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Continuous Sexual Abuse Laws in Texas

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Continuous Sexual Abuse in Texas

In the Texas criminal justice system, few crimes are punished as harshly as sexually-based offenses. Defendants who are convicted of sexual crimes can expect to receive extremely severe sentences. Sexual crimes are viewed as an extreme threat to society and those who are convicted of these actions are routinely removed from society by being incarcerated for many years.

Even one sex crime is enough to earn a convicted offender years behind bars. However, being convicted of multiple or repeated sex offenses can lead to much greater consequences. A conviction for continuous sexual abuse can be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Jessica’s Law

Cases involving continuous sexual abuse will sometimes include a mention of Jessica’s Law. This law was established after Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old girl in Florida, was murdered after being raped by a convicted sex offender. The law was intended to prevent further offenses by registered sexual offenders. The deterrents put into place by the law included 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentences for convicted offenders as well as mandatory electronic monitoring devices.

After its passage, Jessica’s Law has influenced continuous sexual abuse laws in all other states.

What Is Continuous Sexual Abuse?

Under Texas law, sexual abuse occurs when a person engages in sexual intercourse or sexual contact with another person without that person’s consent. Sexual abuse charges are often filed when an adult engages in sexual activity with a child. Because children cannot legally consent to sexual activity, any sexual contact between a legal adult and a child is a criminal action and can lead to prosecution in a court of law.

Section 21.02 of the Texas Penal Code lists the definition of continuous sexual abuse of young children. This crime includes the following actions and definitions:

  • The actor was 17 years of age or older at the time of the offense
  • The victim of the abuse was younger than 14 years of age at the time of the offense
  • The actions included kidnapping to commit sexual abuse, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, indecency with a child, sexual performance by a child or burglary for the purposes of committing sexual assault
  • Two or more acts of sexual abuse occurred during a period of 30 or more days

Under this law, the jury does not have to unanimously agree on the specific acts of abuse that occurred or on what exact date they occurred. They only have to agree that two or more acts of sexual abuse occurred during a period of 30 or more days in order to secure a conviction.

Criminal Penalties

The penalties for continuous sexual abuse can be extremely harsh. A conviction for this offense is considered a first degree felony. According to section 21.02 of the Texas Penal Code, a person convicted of continuous sexual abuse can face:

  • Life imprisonment in the Texas prison system
  • Any term of incarceration up to 99 years but no less than 25 years
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Mandatory sex offender registration and monitoring for life

Legal Defenses

Defending against sexual abuse charges can be challenging but it is possible. Hiring a defense attorney is the best way to pursue a strong legal defense.

A defense attorney may choose to focus on a lack of evidence brought by the prosecution. For example, a lack of DNA evidence or unreliable witness testimony may point out flaws in the prosecution’s case. If the defense attorney can point out a reasonable doubt in the prosecution’s case, the jury may not be able to reach a unanimous guilty verdict. This can result in dropped or reduced charges, allowing the defendant to avoid jail time or mandatory sex offender registration.


Sexual abuse and assault charges are some of the most serious legal cases. Attorney Brett A. Podolsky is a Houston-based lawyer with the skill and experience need to protect your legal rights. Contact his office today at (713) 227-0087.

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