 18, even if the people sending and receiving the messages are also under 18, you risk a child pornography crime. Contact our Houston child sex abuse lawyer right away for more information.
- Failure to Report Child Sex Abuse – Failing to report a child sex crime is an accusation based on absence of action rather than affirmative wrongful acts. This is a misdemeanor crime unless aggravating circumstances make it a felony.
- Child Witness in Sex Crimes Cases – Children can be easily manipulated and their memories are notoriously unreliable; however, prosecutors often use children as witnesses in sex crimes cases because they have a lot of emotional pull. If you’re concerned about a child sex crimes witness, contact a Houston child sex crime attorney at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today.
Let a Houston Child Sex Abuse Lawyer Help You
If you have been charged with a sex crime involving a minor or you know you are under investigation, contact Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett. He has more than 30 years of experience practicing law, first as a prosecutor and then as a defense attorney. He is also board certified as a criminal lawyer by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Barnett has the experience, knowledge, and skills you need to tenaciously defend yourself against these allegations. His goal will always be to protect your rights and obtain you the best possible outcome in your case.
To learn more about how we can help, contact a Houston child sex crime lawyer at The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today by calling (713) 222-6767
* Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters service, 2015-2018
** American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys, part of American Institute of Legal Counsel, 2016, 2015
*** Board Certified Texas Board of Legal Specialization, since 1994
Sex Offender Registration
The primary sex offender restriction that most people are worried about when facing sex crime charges is sex offender registration.
For almost every child sex offense discussed above, the requirement to register as a sex offender for a period of time or life is a typical part of the punishment. If you are convicted of a sex offense with a child that is deemed to be a violent offense, such as indecency with a child or sexual assault, then you face even harsher registration requirements than if you were convicted of a non-violent offense like child pornography.
When you are required to register as a sex offender, you must meet with your local law enforcement agency, fill out paperwork, and provide your fingerprints and a photo. You will have to do this in every place where you intend to stay for more than one week. If you move, you must notify the police within seven days.
In some cases, you will need to re-register with the police annually. However, if you have a previous conviction or were convicted of a violent offense, you must report to the police every 90 days.
A 10-year registration period is common. However, some offenses lead to a life-long registration requirement.
Your Rights During an Investigation
An investigation regarding sexual abuse of a child can begin in two ways: through a complaint to Child Protective Services (CPS) or through the police. In either situation, the police will likely take lead in the investigation into whether there is evidence you perpetrated a Texas child sex crime.
During this investigation, with both the police and CPS, you have a number of constitutional rights, including:
- The right to remain silent
- The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures
- The right to an attorney
As soon as you know you are being investigated for a sex crime, you should contact a lawyer specializing in child sex crimes. By having an attorney at your side when cooperating with the police and CPS, you ensure you answer questions only when appropriate, invoke your right to silence when necessary, and do not say anything that could accidentally incriminate you.
You are also better able to protect your privacy during an investigation. Without a full understanding of your rights and how to protect them, the police and CPS may try to over-step their boundaries and invade the privacy of your home, office, computer, vehicle, cell phone, or other property without a valid search warrant.
To learn more about your rights during a CPS investigation, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today. Even if official charges are not brought against you or you are not convicted of an offense, CPS findings can significantly impact your parental rights.
Potential Penalties for a Sex Offense
When you are facing charges for a child sex offense, you need to be aware of the possible statutory penalties. The generic schedule for a felony in Texas is:
State Jail Felony
Punishable by between 180 days and two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
Punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Can be punished with two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Punishable by between five and 99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Statutes can specifically deviate from this schedule. For some first-degree felonies based on child sex crimes, the minimum term of imprisonment is 25 years instead of five years. Also, for many sex offenses, you lose the possibility of parole.
In 2007, Texas passed what came to be known as Jessica’s Law. This made the penalties more harsh for registered sex offenders who molest children under the age of 12.
Some of its provisions included:
- Heightening the level of felony for many child sex crimes, leading to harsher punishments;
- Raising the mandatory minimum for certain child sex crimes including aggravated sexual assault of a child;
- Creating the offense of continuous sexual abuse of a child;
- Making many child sex crimes against children under 14 ineligible for probation;
- Using electronic monitoring for sex offenders released on parole;
- Allowing the death penalty for a repeat conviction of aggravated or continuous sexual abuse of a child; and
- Lengthening the statute of limitations for when charges based on a child sex offense can be brought by prosecutors.
Defenses to Sex Crimes Involving a Child
An important affirmative defense to a child sex offense is known as the Romeo and Juliet defense. If the minor was between the ages of 14 and 16 and you are within a three-year age difference from the minor, then you can seek to prove the sexual activity was consensual. If the sexual intercourse or contact was entirely consensual and you two are less than three years apart in age, then you may be exonerated in court.
However, consent is not usually a defense to a child sex offense. Minors under the age of 17 cannot lawfully give consent to sexual activity.