Understanding Aggravated Sexual Assault in Texas
The Texas Penal Code has an independent definition for aggravated sexual assault that is separate from sexual assault or aggravated assault. Although aggravated assault is an independent offense, it has elements of aggravated assault and sexual assault offenses. The punishment for aggravated sexual assault is more severe than for other kinds of sexual assault.
The definition of aggravated sexual assault, the aggravating factors, and the penalties for the crime can help you distinguish this offense from other forms of sexual crimes. A qualified attorney can help you demystify the difference between the implications of aggravated sexual assault and other sexual related crimes.
What is Aggravated Sexual Assault?
According to Texas’ Penal code, one is accused of sexual assault when they intentionally, recklessly or knowingly cause harm to another individual or threaten to harm another individual through a sexual attack without the consent of the individual. On the other hand, aggravated sexual assault includes the knowledge or intention of wrong doing. If a person acts recklessly, they cannot be convicted for aggravated sexual assault. Furthermore, aggravated sexual assault includes oral, anal, or vaginal penetration combined with an aggravating factor.
Some of the serious factors associated with aggravated sexual assault include committing these heinous acts on a youth, a disabled or elderly individual. Killing or causing bodily harm to the victim is also an aggravating factor. Another serious factor is causing an individual to fear for their life, putting them in distress, or threatening to murder them. Fear can be instigated through abduction. Fear can also be caused by brandishing a weapon at the victim. Drugging victims to make them vulnerable to one’s charms is also considered as an aggravating factor. Having an accomplice is also a serious factor.
Many allegations of aggravated sexual assault are false. In some cases, an individual may make false allegations to seek revenge against another individual who did not respond to their affection or out of jealousy or to get the alleged defendant incarcerated. In any case, to determine the innocence of the defendant, a trial should be conducted.
Sexual conduct is deemed to be criminal if an individual does not consent to sexual touch either because the defendant forces the individual or because the individual is not capable of consent. In most states including Texas, minors below fourteen are not capable of consenting despite their ability to understand their right to refuse or the nature of the sexual act. In some jurisdictions, sex with a minor is only deemed to be an offense if the perpetrator is older than the victim by a specific number of years.
Age of the Victim
In many states, when sexual assault involves a child who is below a certain age, the crime is deemed to be sexual assault of a child or minor. In a few states, like Texas, sexual assault on a child who is below 14 years is classified as aggravated sexual assault. Many states impose heavy penalties for aggravated sexual assault if it involves a victim who is below a certain age. For example, the defendant may get a stiffer penalty for sexual assault involving a child who is below 14 years than for a child who is below 16 years.
Penalties and Sentences for Aggravated Assault
A sexual assault is considered a 2nd degree felony. This crime attracts a sentence of between two and twenty years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $10,000. If the defendant was forbidden from living with or marrying the victim, a second degree felony can be elevated to a first degree crime. The punishment for a 1st degree felony is a sentence of between five and ninety-nine years or a maximum fine of $10,000.
Aggravated sexual assault is considered a 1st degree felony in Texas. The minimum imprisonment a person can get for this crime is twenty five years if the victim is 6 years or below 14 years, a deadly weapon was exhibited or used, the child sustained significant injuries, drugs were used to execute the crime, or if the defendant tried to kill the child.
Probation and Treatment for Aggravated Assault
Under Texas law, a person cannot get parole if they are serving the compulsory minimum sentence of 25 years on aggravated sexual assault. One may also not be eligible for parole if serving a life sentence for aggravated sexual assault. However, sometimes, judges allow individuals convicted of aggravated sexual assault crimes to serve part of their sentence on probation.
While the defendant is on probation, they are required to abide by certain rules such as no association with felons, curfews, finding and maintaining employment, performing community service, submitting to random drug tests, and surrendering all weapons. Sex offenders are also required to enroll in compulsory treatment whether on probation or in prison. The treatment programs may include sex offender programs, group counselling, and medication. If the defendant violates the terms of their probation, they are sent back to jail to serve the remaining time of their sentence.
Sexual Offender Registration
In many cases, judges require persons accused of aggravated sexual assault to register themselves with the state’s sexual offender program. During registration with a sexual offender program, an individual is required to provide their name, address, and all the information regarding their crime. This information is made public and is accessible on public websites.
Common Defenses against Aggravated Sexual Assault
Intent is necessary when convicting a person for aggravated sexual conduct. If the defense shows that the accused never had the intent to commit the act, they may not be charged with the crime. Some of the common forms of defense in aggravated sexual assault cases include:
- Lack of knowledge or intent
- The defendant’s insanity
- The defendant is not more than three years older than the child
- The defendant is the child’s spouse
- Consent of the victim
If you are accused of aggravated assault you face a sentence of up to 25 years and a fine of $10,000. In addition, you may be required to register with sexual offenses program which could impact on your ability to seek employment or find housing. If you are faced with aggravated sexual assault charges, consult an accomplished aggravated sexual assault attorney.