Houston Statutory Rape Lawyer

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Houston Statutory Rape Lawyer2018-08-30T05:05:57+00:00

Originally created to protect children and teenagers who are deemed too immature to give sexual consent, statutory rape laws are sometimes used against innocent people who find themselves being demonized for something that they might not have done or didn’t know was illegal.

When accused of a sexual offense, most people are vilified and ostracized by society even before a verdict is reached. Defendants accused of statutory rape need all the help they can get, and that starts with hiring a quality defense team.

The Law Office of Paul Schiffer not only has the experience and skill to defend against the charges against you, but also the compassion and sensitivity that these cases require. We understand that you’re going through a tough time that can have life-long consequences. We’ll be there to support you from the initial consultation to the final resolution of your case. If you find yourself facing statutory rape charges, don’t take it on alone. Contact Paul Schiffer and his team immediately.

What is Statutory Rape in Texas?

According to Section 21.011 of the Texas Penal Code, statutory rape is a sexual assault that happens between an adult and a minor under the age of 17, who are not married to each other. Sexual assault consists of penetration of the anus, mouth, or sex organ of a child, as well as general inappropriate sexual contact. These laws are gender neutral. This means that it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, if you had sexual contact with a minor and that young person isn’t your spouse, you can be charged with statutory rape.

According to the law, minors are believed to be incapable of giving their consent to sexual activities because of their lack of maturity. This is why there is no requirement that the sexual assault be violent or forcible for it to be considered statutory rape.

The Difference between Statutory Rape and Other Crimes

What makes statutory rape different from other sexual offenses is that the sexual act between an adult and a minor can be consensual. It occurs when the minor in question is younger than the legal age of consent. In that case, consent can’t be used as a defense, because the child is legally incapable of giving consent.

This crime differs from the crimes of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child, in that, were both participants of legal age, the act would not be criminal.

Age of Consent in Texas

The “age of consent” means the youngest age a person must be in order to give legal consent to engage in any kind of sexual activity. In Texas, the age of consent is 17 years. That means that minors 16 and younger are not considered legally able to consent to sexual activity. However, a minor between the ages of 14 and 17 can consent to sex with another person not more than three years older than him or her.

Improper Relationship Between a Student and Educator

Many times, statutory rape cases arise from a consensual relationship between a student over the age of 17 and a teacher. Social media and general digital contact between students and their teachers in this day and age make it much easier for inappropriate relationships to take place, and also easier for the prosecution to prove. Digital evidence often abounds in these cases.

More so, this informal interaction can make outsiders think something inappropriate is happening even when the communications have been innocent on the adult’s part. Due to these relationships occurring more frequently, Texas enacted a new law in 2003 regarding improper sexual relationships between students and educators.

Section 21.12(a) of the Texas Penal Code states that an employee of a primary or secondary school (either public or private) can be charged with improper relationship between educator and student if the educator does any of the following with a student enrolled in the same school where the educator works or within the same district:

  • has sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse;
  • engages in any form of sexual contact; or
  • engages in online solicitation of a minor (Texas Penal Code section 33.021).

If you’re an educator accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a student, contact the Law Offices of Paul Schiffer. Paul has defended many of these cases, and has the experience and skill to craft your defense, as well as to help you navigate what promises to be significant fallout arising from the charges alone. You’re facing serious charges that can have life-altering consequences, and will need the help of our skilled team of experts.

Proving Statutory Rape

Since statutory rape can be consensual sex without a forcible or violent act, the prosecution only has to prove that the sexual contact occurred between the accused adult and the minor victim. Since the age of the victim is the key to this charge, his or age at the time of the crime has to be positively determined, too. Unfortunately, fewer elements must be proven as compared to other sexual crimes where manipulation, violence, or force must also be proven.

Possible Penalties

Statutory rape in Texas is a second-degree felony sex offense. That means that, if you’re convicted of this serious crime, you face a prison sentence of anywhere from two to 20 years, and fines up to $10,000. There are, however, other crimes which may be related to statutory rape which carry different penalties.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

This is sexual penetration that occurs between a minor younger than 14 years of age and an accused of any age. This is a first-degree felony that can result in anywhere from five to 99 years in prison, and fines up to $10,000.

Sexual Assault

This is sexual penetration between a minor victim under the age of 17, and an accused perpetrator who is three or more years older than the victim. This is a second-degree felony that can carry a sentence of anywhere from two to 20 years in prison, and fines up to $10,000.

Indecency with a Child

This is sexual contact (touching over or under clothing intended to sexually arouse or gratify sexual desire) between a minor under the age of 17 and a person three or more years older than the minor. This is a second-degree felony that carries a prison sentence of two to 20 years, and fines up to $10,000.

Penalties for Improper Relationship Between Student and Educator

This is also a second-degree felony. If convicted, you are facing a prison sentence from two to 20 years, and fines up to $10,000.

Further Ramifications

Whenever you’re convicted of a crime, there are consequences that extend beyond a prison sentence. There are long-lasting ramifications that you have to deal with. With sex crimes, especially those involving minors, these consequences can be even more serious and life-impacting. Some of these possible ramifications are:

  • restrictions on where you can live;
  • restrictions on the type of phone you can use;
  • internet restrictions (software will restrict access to some websites);
  • game console restrictions (nothing that can access the internet);
  • possible polygraph exams throughout probation;
  • loss or suspension of licenses or permits;
  • inability to possess firearms;
  • inability to work in certain industries;
  • ineligibility to volunteer with certain organizations;
  • difficulty renting property;
  • difficulty getting loans or financial aid for school;
  • the inability to vote; and
  • difficulties running for public office.

Sex Offender Registration

There are certain instances where a statutory rape conviction will you to register as a sex offender. If you’re convicted of aggravated sexual assault, you will be required to register as a sex offender for life. A sexual assault conviction will require the same. Indecency with a child by exposure will require you to register as a sex offender for 10 years. After the 10 years, you can be eligible to be removed from the registry as long as you complete all of your court requirements.

Defenses Against Statutory Rape

When you’re charged with statutory rape, there are defenses available. Of course, there is the possibility that the act never occurred. If that is not the case, there are some defenses which are specific to the alleged crime.

Since statutory rape deals with a victim’s age, it’s easy to assume that claiming to be unaware that the victim was a minor is a viable defense. It is not a defense. That the sexual act between an adult and a minor was consensual is also not a defense except as explained below. This is why it’s so important to have a knowledgeable and experienced defense team like ours at the Law Office of Paul Schiffer on your side. We know the proper defenses for statutory rape charges and work with you to get the best possible resolution to your case.

Some possible defenses against statutory rape are:

  1. Medical care: In some cases, a defendant can claim that they were administering medical care to a child that was misconstrued as sexual contact. It would have to be proven that the defendant didn’t have sexual contact with the minor as described in the Texas Penal Code.
  2. Evidence: A defense can be made that there is no evidence that the act occurred. This can be done by disproving the victim’s statement by investigating facts, questioning the evidence properly, and identifying any ulterior motives of the victim or the accusers.
  3. Stress or duress: It is possible that the crime was committed under duress or similar mitigating circumstances. This defense might not get a statutory rape charge dismissed but it can help reduce the sentence to some degree.

Two other, slightly more complicated defenses are legal marriage and the Romeo and Juliet exception.

Marital Exemption

In Texas, there is something known as a marital exemption regarding statutory rape. This allows a consensual sexual relationship between a minor and an adult as long as they are legally married.

A relationship that would be deemed illegal under statutory rape laws would be legal if the two people involved were legally married. For example, if you’re 21 and your partner is 16, and you have a consensual sexual relationship, you’re committing a crime. This is because your 16-year-old partner is considered incapable of giving legal consent in Texas. However, if you’re 21 and your legal spouse is 16, you fall under the marital exemption despite your partner still being under the age of legal consent.

Romeo and Juliet Exception

Aptly named after the William Shakespeare play, this exception is made to reduce the chances of a teenager being charged with statutory rape for consensual sex. In Texas, a minor who is between 14 and 17 years of age and someone who is three or fewer years older than the minor can have consensual sex typically without statutory rape charges being made against the older party.

For example, if you’re 18 and start dating a 15-year-old, and enter into a consensual sexual relationship, you shouldn’t be charged with statutory rape because of the Rome and Juliet exception. We have, however, seen parents so upset with a child’s sexual relationship that they have pressured him or her into lying about consent and claiming rape.

In order to have a successful defense under this exception, there are a few elements that must be met:

  • the accused was three years or fewer older than the victim;
  • the victim 14 years of age or older when the sexual relationship started;
  • the accused was not a registered sex offender at the time of the act; and
  • the sexual act or acts in question were consensual.

Why You Need a Defense Attorney

The law is an ever-changing landscape. A statute can be amended and what was once legal can now be illegal, and vice versa. A quality defense attorney like Paul Schiffer not only knows the law, but keeps up to date on its changes.

You need a defense attorney who will examine your case and explain the law and your options regarding a defense. He will also explain to you what different outcomes you can expect, including the range of penalties you could face if you were convicted.

He will also advocate on your behalf with the courts and the prosecution to beat their case against you, or, if that is not possible, will do everything necessary to get the best possible resolution of your case. A good defense attorney knows your rights and will make sure that your case is handled properly.

When you choose the Law Office of Paul Schiffer, you won’t just be getting quality legal help, you’ll also get an understanding and compassionate team dedicated to you and your case. Sexual crimes need to be handled sensitively. We understand that you might be vilified by others and may feel like everyone has turned their backs on you, but we will stand by you and support you through this difficult time.

We will never look down on you or criticize you because of the accusations made against you. From the moment you contact us to the minute your case is resolved, you will be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity. If you or a loved one is facing statutory rape charges, contact the Law Offices of Paul Schiffer today to discuss your case and get your life back on track.  

How has Paul Schiffer Successfully Defended Cases of this Kind?

That’s a great question, but you won’t find the answer here. While there is nothing inherently secret about a great defense, some attorneys are simply better prepared, more creative, and more experienced than others. It’s that combination that makes Paul Schiffer successful in defending these cases. A professional sports team, or an army preparing for battle, doesn’t disclose its strategy to the opposition. It is only through a confidential, in-person, meeting with Paul Schiffer, where your information is protected by the attorney-client privilege, that he will discuss potential strategies that are tailored to your circumstances. Call today to set up a meeting with Paul in his office. Be sure to bring any paperwork or other information you have about your case or an investigation.   

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Call Houston Sex Crimes attorney Paul Schiffer today at (713)-521-0059 to start strategically building your defense.