Jessica’s Law was enacted in Texas in July 2007 and went into effect that year on September 1. The purpose of the law is to harshen the penalties for sex offenders who target children and who have committed more than one offense involving a child sex crime. Texas has always taken child sex crimes seriously, but since 2007, someone facing certain charges may be looking at life in prison without the option for parole or the death penalty.
A defendant facing penalties under Jessica’s Law needs to have an experienced sex crimes defense attorney. If you have been charged with a child sex crime, contact Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 for a free consultation.
The Original Jessica’s Law
Jessica’s Law is named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, a Florida resident, who was kidnapped, raped, and killed. She was taken from her home in Homosassa, Florida, in February 2005 by John Couey, a convicted sex offender who lived nearby. He raped her multiple times and kept her for three days before burying her alive near his mobile home. Couey was convicted of burglary, kidnapping, sexual battery, and first-degree murder. The jury recommended Couey receive the death penalty. He was sentenced to death but died of cancer before his sentence was carried out.
Florida created the first Jessica’s Law in response in 2005. The law increased the penalties for sex offenders who molested children under the age of 12 and was meant to protect potential victims.
Texas’ Jessica’s Law
Texas’ Jessica’s Law was created when Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 8 in 2007. It is now one of more than 30 similar laws across the country. Some of the key components of the Texas law include:
- Lengthened statute of limitations – Jessica’s Law lengthened the time prosecutors have to press charges. For most sex crimes committed against children under the age of 17, there is no statute of limitations. The time limit for filling charges for sexual performance by a child, aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit sexual abuse, and burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a sexual offense is 20 years after the child victim’s 18th birthday.
- Increased felonies – Many child sex crimes committed against children are now a higher degree of felony, enabling harsher punishments. For example, sexual performance by a child younger than 14 by directing or promoting performance became a 2nd-degree felony instead of 3rd-degree felony.
- Mandatory minimum sentences – A person convicted of aggravated sexual assault of children now faces a minimum of 25 years in prison. Aggravated sexual assault involves the rape of a child under 6 or the rape of a child between 7 and 14 with the use of a kidnapping, a weapon, or bodily harm. A prison sentence can be up to 99 years or life without the option for early release. A second conviction of this type of aggravated sexual assault is a capital felony.
- New offense of continuous sexual abuse of a child – Under Texas Penal Code Section 21.02, if someone is convicted of continuous sexual abuse of child they face a minimum in 25 years in prison and up to 99 years. There is no option for early release. A second conviction for this crime automatically results in life in prison without parole.
- Potential for the death penalty – Texas allows for the death penalty for a repeat conviction of aggravated or continuous sexual abuse of a child.
- Ineligibility for probation – Texas’ Jessica’s Law added numerous child sex crimes committed against children younger than 14 to the list of offenses that cannot be punished with probation.
- Electronic monitoring – If someone is released on parole, there is the potential for consistent, real-time electronic monitoring.
Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney Today
If you are accused of a sexual offense involving a child, you need to begin building your defense immediately. An attorney can protect your rights from the beginning, particularly during police questioning. You always have the right to remain silent until you have an attorney to advise you. Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate your situation and strive to help you avoid the harshest consequences of Jessica’s Law.
An experienced Houston child sex crimes lawyer like Ned Barnett understands how prosecutors think because he was one. His experience as both a state and federal prosecutor enables him to anticipate the prosecutor’s next move and strategize in your case. Ned Barnett can build you the strongest defense possible under the law.
Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.