Texas has strict laws on the books about the protection of children. These laws are especially designed to shield children from becoming the victims of sexual offenses.
When you find yourself the target of an investigation of committing a sexual offense against a child, you need to know how to defend yourself. You can start by understanding how Texas defines indecency with a child and also by retaining an experienced defense lawyer to represent you.
What is Indecency with a Child?
Texas state law defines indecency with a child as engaging in any kind of sexual conduct with a child that is 17 years of age or younger. This offense can involve causing the child to engage in sexual conduct. It can also involve exposing the child to sexual behavior.
For one’s actions to fit within the Texas definition of indecency with a child, one must have had the intent of arousing or gratifying their sexual desire by exposing their anus or any part of their genitals to a child who is 17 years old or younger. Alternatively, one must have caused a child who is 17 years of age and younger to expose any part of their genitals or anus for the sole purpose of the adult becoming sexually aroused or gratifying their own sexual desire.
Texas state law requires that someone who is accused of indecency with a child meet certain criteria. Namely, the offender must:
- Be more than three years older than the victim
- Have used force, duress or threat while committing the crime
- Be a registered sex offender or required to register as a sex offender at the time of the offense
- Not be the spouse of the victim
If you meet these criteria and stand accused of committing indecency with a child, you could be prosecuted in court and face a myriad of harsh penalties that are allowable under Texas state law. Once you are charged, it is vital that you contact an attorney with experience in defending people who stand accused of this crime.
Types of Indecency with a Child
Texas uses two categories for indecency with a child. The first is called Indecency with a Child by Contact. This offense requires that the victim be 17 years of age or younger. It involves any touching by the accused under, through and over clothing of the victim’s anus, breast or any part of the victim’s genitals for the arousal or gratification of the accused person’s sexual desire.
The second category is called Indecency with a Child by Exposure. The victim must be 17 years old or younger. It involves exposure of the accuser’s anus or any part of their genitals in the presence of a child. It can also involve causing the child to expose their anus or any part of their genitals for the gratification or arousal of the accused person’s sexual desire.
Texas state law infers intention of either of these categories from the offender’s conduct. It also infers intention by the circumstances surrounding the crime when it takes place.
Further, Texas state law considers both categories, contact and exposure, to be separate offenses. It is entirely possible for a person to commit indecency with a child by exposure without actually having contact with the victim. That is, the offender can meet the required criteria for exposing himself or herself to the victim or having the victim expose himself or herself to the offender without either ever having physical contact with each other.
Exemptions to the Law
As strict as Texas’s laws are regarding the protection of children from sexual offenses, there are a number of exemptions, called affirmative defenses, that bar prosecutors from taking cases to court or even charging people with this crime. These exemptions are clearly defined, however, and must be satisfied precisely for a person to avoid being charged with indecency with a child in Texas.
The foremost exemption prohibits a person from being charged if he or she is the spouse of the child in question. If the victim and the offender are married, the offender may not be able to be charged with this crime.
The other primary exemption prevents the offender from being charged if he or she is no more than three years older than the victim. This exemption is called the Romeo and Juliet clause, or close in age exemption. It requires the accused to:
- Be of the opposite sex of the victim
- Not have used threats or force against the victim
- Not to be a registered sex offender or required to register as a sex offender
- Not have any reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section of Texas law
It should be noted that Texas’s laws regarding indecency with a child do not allow for an exemption if the offender did not know the victim’s age. Likewise, they cannot avoid being charged and prosecuted if they was misled about the victim’s age.
Punishments for Indecency with a Child in Texas
Texas has a reputation for having some of the harshest penalties allowed by law for indecency with a child. These punishments can take a grave toll not only on your reputation but also your freedom and future.
In fact, indecency with a child in Texas is always charged as a felony offense. If you are convicted of indecency with a child by contact, which is a second degree felony in Texas, you could face a fine of up to $10,000 and two to 20 years in prison, if not both.
If you are convicted of indecency with a child by exposure, a third degree felony in Texas, you could also pay a fine of up to $10,000. You also may spend two to 10 years in prison. You also will typically have to register as a sex offender if you are convicted of either contact or exposure.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Given how steep the penalties are for a conviction of indecency with a child, you need to have an experienced defense attorney representing you. With the help of an experienced lawyer, you may be able to avoid the worst punishments for this offense. You also may avoid having to register as a sex offender in Texas.
Your attorney can use evidence in your favor to show that you did not commit the crime and have been falsely accused. If the evidence does not work in your favor, you can still have your lawyer argue down the charges against you, if possible, and show that you do not deserve to spend years in jail.