Collin County Molestation Defense Attorneys
Child molestation is one of the most serious crimes a person can face. Even the mere accusation can permanently label a resident of Collin County as a child molester in the eyes of the public. And if convicted, an individual may have to legally register as a sex offender for the rest of their life, even if they move to another county. For that reason alone, it is imperative to contact an experienced Collin County sex crimes lawyer if the police even suspect you of a molestation offense.
At Rosenthal Barbieri, it’s our goal to protect your rights, clear your name, and restore your reputation within the community and with your family and friends. If someone falsely accused you of child molestation, our Collin County molestation defense attorneys will fight for justice and work to get the charges against you dropped.
How Does Texas Law Define Molestation?
There is actually no specific Texas law that uses the term “molestation.” Rather, Chapter 21 of the Texas Penal Code defines a number of “sexual offenses” where children are the victims. For example, Section 21.02 provides that “continuous sexual abuse of [a] young child or children” is a Class A felony punishable by life in prison. To convict someone of this offense, prosecutors must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant committed “two or more acts of sexual abuse” during a period of at least 30 days; and
- The defendant was at least 17 and the victim or victims were under the age of 14 when the acts of sexual abuse took place.
Other Texas statutes that include child molestation are:
- Knowing sexual child abuse exists but failing to prevent it from happening;
- Online solicitation of a minor;
- Coercing a minor to participate in acts of a sexual nature; or
- Child pornography offenses, including showing a child pornographic materials.
“Sexual abuse” does not just refer to rape or intercourse. It may also include “indecency,” i.e. exposing oneself in front of a child, or induces a child to engage in a “sexual performance.” A jury also need not unanimously agree on which particular acts of sexual abuse the defendant committed, only that he or she committed at least two of them over a period of at least 30 days.
What Is Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child?
Child sexual assault becomes aggravated when the child is under 14 years of age, and the perpetrator uses a deadly weapon or can potentially cause severe bodily harm.
Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.021 lists other behaviors of aggravated sexual assault.
When the perpetrator intentionally or knowingly:
- Causes the penetration of a child’s sexual organ or anus in any way;
- Makes the sexual organ of someone else come in contact with the child;
- Causes a child’s anus to come in contact with the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of themselves or another person’s; or
- Causes the mouth of a child to contact their own or another person’s sexual organs or anus.
Other Sexual Felonies Involving Children
When charged with the “continuous sexual abuse of [a] young child or children,” as noted above and pursuant to Texas Penal Code Sec. 21.02, the acts of sexual abuse may include, for example:
- Aggravated kidnapping of a minor to commit sexual assault;
- Breaking into a home for the sole purpose of sexually assaulting a child under the age of 14;
- Compelling a child to participate in prostitution; and
- Trafficking a child.
Even if prosecutors cannot prove “continuous sexual abuse,” they can still go after a person for individual acts involving a child. As noted above, this can include indecency with a child (a third-degree felony), sexual assault (a second-degree felony), inducing a sexual performance by a child (a first-degree felony if the child is younger than 14), and compelling prostitution of a person under the age of 18 (a first-degree felony).
The Unfortunate Circumstances of “Crying Wolf”
Sometimes claims of child molestation don’t involve the child at all but results from one adult’s hatred for another and is an act of spite. An example is when two people are going through a divorce, negotiating spousal support, or arguing for child custody.
Unfortunately, children are impressionable and might support the false accusation one parent makes against the other. Under other circumstances, a child might blame their stepparent of molestation as a ploy to get their biological parents to make up and get back together.
There are many instances of child molestation allegations under unrelated circumstances:
- To gain custody of the child during a divorce, one parent will allege their spouse committed child molestation.
- Accusations based on false interpretations by teachers, nosy neighbors, and childcare professionals.
- A child will seek revenge against their teacher or another adult with allegations of molestation.
- There are some situations where the child or adult accuser is mentally unstable.
- Someone blackmails another by falsely accusing them of child molestation.
The Penalties for Child Molestation Under Texas Law
A statute of limitations is the time limit a victim can bring a civil action against another person. Texas doesn’t have a statute of limitations for child molestation. That means, if you committed this crime decades ago, you could still get arrested and charged.
Sexual crimes involving minor children are serious offenses in Texas. A first-time offender can face a felony charge if convicted.
Indecent exposure, which is when an adult exposes their genitals or anus to a child or causes them to expose their anus or genitals, is a third-degree felony. The punishment is a minimum of two years in prison with a maximum of 10 years and up to $10,000 in fines.
Indecency with sexual contact, which occurs when the adult touches a child’s anus, genitals, or breasts below or above clothing, or causes the child to touch another’s anus, genitals or breasts, is a second-degree felony. The penalty is between two and twenty years in prison and a maximum of a $10,000 fine.
An aggravated sexual assault of a minor is a first-degree felony and comes with a minimum prison sentence of 25 years and a maximum of 99 years.
For either conviction, you will also have to register with the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program when you find a place of residence, and each time you move into another home.
Common Defenses in Child Molestation Cases
The Collin County molestation defense attorneys from Rosenthal Barbieri will use valid defenses if we have to take your case to trial. Our job is to challenge the prosecutor’s arguments and raise doubt among the jurors.
- False allegations: Someone might falsely accuse you of child molestation out of spite and to benefit them somehow.
- Mistaken identity: The child might misidentify you as the perpetrator.
- No criminal intent: You touched a child’s genital area by accident, which makes the burden of proof more challenging for the prosecutor.
- Improper interviewing: There are some lines of questioning of the child that can invite speculation, reinforce biases, and skew the legitimacy of the responses.
- Insufficient evidence: If the prosecutor doesn’t have enough evidence to prove you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the charges must get dismissed.
Why You Need an Experienced Collin County Defense Lawyer
Child molestation accusations often provoke public outrage. Police and prosecutors often exploit that outrage to overcome deficiencies in their evidence. Especially when dealing with children who are eager to please authority figures, it is not uncommon for prosecutors to build a case based on exaggerated or false claims.
Unfortunately, even if you are wrongfully accused, you cannot just assume it is a misunderstanding and that telling the police your side of the story will make the problem go away. If you even suspect you are under investigation for molestation, you need to contact a qualified Collin County criminal defense attorney without delay.
At Rosenthal Barbieri, we know how to deal with police and prosecutors. We also understand how sensitive molestation cases are, and we will make sure the criminal justice system respects your rights and does not rush to judgment against you. Call our offices in McKinney today at (972) 369-0577 if you require immediate legal assistance.