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Facing Charges of Online Solicitation of a Minor? The Right Houston Criminal Lawyer Can Make a Difference

Online Solicitation of a Minor Lawyer Charles Johnson

As a result of the increased efforts of local and national law enforcement task forces to discover Online Solicitation of Minors or Importuning, Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson has frequently represented individuals who have been accused of communicating with a minor using the computer. In fact, the law in most jurisdictions allows for an officer to pose as a minor while communicating with a suspect. Soliciting either an actual minor or a police officer posing as a minor may result in the filing of charges and subsequent prosecution. A common misconception is that no crime is committed unless there is an actual meeting. In actuality, the offense of On-line Solicitation or Importuning may be completed merely through the communication or “chat.” If there is an attempt to actually meet, additional charges may be warranted.

Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is well-versed in the various defenses that must be explored in all cases of this kind. These defenses may include issues of entrapment, client knowledge, or jurisdictional questions.

Accusation of soliciting a minor online can often result from entrapment-type situations commonly depicted on televisions shows. However, soliciting a minor online can also be the result of a mistake or an accident. For example, an individual can be charged with soliciting a minor when they thought they were communicating with an adult on the computer, but may have actually been talking to an underage person. No matter the reason for the false claims against you, it is important to contact an experienced sex crimes defense lawyer who will make every effort to find defenses or other mitigating factors that will result in an acquittal of the charges against you.

An allegation of On-line Solicitation or Importuning calls for great effort and resources, as the stakes are high – one faces not only a potential prison term, but also the stigmatizing and debilitating effects of sex offender public registration, which makes it difficult if not impossible to obtain employment, and may even severely restrict one’s ability to reside in certain locations.

Jurors are often familiar with programs like “To Catch a Predator”, giving them preconceived notions which need to be addressed and diffused. Our lawyers know first-hand that with thoughtful and extensive examination of pertinent case law and pre-trial motions, a successful defense of On-line Solicitation and Importuning allegations can be achieved.

It is important to remember that if you have been accused of soliciting a minor online, the state prosecutor is required to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be a very difficult burden of proof to meet, and any doubt in the mind of the judge or jury can result in a dismissal or reduction of the charges against you. Therefore, it is essential to contact an experienced Child Sex Abuse lawyer to help you begin developing the best legal defense for your particular case. Contact Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson for a free consultation today at 713-222-7577 anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.

Online Solicitation of a Minor Defined

Since the 1990’s, the internet has changed the way we communicate, do business, meet people, and almost all other aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, it has also led to new criminal charges, many of which carry steep penalties. The most severe online offenses are those related to the potential harm of an underage person, such as online solicitation of a minor.

Online solicitation of a minor is communication with a minor via the internet that aims to arouse, sexually gratify, harass, or arrange to meet a minor face-to-face in the real world. In Texas, a minor is any person who is 17 years of age or younger. Exchanging sexually oriented materials, conversations, or invitations with a minor is a serious legal offense in our state.

Sexual exploitation can result in numerous physical and psychological consequences for children that may be multiplied for victims of child pornography because they face a lifetime of possible revictimization through the continued distribution of videos, photographs, or computer images depicting their exploitation (Klain, 2001). The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. However, decades of research indicates that only ten percent (10%) of sex offenders are truly predatory in nature.

This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats, but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. In the National Juvenile Online Victimization (N-JOV) study, approximately seventy-eight percent (78%) of cases, the offender was one of the victim’s family members, second generation family member such as grandparents, uncle or aunt, or stepparents or parent’s intimate partner.

Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and Internet offenses while remaining undetected by parents. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries. Internet crimes must be pursued vigorously by law enforcement.

The greatest obstacle facing law enforcement is that children and parents do not report the majority of Internet crimes. In situations where the abuse is a parent, a relative, or acquaintance, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime (Wolak, 2005, in press). Community involvement, parental supervision, and early intervention and prevention programs on Internet safety are essential in protecting children from online solicitation and exposure to pornography.

General Information

The computer age presents complex challenges for law enforcement, victim services, parents, legislators, and the community. The proliferation of computer technology obviously has enhanced our lives in many ways, such as enabling improved productivity and efficiency at work, school, and home (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Unfortunately, this technology is not without potential threats and harm for criminals to prey upon innocent victims. According to ABC World News Tonight in June 2006, there are approximately 563,000 registered sex offenders nationally. End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (EPCAT) International reports violence and harms against children and young people in cyberspace include: the production, distribution, and use of materials depicting child sexual abuse; online solicitation; exposure to materials that can cause psychological harm, lead to physical harm, or facilitate other detriments to a child; and harassment and intimidation.

Today the Internet has approximately two hundred (200) million users worldwide who can communicate with each other. Children of all ages are browsing the Internet. Forty-five (45%) of children in the United States, more than thirty (30) million of whom are younger than eighteen (18) use the Internet. By 2005, it was estimated that there are seventy-seven (77) million children online. Approximately one hundred three (103) million people use instant messaging (IM) programs such as AOL’s AIM, Microsoft’s MSN Messenger, and others. MySpace.com reports more than eighty-five (85) million members and the number of visitors to MySpace went from 4.9 million in 2005 to currently over sixty-seven (67) million. Like most new technological developments, this brings both positive and negative implications, especially for parents and their children.

Some children are especially at risk due to a range of vulnerability-enhancing factors common to all environments. They are in socially and economically difficult situations, have experienced sexual abuse and exploitation, are lonely, or feel alienated from their parents. Others have low self-esteem, feel awkward, are confused about their personal identity and sexuality, and lack confidence. Gender is also seen to be a risk factor, with seemingly more girls than boys appearing to be harmed through cyberspace interactions (although boys are increasingly featured in pornographic images circulating online).

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Demographics of an Internet Offender

Sex offenders and child pornographers are a heterogeneous mixture. Before the advent of the Internet, between one-fifth and one-third of people arrested for possession of child pornography were also involved in actual abuse. The majority are male and come from all socio-economic and racial backgrounds. Many are skilled in technology. Not all fit the clinical classification of “pedophilia”. The mass media continues to feed into the stereotype that all Internet offenders are “predators” or “pedophiles”. This is not to discount that Internet victimization is one of the most dangerous Internet threats but society must be cautious in using such characteristics without empirical data to support such a homogenous label. We have to remember that in a previous generation, campaigns to prevent child molestation characterized the threat as “playground predator” or “stranger danger” so that for years the problem of youth, acquaintance, and intra-family perpetrators went unrecognized.

In an analysis of 600 cases of child sexual abuse in which the Internet played a role, either the offender- victim relationship was initiated or conducted online, the case involved the online sharing or distribution of child pornography, or the case involved child pornography stored on a computer or digital media. One hundred twenty six (126) cases involved a face-to-face relationship between the offender and the victim prior to any use of the Internet in committing abuse. N-JOV data indicated that the Internet was involved in eighteen percent (18%) of all sex crimes against minors and that nearly half of the eighteen percent (18%) were committed by acquaintances or family members, with a total of at least 460 arrests a year. This study found ninety-five percent (95%) were non-Hispanic Caucasians and forty-seven percent (47%) were twenty-six (26) or older. Thirty-five percent (35%) were married and over a third lived in small towns. Eighty percent (80%) were employed full time and fifty-one percent (51%) had incomes ranging from $20,000-$50,000 per year.

Identifying Internet Offenders

There is no one type of Internet child pornography user, and there is no easy way to recognize an offender. In the 2005 Wolak survey, solicitors did not match the stereotype of the older male “Internet predator”. Many were identified as other youth and some were female. Having a preconceived idea of a child sex offender can be unhelpful and prove a distraction for investigating police. Those convicted of sexually abusing children will not necessarily seek out or collect pornography, with one study putting the number of offenders who do so at around ten percent (10%).

This explosion of computer use, and the ease with which identities can be concealed on-line, has offered obvious opportunities to those who produce and consume pornography and those who seek to exploit vulnerable populations for sexual gratification. The Internet technology affords perpetrators a foundation for repeated, long-term victimization of a child. These crimes present law enforcement with many complex problems due to the fact that they transcend jurisdictional boundaries and often involve multiple victims in multiple states and countries.

N-JOV data reflected that the most common use of the Internet with family (70%) and acquaintance (65%) offenders was for seduction or grooming of victims either through online conversations or sharing of pornographic images. Forty-nine percent (49%) of family offenders and thirty-nine percent (39%) of acquaintance offenders produced pornographic images of their victims, which they stored or disseminated using the Internet. Forty-three percent (43%) used the Internet to arrange a face-to-face meeting. Relatively small numbers of offenders (2-4%) used the Internet as an inducement to enter the offender’s home and use it to advertise or sell victims online. Seventy-five percent (75%) of these cases involved some form of sexual contact and forty-five percent (45%) involved intercourse or other penetration. In a quarter of these cases, the sexual contact continued for over a year before being reported to the police.

How Sex Offenders Select Victims

A greater number of sex offenders are using the Internet searching for potential child victims through “kid only” or “kid friendly” chat rooms, online games, and instant messenger. The “set-up” for victimization requires long-term thought and planning. But a distinctive aspect of interaction in cyberspace that facilitates the grooming process is the rapid speed with which communication can become intimate. Chat rooms can be frequented by sex offenders that groom and manipulate their victims by playing on the emotional immaturity of children in virtual anonymity. The goal of the “set-up” is to gain control over the victim. The length of time spent during the “set-up” varies upon the vulnerability of the child. The longer an offender knows a child the better they are at “zeroing” in their grooming tactics and strategies.

Grooming is a term used to describe the process of desensitizing and manipulating the victim(s) and/or others for the purpose of gaining an opportunity to commit a sexually deviant act [Title 22, Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 810.2(b)(15)]. Grooming inflicts psychological harm on the child. In teen chat rooms, the activities that precede the process of initiating direct contact with a child may simply involve the offender providing a description of themselves to all of the users of the public chat room so that the offender is masquerading as a particular kind of child, of a particular age, in the hope of attracting an equivalent age and the same or opposite sex child (i.e. 14/m/tx) (O’Connell, 2001). A sex offender may begin victim selection by observation in which an offender may “lurk” in chat rooms or massive multiplayer online games listening to conversations between children. An offender may search public profiles that include information such as name, age, location, hobbies, interests, and photographs. The offender will then wait for a child’s response and determine if they will initiate a conversation. After selecting a victim, the offender will introduce him or herself by instant message (IM) or by a private message to the child. Additionally, victim selection can involve viewing the child’s public profile. A victim’s information may be obtained through an Internet service provider request or a URL a child must provide in order to create their own website.

In the initial stages of grooming, the offender will suggest that the child move from a public domain to a private chat room or IM for an exclusive one-to-one conversation. The offender will engage in conversations related to school, home, hobbies, parental relationships, or interests of the child. The offender will gather information regarding the likelihood of activities being detected. The offender will manipulate the child to create an illusion of being the child’s best friend. The interactions take on the characteristics of a strong sense of mutuality (i.e. a mutual respect club comprised of two people that must ultimately remain a secret from all others). During these interactions, the child is praised, made to feel special, and very positive conversations are tailored to the age of the child. Gifts or money may be offered to the child. Sadly, sex offenders tend to target children who are neglected or come from dysfunctional homes. For these children, the sex offender offers an alternative relationship that makes the child feel special and loved.

The offender introduces the idea of trust, affection, and loyalty but it is based on deception and manipulation. This grooming tactic provides a forum to move into the next stage of victimization. The offender will begin to exploit social norms and test the child’s boundaries. The offender could ask the child “have you been kissed?”, “have you ever been skinny dipping?”, or “do you wear a bikini?” If the child does not respond negatively to the boundary violation, it is tantamount to accepting the behavior or language. During boundary violations, the offender has positioned the child into believing that they share a deep sense of mutual trust.

Offenders who intend to maintain a relationship with a child will progress carefully and methodically into sexually explicit language. The nature of the conversations will progress from mild conversations (i.e. “I love you” or “I want to kiss you”) to extremely explicit (i.e. masturbation or oral sex). The target child may be drawn into producing pornography by sending photos, using a web-cam or engaging in sexual discussions. To silence the child and ensure their continued compliance in sexual exploitation, the offender may use a variety of tactics including rewards, violence, threats, bribery, punishment, coercion, peer pressure, and fear (Klain, 2001). Research indicates that this pattern of conversations is characteristic of an online relationship that may progress to a request for a face-to-face meeting.

Child Pornography Under federal law, child pornography is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it

  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value (18 U.S.C §1466A and 18 U.S.C. §2256)

Sexually explicit conduct includes various forms of sexual activity such as intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, and lascivious exhibition of the genitals. It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.

Pornography and Child Pornography on the Internet

Both adult and child pornography has saturated the Internet due to the lack of censorship by the industry. The Internet provides the social, individual, and technological circumstances in which an interest in child pornography flourishes. Cyberspace is host to more than one (1) million images of tens of thousands of children subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation. Of the estimated 24.7 million Internet users between the ages of ten (10) and seventeen (17), approximately 8.4 million youths received unwanted exposure to sexual material.

Child pornography is the second highest category, after indecent exposure, of sexual re-offense behavior. The vast majority of children who appear in child pornography have not been abducted or physically forced to participate. In most cases the child knows the producer and it may even be their father who manipulates the child into taking part by more subtle means. Most children feel a pressure to cooperate with the offender and not to disclose the offense, both out of loyalty to the offender and a sense of shame about their own behavior.

Physical contact between a child and a perpetrator does not need to occur for a child to become a victim or for a crime to be committed. Innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material and distributed across the Internet without the victim’s knowledge (U.S. Department of Justice, 2001). Digital graphic software (i.e. Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft PhotoEditor) allow offenders to edit “innocent” pictures. After a picture is scanned into a computer, these image-editing programs can be used to put several photos together or to distort pictures and create a believable image of a reality that never existed. This process is called “morphing”. In some countries, morphed images or pictures are not illegal. Offenders may claim in court that a picture is morphed, no matter how disturbing, is not a picture of a real child or a situation which actually took place, and thus is not illegal.

In April 2002, the United States Supreme Court found that provisions of the Child Pornography Act (CPPA), which prohibited the depiction of virtual and simulated child pornography, were invalid under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Court found that in the absence of a “real” child, the Court could see no “direct link” between such images and the sexual abuse of children. The Court’s majority could not see a substantial risk of producers of child pornography using virtual images of children. Additionally, children can be exposed to “virtual” pornography. Virtual pornography is legal the United States and in some other countries.

In the 2005 Wolak study, almost all of the arrested child pornography possessors (91%) used home computers to access child pornography and almost one (1) in five (5) arrested (18%) used a home computer in more than one (1) location to access child pornography. Additionally, Wolak found that in fourteen percent (14%) of child pornography investigations, the offenders not only had possessed pornography but had sexually victimized children and two percent (2%) possessed pornography and attempted to sexually victimize children. Eighty-four percent (84%) of the investigations involving child pornography did not detect concurrent child sexual victimization or attempts at victimization (Wolak, 2005). According to the United States Postal Inspection Service, forty percent (40%) of child pornographers investigated have sexually molested children. From January 1997 through March 2004, 1,807 child pornographers were arrested and 620 (34%) of these offenders were confirmed child molesters (Kim, 2004).

Although most Internet pornography is created offline, technology has evolved to create “real” life pornography that can be viewed in real time, using web-cameras, phone cameras, digital cameras, and streaming video. A user can be notified of the date and time to log on the computer to view a child being sexually abused. The advent of mini-cameras has allowed for pictures and videos to be created without the subject’s knowledge. The user may pay money or exchange images with the direct abuser (Palmer, 2004).
These illegal images can be presented in various forms including print media, videotape, film, compact disc, read-only memory (CD-ROM), or digital versatile technology (DVD) (Klain, 2001) and can be transmitted through computer bulletin-board systems (BBS), USENET Newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat, web-based groups, peer-to-peer technology, and an array of constantly changing world wide web sites.

Using Child Pornography to Groom Children

Children can be exposed to pornography through spam or potential abusers. The accessibility of pornography online, the ease and perceived anonymity of transmission, and the environment of “virtuality” itself makes the use of pornography in online grooming easier for an abuser. Pornography is a tool for inducting and socializing a child into behaviors that reflect the content of the pornographic materials. Sex offenders frequently use pornography as a tool to assist them in the grooming process.

Children exploring the Internet for education and entertainment are at risk of encountering sexually explicit material, sexual exploitation, and offenses against children while remaining undetected by parents. Children are extremely vulnerable to victimization due to their curiosity, naiveté, and trusting nature. The Internet has become a conduit for sexually explicit material and offenses against children. In 2006, Wolak reported fifty-four percent (54%) of boys and forty-six percent (46%) of girls received unwanted exposure to sexual material. Ninety percent (90%) of all solicitations happened to teenagers (ages 13 to 17). Eighty-six percent (86%) received images of naked people and fifty-seven percent (57%) received pictures of people having sex and/or violent or deviant images. Lastly, eighty-three percent (83%) of unwanted exposures occurred when youth were surfing the web and eighty-nine percent (89%) of incidents the senders were unable to be identified.

Sex offenders use pornography to escalate the relationship with the child. According to the Klain study, the most common purposes for which offenders use child pornography are:

  • Pornography creates a permanent record for sexual arousal and gratification.
  • Pornography lowers the child’s inhibitions to engage in sexual behavior.
  • Pornography may be used to teach children how to behave, pose, or re-enact scenes.
  • Pornography may be used to blackmail child victims by threatening to show the photographs, videos, or other depictions to parents, friends, or teachers. The threat becomes more potent because the child may fear punishment by the criminal justice system.
  • Pornography created to sell for profit or trade between individuals. The Internet’s anonymity, enhanced by increasingly sophisticated encryption technology, facilitates the increasing demand for child pornography.

Repeated exposure to adult and child pornography is deliberately used to diminish the child’s inhibitions, break barriers to sexual arousal, desensitize the child that sex is normal, and arouse the victim. Children depicted in pictures are often smiling or have neutral expressions, a factor that appears to be designed to represent the children as willing participants in sexual or degrading acts. There is a recent trend for pictures to be taken in domestic settings such as a kitchen or bedroom, thus further “normalizing” the activity for children who view images.

It has been reported that children under ten (10) who have been exposed to sexually exploitative material have themselves become users of it. Eight percent (8%) of youths admitted to going voluntarily to X-rated sites. Children at most risk of being violated through pornography productions are within the home and family. The child knows their abuser as a parent, a relative, a guardian, or an acquaintance. In these situations, the abuse may be more likely to come to light inadvertently as a result of inquiries by social welfare and reports from neighbors, rather than as a result of police inquiries into online crime.

Reporting Internet Crimes

The impact of online child victimization (i.e. solicitation and harassment) is not completely understood. Family dynamics often play a significant role in children’s denial of a crime and their willingness to participate in the investigation and prosecution. A child’s ability to acknowledge and accept the crime can be linked to family values, peer pressure, and feelings of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Only three percent (3%) of all incidents of predators harassing children on the Internet is reported. The Crimes against Children Research Center found less than ten percent (10%) of sexual solicitations and only three percent (3%) of unwanted exposure episodes were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet service provider, or a hotline. In 2005, only one (1) incident out of more than 500 incidents of sexually explicit material was ever reported to an Internet service provider.

Online Language

Ninety-five percent (95%) of parents could not identify common chat room lingo that teenagers use to warn people they are chatting with that their parents were watching (NCMEC, 2005). Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents did not know the meaning of A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location) (NCMEC, 2005). Parents should watch for the following questionable abbreviations:

  • 53x means “sex”
  • 121 means “one to one”
  • A/S/L means age, sex, location. Watch for personal information being exchanged (i.e. 14/m/tx). This is a 14 year old male from Texas.
  • CYBER used as a verb and means “cybersex”
  • CONNECT means “to talk privately”
  • DIKU means “do I know you”
  • ESAD means “eat sh*t and die”
  • F2F, FTF means “face to face” or “let’s meet F2F”
  • FOAD means “f*ck off and die”
  • GP means “go private”
  • H4U means “hot for you”
  • H&K means “hugs and kisses”
  • ILU means “I love you”
  • IWALU means “I will always love you”
  • KOC means “kiss on the cheek”
  • KOL means “kiss on the lips”
  • LTR means “long term relationship”
  • LMIRL means “lets meet in real life”
  • LUWAMH means “love you with all my heart”
  • LU means “love you”
  • MOSS means “member of the same sex”
  • MOTOS means “member of the opposite sex”
  • MUSM means “miss you so much”
  • NIFOC means “naked in front of the computer”
  • OLL means “online love”
  • P2P means “person to person”
  • P911 means “my parents are coming”
  • PA means “parent alert”
  • PAL means “parents are listening”
  • PANB means “parents are near by”
  • PM means “private message or one on one chat”
  • POS means “parent over shoulder”
  • pr0n is an alternate spelling for porn or pornography
  • PDA means “public display of affection”
  • RL, IRL means “in real life as in “wants to see you IRL”
  • SWAK means “sealed with a kiss”
  • TOY means “thinking of you”
  • WIBNI means “wouldn’t it be nice if”
  • WTGP means “want to go private”
  • WUF means “where are you from”
  • WTF means “what the f*ck”

Acronyms and words used in daily IM or discussion boards

  • AFAIK means “as far as I know”
  • BTW means “by the way”
  • CUL means “see you later”
  • HHOK means “ha ha only kidding”
  • IANAL means “I am not a lawyer”
  • IIRC means “if I remember correctly”
  • IMHO means “in my humble opinion”
  • KEWL means “cool”
  • OMG means “oh my god”
  • OTOH means “on the other hand”
  • WUT^2 “what up with you too”

Characteristics of Youth Who Form Close Online Relationships

  • Sixteen percent (16%) of girls and twelve (12%) of boys have close online relationships.
  • Girls aged fourteen (14) to seventeen (17) were twice as likely as girls ten (10) to thirteen (13) to form close online relationships.
  • High parent-child conflict and being highly troubled were associated with close online relationships. Girls with high levels of parent-child conflict report yelling, nagging, and privileges by parents at higher levels than other girls. The highly troubled girls had levels of depression, victimization, and troubling life events at higher levels than other girls.
  • Boys who had low communications with their parents, and who also reported that their parents were less likely to know where and who they were with were the most strongly associated with close online relationships.
  • Girls and boys who reported high levels of Internet use and home Internet access were more likely to report close online relationships.
  • Youths with problems were most likely to attend a face-to-face meeting with people they first met online.

Warning Signs that a Child may be at Risk

  • Excessive use of online services especially during the late night hours
  • Unsupervised time in unmonitored chat rooms
  • Mood swings and withdraws
  • Greater desire to spend time with people online than with “real life” people
  • Unexplained files downloaded (i.e. .jpd, .gif, .bmp, .tif, .pcx, .mov, .avi, .wmv, or .mpg)

Defenses to Online Solicitation of a Minor

People are often arrested and charged with online solicitation when they meet the minor in question in person. However, it is important to note that a person can still be charged with this offense even if the meeting never occurs. Despite this, a person may be found innocent of online solicitation if one or both of the following apply:

  • He or she is legally married to the minor in question
  • He or she is less than three years older than the minor

Solicitation of a minor laws have frequently been challenged by defendants on the basis that they violate a defendant’s right to free speech, but have survived such claims. Viable defenses remaining will depend on a particular state’s laws. Some earlier laws required a defendant to actually communicate with a child and defendants could raise the defense of impossibility where prosecution involved communication with an officer who was merely posing as a child but who was in actuality an adult. In response to the success of the impossibility defense, many state statutes changed their laws to permit a conviction based on a defendant’s belief that they were talking to a minor. Other states have also built in “Romeo and Juliet” defenses for a defendant who is involved in a dating relationship with a child who was not more than three years younger than the defendant.

Although not an outright “defense,” another defensive angle is to prove that the defendant did not know that the person on the other end was a minor. Most states have strict liability laws — which means the state is not required to prove that a defendant knew how old the child was, only that the child was underage. However, some juries have engaged in “jury nullification,” by finding a defendant not guilty if they believed that the defendant did not have a reason to believe the child was underage. Showing that the conversation was just an online fantasy or proving that they never intended to actually meet the minor are generally not good defenses. Before a defendant decides to pursue a defensive theory, they should discuss the practicality of the defense with a criminal attorney in their area.
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Solicitation of a Minor: Misdemeanor or Felony?

Online solicitation of a minor is usually classified as a felony level offense. As with most felonies, the range of punishment can include a deferred or suspended sentence, up to several years in prison. A defendant in Texas can receive anywhere from two to twenty years in prison. Although a deferred sentence can allow a defendant to remain free, the restrictions of probation tend to be more intense for online solicitation charges because they are considered sexually related offenses. The court can order a defendant to submit to maintenance polygraphs, complete individual or group sex offender counseling, to submit to a sex offender evaluation, and to refrain from being around any children while on probation. The court can also require a defendant to pay for these programs which can run up to $500.00 or more per month.

The long-term consequences can be even more severe. Because online solicitation of a minor is considered a sexually related offense, a defendant can be required to register as a sex offender. If a defendant fails to register, they can be charged with a new felony offense of failure to register as a sex offender. Once a defendant has a sexually related offense on their record, some states will significantly increase the punishment for a second offense if a defendant is ever charged with another sexually related offense. Beyond the court system, online solicitation will also affect employment opportunities. With more open access to the court systems, more employers are performing background checks and will not hire certain candidates. Applicants with sexually related offenses are generally the first to get cut.

Contact Us

When you have been charged with a severe legal offense, it is very important to understand your rights and defense options. An experienced Houston Criminal Lawyer can help you decide what steps you need to take next. The attorneys of the Charles Johnson Law Firm are aggressive child sex crime defense lawyers who will make every effort to fight the allegations against you. Contact us for a free consultation today at 713-222-7577 anytime, night or day if you have been falsely accused of soliciting a minor online.

Arrested For Online Solicitation of a Minor? The Right Houston Criminal Lawyer Can Make a Difference
by Charles Johnson

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Facing Charges of Online Solicitation of a Minor? The Right Houston Criminal Lawyer Can Make a Difference

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Galveston men arrested for online solicitation of minors - Houston ...
Chron.com
Five men were arrested last month for online solicitation of minors after a combined effort from two police departments to identify and arrest suspected child predators, Galveston police announced on Wednesday. During the three-day operation between ...
5 arrested on suspicion of online solicitation of minor,...KPRC Houston

all 2 news articles »

Houston Chronicle

6 new indictments, 11 convictions from 2016 child sex sting in Montgomery County
Houston Chronicle
Translator. To read this article in one of Houston's most-spoken languages, click on the button below. ​ ▽. Isauro Flores Jr., criminal attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child. Austin Reyes, criminal attempted aggravated sexual assault of a ...


Chron.com

Police: 'Operation Broken Heart' nabs 13 Houston-area online ...
Chron.com
"Task force officers engage in communication with suspects using social media websites accessible to adults and children," detailed a news release by the city of Sugar Land. Through online communication, officers were able to direct suspects attempting ...
Mugshots: 16 men arrested in child predator sting across Houston ...KHOU
13 online child predators arrested in Sugar Land undercover ...CW39
Child Predator Sting Nets 16 Men In Houston Area - PatchPatch.com

all 5 news articles »

Facing Sex Crime Charges? Proven Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is Your Best Ally

Facing Sex Crime Charges? Proven Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is Your Best Ally

Crimes falling into the “sex crimes” category generally involve illegal or coerced sexual conduct by one person towards another. There are laws against unlawful sexual conduct in every state, and each state has its own time limit to bring a sexual-related lawsuit. People convicted of sex crimes are considered “sex offenders” by the state and face having their names added to state and federal sex offender registries. Below is a collection of crimes that are sexual in nature, and that carry severe consequences and penalties.

  • Child Pornography – Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor.
  • Criminal Solicitation of a Minor (Under 17) – On-line solicitation of a minor for a sexual purpose, that is, with intent to commit a sexual activity with that minor, is one of the most investigated and targeted activities by both federal and state law enforcement in this day and age.
  • Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student – Although the relationships are typically consensual, the teacher is prosecuted under a specific provision of the penal code prohibiting an Improper Relationship Between Educator & Student. It is important to note that the offense is neither limited to teachers nor limited to sexual contact; risqué text messages are enough
  • Indecent Exposure – Indecent exposure laws in most states make it a crime to purposefully display one’s genitals in public, causing others to be alarmed or offended. Indecent exposure is often committed for the sexual gratification of the offender, and may reach the level of a sexual assault if any physical contact is made.
  • Public Lewdness –  It is generally defined to be the intentional exposure of the genitals, buttocks or female breasts or committing  or attempting to engage in a sexual act in public where there is reason to believe you will and can be observed.
  • Prostitution – Generally, prostitution is the act of engaging in sexual activity by a person for a fee or a thing of economic value.  But the scope of the crime of prostitution has been widened to include all prostitution related offenses.  Thus a person is considered to commit an offense of prostitution if s/he engages in an act of prostitution willfully, solicits prostitution, or agrees to engage in an act of prostitution.
  • Sexual Assault/Rape – Sexual assault generally refers to any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. These crimes can range from sexual groping or assault/battery, to attempted rape.
  • Sexual Assault of a Child (Statutory Rape) – Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the “age of consent.” People below the age of consent cannot legally consent to having sex. This means that sex with them, by definition, violates the law.
  • Solicitation – It’s illegal to entice someone else to commit a crime (such as prostitution). This article explains the elements to prove solicitation, as well as defenses and penalties.

Houston Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Sex crimes can carry very significant criminal penalties, and even those that carry relatively short jail sentences can result in lifelong registration requirements, public notice, employment restrictions and many other problems.

If you’ve been accused of a sex crime, it’s critical that you understand all of the risks involved before taking any action. You may not have the knowledge and experience necessary to take the steps required to protect yourself and your future. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Attorney Charles Johnson for more clarification and guidance.

We can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

Facing Sex Crime Charges? Proven Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson is Your Best Ally

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Houston Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Houston Homicide Lawyer Charles Johnson

Federal and state laws make it a crime to produce, possess, distribute, or sell pornographic materials that exploit or portray a minor. Increasingly, child pornography laws are being utilized to punish use of computer technology and the Internet to obtain, share, and distribute pornographic material involving children, including images and films.

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where

  • the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that

  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

Who Is a Minor?
For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.

Is Child Pornography a Crime?
Yes, it is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252).  In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography.  As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges.

Where Is Child Pornography Predominantly Found?
Child pornography exists in multiple formats including print media, videotape, film, CD-ROM, or DVD.  It is transmitted on various platforms within the Internet including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, websites, and peer-to-peer technology.

What Motivates People Who Possess Child Pornography?
Limited research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors are a diverse group, including people who are

  • sexually interested in prepubescent children or young adolescents, who use child pornography for sexual fantasy and gratification
  • sexually “indiscriminate,” meaning they are constantly looking for new and different sexual stimuli
  • sexually curious, downloading a few images to satisfy that curiosity
  • interested in profiting financially by selling images or setting up web sites requiring payment for access

Who Possesses Child Pornography?
It is difficult to describe a “typical” child pornography possessor because there is not just one type of person who commits this crime.

In a study of 1,713 people arrested for the possession of child pornography in a 1-year period, the possessors ran the gamut in terms of income, education level, marital status, and age.  Virtually all of those who were arrested were men, 91% were white, and most were unmarried at the time of their crime, either because they had never married (41%) or because they were separated, divorced, or widowed (21%).3

Forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.4

Who Produces Child Pornography?
Based on information provided by law enforcement to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, more than half of the child victims were abused by someone who had legitimate access to them such as parents, other relatives, neighborhood/family friends, babysitters, and coaches.

What is the Nature of These Images?
The content in these illegal images varies from exposure of genitalia to graphic sexual abuse, such as penetration by objects, anal penetration, and bestiality.

Of the child pornography victims identified by law enforcement, 42% appear to be pubescent, 52% appear to be prepubescent, and 6% appear to be infants or toddlers.

What Are the Effects of Child Pornography on the Child Victim?
It is important to realize that these images are crime scene photos – they are a permanent record of the abuse of a child. The lives of the children featured in these illegal images and videos are forever altered. Once these images are on the Internet, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The child is revictimized as the images are viewed again and again.

Houston Child Pornography Defense Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

Depending on the facts of your case and the evidence against you, we work to help you beat a false accusation or try to lessen the punishment. We understand your freedom is at stake and that a conviction of possession of child pornography may result in lifetime registration as a sex offender. To protect your rights and liberty, we conduct thorough investigations to prepare for trial or to minimize the consequences or sentence.

can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Call us at 713-222-7577 or toll free at 877-308-0100.
Major Credit Cards Accepted.

Related News Stories – Child Pornography in Houston, TX

Charged with Sexual Assault? Protect Your Future With the Leading Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer

Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson

Unlike many other types of criminal defense cases, sexual assault defense cases require an extremely delicate touch. Sexual assault is a term which encompasses rape, attempted rape, sexual abuse and battery, molestation, and other crimes.

One of the most difficult aspects of sexual assault defense is the fact that there are rarely ever any witnesses to sexual assault crimes. In addition to the lack of witnesses, there is usually little evidence a rape, attempted rape, molestation, or other sex crime, ever occurred. Taking away evidence and witnesses, what we are left with is one word vs. another – the victim’s claim, and the suspect’s defense, both people’s lives often drastically affected by the severity of the event and the legal outcome.

It is the responsibility of your lawyer to thoroughly research all aspects of your case and assist you with whatever legal facilitation you need through this difficult time.

Don’t Make A Serious Mistake: Make The Right Choice For Your Sex Crimes Defense Attorney

If you or someone you care about is facing a charge of rape or sexual assault, you can’t afford to make a mistake with who you hire as your Houston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney. These types of criminal charges demand an attorney that has defended these types of cases successfully for many years. Our proven results are among the best in the legal profession in Texas. We know how to very aggressively and successfully defend Texas sex crime charges, and we know how to make sure you are legally protected to the maximum extent possible.

Make the wrong move – hire an attorney who only handles these cases “occasionally,” or hire an attorney based on the lowest fee you’re quoted – and you may find yourself in prison for something you may not be legally guilty of doing. If you are in this situation right now, you probably have a hundred questions to ask. Contact Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 for your free consultation. Attorney Johnson will help you decide what, legally, you need to do.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual Assault” is any form of sexual contact or penetration that is committed against another person without his or her consent.  Victims of sexual assault can be compelled to participate through physical force, fear, coercion, deception, or the use of intoxicants such as drugs or alcohol.  Some types of sexual violence that doesn’t involve force or other forms of compulsion are still considered criminal.

Sexual Assault is broadly defined as the full range of forced sexual acts, including forced touching or kissing; verbally coerced intercourse; and vaginal, oral, and anal penetration. Researchers typically include in this category only acts of this nature that occur during adolescence or adulthood; in other words, childhood sexual abuse is defined separately. Both men and women can be sexually assaulted and can commit sexual assault. The vast majority of sexual assaults, however, involve male perpetrators and female victims.

Other examples of sexual assault include:

Date or acquaintance rape which involves non-consensual sexual intercourse committed by a date or someone known to the victim, such as an acquaintance, friend, co-worker, date, or spouse.  This includes incidents where the victim is unable to provide consent (e.g. unconscious, asleep, or under the influence of a substance). Most rapes are acquaintance rapes.

Alcohol-involved rape: Rape in which the perpetrator, the victim, or both are under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.

Attempted rape: An act that fits the definition of rape, in terms of the strategies used, but does not result in penetration.

Childhood sexual abuse: Sexual abuse that occurs to a child (the term “child” is generally defined as age 13 or younger). Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) to a child with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.

Date rape: Rape committed by someone that the victim is dating. Among college students, approximately one-half of all rapes are committed by a date.

Marital rape: Rape committed by the victim’s spouse. Marital rape often is committed in association with verbal and physical abuse.

Stranger rape: Rape committed by someone that the victim does not know. Less than 20 percent of rapes are committed by strangers, although most people believe that stranger rape is the prototypical rape.

Flashing” or “Exhibitionism” involves the exposure of a person’s genitals to cause alarm or fear in another person or to provoke sexual interest in the viewer.

Peeping” or “Voyeurism” is secretively observing someone, without the person’s permission, for the purpose of sexual gratification.

Stalking” or “Cyber stalking” are forms of harassment generally comprised of repeated and persistent following, calling, writing, texting, etc. with no legitimate reason and with the intention of harming, or so as to arouse anxiety or fear of harm in the person being followed or contacted.

Anyone — men, women, and even children — can be sexually assaulted.  Sexual assault is usually defined as sexual activity between two or more people in which one of the people is coerced or threatened with harm.  The sexual activity may include fondling, sexual intercourse, oral sex, and/or anal sex. The sexual aggressor can be a family member, like a husband or father, or a friend, date, acquaintance, or stranger.

Sexual assault is a crime that has become an epidemic problem.  Sexual assault can be an extremely stressful, terrifying event and can severely disrupt the victim’s lifestyle and coping patterns.  During a sexual assault, the victim may have feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty about whether he or she will survive.  Frequently the victim’s life is directly threatened and the victim may be physically injured in a variety of ways.  At the same time, the victim must remain alert, trying to protect him or herself from even more harm. Children who may be present are often threatened, adding to the terror and causing the victim to feel responsible for protecting them.

Studies show that the impact of sexual assault varies from person to person.  Victims may no longer feel safe, may lose self-esteem, feel powerless, and lose the ability to trust others or develop intimacy.  The more terrifying the assault, and the more the person’s life is threatened, the more problems victims usually have afterwards.  Having suffered previous traumatic events can also contribute to greater problems.

Sexual assault of adolescent and adult women has been called a silent epidemic, because it occurs at high rates yet is rarely reported to the authorities. Several reasons contribute to the underreporting of sexual assault cases. Many victims do not tell others about the assault, because they fear that they will not be believed or will be derogated, which, according to research findings, is a valid concern. Other victims may not realize that they have actually experienced legally defined rape or sex­ual assault, because the incident does not fit the prototypic scenario of “stranger rape.” For example, in a study by Abbey and colleagues, a woman wrote, “For years I believed it was my fault for being too drunk. I never called it ‘rape’ until much more recently, even though I repeatedly told him ‘no’.”
Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson

Defendants Charged With Sexual Assault

Unfortunately in many of these cases there is a tendency to favor the victim’s claim and assume that he or she is telling the truth, no matter the actual believability of the story. The courts are supposed to be fair and equal, but that is not always the case. This is why it is imperative that you find a lawyer that believes you, is on your side, and will be aggressive in making sure your story is heard while defending your rights and fighting for your freedom.

Whether there is evidence of a crime or not, an effective and experienced criminal defense lawyer should know how the legal system works and how to best defend your rights and your case. Sexual Assault defense requires many resources including precision, experience, knowledge, and dedication, all aspects that you will find when working with our lawyers. At the Charles Johnson Law Firm, we defend each of our clients with every available tactic, legal technique, investigative research, and more to secure their vindication and release. In short, we will do our best to win your case.

If you have been charged with, or are charging someone with sexual assault of any sort, please protect your rights and contact Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

Victims of Sexual Assault in Society

Cultural and Religious Issues

Issues having the most profound impact on victims may, in part, be attributed to their cultural or religious backgrounds. For some victims, problems associated with poverty and discrimination, as well as inadequate access to quality health care, already have resulted in a high incidence of victimization. There may exist a general distrust of medical and law enforcement personnel who play vital roles in the aftermath of sexual assault, particularly if there has been a history of unpleasant or disappointing experiences with these professionals.

In some cultures, the loss of virginity is an issue of paramount importance which may render the victim unacceptable for an honorable marriage. In other cultures, the actual event of the assault may be a more significant issue of concern for the family than is the victim’s loss of virginity.

Some religious doctrines prohibit a female from being disrobed in the presence of a male who is not her husband. A genital examination by a male physician also may be forbidden. These practices are often considered a further violation of the victim, the family or both.

The Elderly Victim

As with most other victims, elderly victims experience extreme humiliation, shock, disbelief and denial. However, full emotional impact of the assault may not be felt until the victim is alone, well after initial contact with physicians, police, legal and advocacy groups. During this time, elderly victims must deal with having been violated and possibly infected with sexually transmitted diseases. This is also when the elderly become more acutely aware of their physical vulnerability, reduced resilience and mortality.  Fear, anger or depression can be especially severe in elderly victims who are isolated, have no confidant or live on meager incomes. Fear of losing independence as a result of family members learning about the sexual assault can be a strong deterrent to reporting.  Recognizing that the offender may be a family member, friend or caretaker is also important.

The Victim with Disabilities

Persons having mental or developmental disabilities may be confused or frightened, unsure of what occurred, or they may not even understand that they have been exploited and are victims of a crime. In sexual assault cases involving victims with mental or developmental disabilities, using anatomically detailed dolls has proven to be a successful means of communication. Only those specifically trained in their use should use anatomically detailed dolls. In some cases, offenders may be family members, caretakers or friends who inflict repeated abuse because their victims are not able to report the crimes against them.

The Male Victim

It is believed that the number of adult male victims of sexual assault who report the crime or seek medical care or counseling represents only a very small percentage of those actually victimized. Although many adult males do not seek medical care unless they also have been seriously injured, male child victims are now being seen at hospitals in increasing numbers. This increase, in large measure, is a direct result of public education and more stringent child abuse reporting laws throughout the nation.

The male victim may have serious concerns regarding his inability to prevent the assault. There also may be confusion about the nature of his role as victim/participant because of a possible involuntary physiological response to the assault, such as stimulation to ejaculation. Male victims need reassurance that they were the victims of a violent crime which was not their fault, and that other sexually assaulted males have survived to function normally in every way.

The Child and Adolescent Victim

Children are not small adults either physiologically or emotionally.  Just as the physical examination protocol for children is different from the protocol for adults, the emotional needs of the child are also different. Children require the services of individuals specifically trained to provide the crisis intervention, medical examination and long-term treatment that will surely be needed as a result of acute sexual assault or chronic sexual abuse.

Adolescents are experiencing a transition from childhood to adulthood and show extremely variable reactions which may be a reflection of their individual developmental stage. There is no typical adolescent victim, and the approach to each is a challenge for even the most experienced practitioner.  Acquaintance or “date rape” may be the most under-reported type of sexual assault.  Clearly, access to long-term treatment by specifically trained individuals is essential for all child and adolescent victims.

The Domestic Violence Victim

Sexual assault by a spouse or other familial is a grave indicator of the danger a victim faces and must be taken seriously.  Forced sex is a factor in determining the potential for lethality; a woman who is raped by her partner is more likely to die at his hands. Medical personnel must determine whether the victim is a domestic violence victim so proper services and referrals can be provided.

A victim who has been sexually assaulted by a partner has likely been suffering other forms of violence during the relationship. Many victims keep physical, emotional and sexual abuse hidden from friends and family members for numerous reasons: many religions and cultures prohibit divorce, the victim believes that the abuse is deserved or does not realize a crime has been committed, the victim has no support system, the victim is financially dependent upon the abuser, or the victim fears the abuser will harm or take the children.

The Homosexual Victim

Homosexual male and lesbian victims are often reluctant to seek services for a number of reasons. There is concern of encountering barriers of prejudice or homophobia, as well as fears that the assault will not be taken seriously or even perceived as a crime. Many times the homosexual community in a given area is small; this results in limited access to qualified service providers, and the fear that the entire community will find out about the attack. Another consideration is that the victim’s family, friends or co-workers may not be aware of the victim’s sexual orientation.  Fears of ostracism by peers and family can be more traumatizing for the victim than the attack.

Bisexual and transgender victims are also at high risk for encountering prejudice and ridicule as a result of reporting sexual assault. Recognizing that sexual assault is always a crime and knowing appropriate referrals for victims who are not heterosexual is essential for all involved.

Victimization Involving Alcohol/ Drugs

Alcohol is the drug most frequently used to facilitate sexual assault. Victims often believe that because they voluntarily consumed alcohol, ecstasy or some other drug, they are to blame for the assault. It is important to understand that intoxication and the resulting diminished abilities are not causes of sexual assault; they are tools used to aid in commission of this crime.

Victims who have ingested a drug or combination of drugs may not be aware that they have been sexually assaulted. Victims may experience unexplainable soreness or injuries or a disheveled appearance. Events described as “dreamlike” or that cannot be remembered at all are strong indicators that toxicology screens are warranted and should be discussed.

Victim Reactions to Sexual Assault

After a sexual assault, victims can experience a range of responses.  However, some patterns are especially common.  Some victims report that they have repeated and frequent memories of the sexual assault that intrude on their thoughts and cannot be controlled; flashbacks, or a feeling as if they are reliving the sexual assault; nightmares; and difficulty sleeping.  In addition, sexual assault victims may experience feelings of being “on edge,” having trouble concentrating, feeling the need to continually watch over their shoulder, or being easily startled (for example, jumping at the sound of someone’s voice from behind).  Victims also report that they tend to avoid reminders of the sexual assault, including avoiding places that may resemble the place where they were assaulted; may feel less interested in things that they used to enjoy; and may feel emotionally numb.  Victims may also withdraw from social interaction or settings.  When these problems persist and disrupt daily life, mental health professionals call this group of symptoms posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to PTSD, sexual assault victims frequently find that they feel depressed and hopeless about the future, which can lead to thoughts about suicide.  Many victims also report that they feel like the sexual assault was somehow “their fault,” resulting in feelings of self-blame and self-doubt.  Frequently, sexual assault victims also say that they feel generally unsafe and often have difficulties with trust and intimacy.  It is also common for sexual assault victims to have questions about their physical health and develop problems related to their sexual functioning.  Lastly, sexual assault victims may resort to using drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms.

Women who become victims of sexual assault typically experience the victimization as a traumatic event. There are common reactions to this kind of trauma or shock; but at the same time, each woman responds in her own unique way.

  1. Fear responses:  The most common victim reaction to sexual assault is fear. At the time of the assault, most victims have an overwhelming experience is fear — of being physically injured (beaten, cut, shot, etc.) or even of being killed. Fear responses associated with the assault (to certain sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, etc.) can persists for weeks, months, or even years. Victims who have been assaulted typically avoid anything which reminds them of the assault (places, situations, people, etc.). Some men and women become so fearful that they greatly restrict their activities, even to the point that they are unable to leave their homes or to be left alone.
  2.  Losing control:  After experiencing a sexual assault, many men and women fear that they are losing control over their lives. They have been forced to participate in an act that was against their wills. They lost control over their lives at the time of the assault, and this feeling of loss of control may continue after the assault.
  3. Flashbacks:  Victims may re-experience the assault over and over again in their thoughts and/or in their dreams. When this happens, it is almost as though the assault is actually occurring again. This re­experience of the event is called a flashback.
  4. Trouble concentrating: Sexual assault victims may find that they have trouble concentrating on things. It is as though they cannot keep their minds on what they are doing. This is can be frustrating and add to the sense of loss of control.
  5. Guilty feelings:  The most common source of guilty feelings are the result of self-blame. The victims tells him- or herself such things as, “I should not have been out that late,” or “I should have been dressed differently,” or “If I had been more careful about locking the door, this would not have happened.” Sexual assault victims may also feel guilty about what they had to in order to survive the assault, such as activities the victim felt he or she had to engage in in an effort to save him- or herself from serious physical harm or even death. In some instances, guilty feelings result from the fact that others may have been seriously harmed more than the victim herself. This is referred to as survivor’s guilt.
  6. Feeling “dirty”: Self-image frequently suffers as a result of the assault. Many victims report feeling “dirty” and may take frequent showers in an effort to feel clean.
  7. Depression: Another common reaction to sexual assault is a sense of sadness or depression. There may be feelings of hopelessness and despair, frequent crying spells, and sometimes even thoughts of suicide. A loss of interest in activities and things that previously were enjoyable often accompanies these feelings of sadness and despair. Nothing seems like it is fun anymore.
  8. Disrupted relationships: It is not unusual to see a disruption in relationships with others after a sexual assault. This is, in part, a result of the withdrawn behavior that frequently accompanies sadness and depression. The victim may also feel embarrassment and ashamed about what happened to them. However, the support of friends and family plays a vitally important role in the victim’s recovery from the trauma of sexual assault.
  9. Loss of interest in sex: After an assault it is not unusual for the victim to experience a significant loss of interest in sexual relations. It is understandable that sexual assault trauma would lead to an avoidance of sexual activity. There may be other factors involved, however. For instance, it is very common for people who are depressed to experience a decrease in libido or sexual drive.

Sexual Paraphilias (Sexual Deviations)

Definition: Receiving Sexual Arousal or Gratification in Response to Objects, Situations, and/or Non-Consenting Partners

Sexual paraphilias are commonly referred to as “sexual deviations”. There are four of these disorders, 1) sexual dysfunctions, 2) paraphilias, 3) gender identity disorders, and 4) sexual disorder not otherwise specified.

The essential feature of a paraphiliac disorder is reoccurring sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving: (1) Non-human objects, (2) the suffering or humiliation of oneselfor one’s partner (not merely simulated), or (3) children or other nonconsenting partners.

For some individuals with a paraphilia, the paraphiliac fantasies or stimuli may always benecessary for erotic arousal and are always included in the individual’s sexual activity (including criminal activity).

In others, it occurs only episodically, i.e. during periods of stress. At other times, the person canfunction sexually without the paraphiliac fantasy or stimuli. In some instances, the paraphiliacbehavior may become the major sexual activity in this person’s life.

It is commonly accepted that when an individual is identified as having one paraphilia, there areat least one or more additional paraphilias. These individuals rarely seek treatment on their own; usually they come to the attention of mental health professionals only when their behavior has brought them into conflict with sexual partners or society (i.e. they get arrested for criminal behavior).

Any or all of the paraphilias may be exhibited by an offender during a sexual assault of a victim (adult or child). The following is a comparison of the recognized sexual paraphilias to criminal conduct:

COPROPHILIA
Feces.
False imprisonment, assault.
EXHIBITIONISM
The exposure of one’s genitals to a stranger.
Indecent exposure.
Disorderly (lewd) conduct.
FETISHISM
Nonliving objects (fetishes). The individual frequently masturbates while holding, rubbing or smelling the object or asks his partner to wear the object.
Burglary, theft, rape.
FROTTEURISM
Touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting (or unknowing) partner.
Assault, battery, sexual battery.
HYPOXYPHILIA (KOTZWARRAISM)
Producing sexual excitement by mechanical or chemical asphyxiation (hypoxia).
Accidental death, involuntary manslaughter.
INFIBULATION
Cutting, alteration, branding, infusion of the genitals (one’s own or another’s)
Assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, sexual battery, mayhem.
KLISMAPHILIA
Enemas.
Penetration by foreign object.
MASOCHISM
The person is aroused by being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.
Disorderly conduct; prostitution.
NECROPHILIA
Sexual arousal with corpses.
Burglary, unauthorized mutilation, theft.
PARTIALISM
Exclusive focus on part of a body (living).
Sexual battery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon.
PEDOPHILIA
Sexual attraction to another who is legally a child (prepubescent child).
Rape, lewd or lascivious acts with a child, oral copulation, penetration by foreign object, sodomy, annoying children, child pornography, kidnapping.
PIQUERISM
Piercing of the body.
Assault with a deadly weapon, sexual battery, mayhem, tattooing.
SADISM
Receiving sexual arousal or gratification inresponse to another’s suffering (physical orpsychological).
Rape, oral copulation, sodomy, penetration by foreign object, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, murder.
TELEPHONE SCATOLOGIA
Talking lewdly, on the telephone, usually to strangers.
Obscene phone calls.
TRANSVESTISM
Cross-dressing, wearing the clothing of the opposite sex.
Disorderly conduct, prostitution, theft, burglary, robbery.
UROPHILIA
Urine.
Assault, false imprisonment.
VOYEURISM
Observing unsuspecting people who are naked or engaging in sexual activity.
Disorderly conduct; “peeping” and prowling.
ZOOPHILIA
Animals.
Sexually assaulting an animal.

Texas law covers a long list of sex crimes, from rape and sexual assault to statutory rape and indecent exposure. They are all serious offenses, but among the most serious is involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Similar to rape, it’s a crime centered around forcible sexual intercourse. Penalties can be severe, especially if a child is involved.
Sex Crime Defense Charles Johnson Law FirmIf you are facing involuntary deviate sexual intercourse charges in the Houston area, contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson, an experienced involuntary deviate sexual intercourse defense attorney in Texas. Call today. It is important to start working on your defense right away.

We Defend All Sex Crime Charges

Our sexual assault defense practice helps people charged with, but not limited to:

  • Child molestation, possession of child pornography, sexual assault
  • Statutory rape, sodomy, rape
  • Deviant sexual assault, sexual misconduct, enticement of minors

A conviction can mean jail or prison time as well as thousands of dollars of fines. A conviction can also require lifetime registration as a sexual offender. These sex offender registrations are open to the public including family members and employers. Failure to register as a sex offender can result in new convictions and incarceration.

Through training and experience we have a unique view and ability to handle theses types of cases. These types of cases have unique and special rules that other types of cases do not. We have experience to deal with those issues such as:

  • Special hearsay rules for child witnesses
  • Dealing with forensic interviews by law enforcement or therapists.
  • Interpreting clinical medical exams such as SAFE exams.
  • Obtaining and using evidence of prior instances of abuse from state agencies.
  • Dealing with the child witness on the witness stand.

No matter what type of sex crime you are charged with, we will respect your dignity and work to protect your reputation.

Hire the Best Sexual Assault Lawyer: Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson

Sexual Assault is a serious, life-changing event and allegation, which is why the courts take the claims so seriously. However, too frequently, there is a lack of evidence and witnesses that helps the criminal defense attorney working for the defendant to win the case. A defendant may sometimes avoid prosecution and punishment simply by just claiming a rape, molestation, attempted rape or other sexual assault act never happened.

Sometimes the prosecutor’s office is so inundated with cases that your personal case may not receive the attention it deserves. With extensive expertise in the area of sexual assault, good criminal defense lawyers are in a unique position to predict the probable legal maneuvers of the defendant’s lawyers and to address and challenge those maneuvers before they become an issue or a possible way for the defense lawyers to win their client’s case.

For this reason it is an extremely smart idea to hire the best criminal defense attorney to ensure your case is given the time and importance it should have. Contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson directly at (713) 222-7577 now to discuss your case. He is available around the clock to take your call.

 

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Facing False Charges of Child Abuse? Select the Leading Houston Child Abuse Lawyer Charles Johnson

If you have been falsely accused of Child Abuse, it is essential that you hire a Houston Child Abuse Lawyer who specializes in these types of cases to protect your legal rights. A conviction for Child Abuse can lead to serious legal consequences, including the loss of your right to be around children, the loss of the right to be with your own children, and time in jail. A conviction for Child Abuse charges can also lead to more personal consequences like embarrassment and a life-long label as a child abuser. Courts, as well as the public, are generally eager to convict and punish an individual who is responsible for exposing a child to abuse. A child’s testimony may have the ability to sway the outcome of a trial, even if their testimony is not accurate. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson specializes in effectively and successfully defending his clients against Child Abuse charges. You can contact him directly anytime night or day at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

What is Child Abuse?

According to Chapter 261 of the Family Code (recodified in 1995), child abuse is an act or omission that endangers or impairs a child ‘s physical, emotional or mental health and development. Child abuse may take the form of physical or emotional injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, physical neglect, medical neglect, or inadequate supervision.

The law specifically excludes “reasonable” discipline by the child’s conservator, parent, or guardian; corporal punishment is not in itself abusive under the law. An act or omission is abusive only if “material and observable impairment” occurs as a result, or if it causes “substantial harm,” or exposes the child to risk of substantial harm.

Neglect, like physical and emotional abuse, hinges on substantial harm or observable and material impairment. The law excludes from its definition of neglect any failure to provide for the child that is due to lack of financial resources. A child living in poverty is not a victim of neglect under the Texas Family Code except in cases where relief has been offered and refused by the child’s parent, conservator, or guardian .

A person commits abuse if they place a child, or allows a child to be placed, in a situation where the child is exposed to “substantial risk” of injury or harm. The law also clearly states that a person commits abuse if they fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent another person from abusing a child.

If you have been charged with Child Abuse, one of the most important steps you can take is to not speak with anyone other than your lawyer about the details of the case. Often times, defendants incriminate themselves by speaking to the police or engaging in phone conversations where certain statements can be taken out of context.

You need a Child Abuse Lawyer who will treat your Child Abuse defense seriously. Being charged with Child Abuse could have a devastating impact on your life and the lives of your family. Houston Criminal Lawyer Charles Johnson will diligently fight for your rights, reputation and future. Contact him now at (713) 222-7577 for expert legal guidance.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse typically occurs when a frustrated parent or caregiver strikes, shakes, or throws a child because of anger. Other forms of deliberate assault that may be physically abusive include burning, scalding, biting, kicking, cutting, poking, twisting a child’s limbs, deliberately withholding food, binding, gagging, choking, or hitting the child with a closed fist or other instrument. If it results in injury, any form of corporal punishment may be abusive.

Physical injuries resulting from child abuse can run the gamut from lacerations, burns, and bruises, to head injuries, broken bones, broken teeth, and damage to internal organs. Context, circumstances, and the exact nature of the wounds usually set apart the injuries resulting from abuse. Specially trained professionals must make the determination whether a child has actually been abused or not.

Due to the delicate and sensitive nature of a child abuse case, it is important to have the advice and the counsel of a professional who is experienced in this type of case. Houston Attorney Charles Johnson specializes in cases that deal with Child Abuse. Don’t take chances with your future. Contact him today.

Unexplained Death of a Child

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant—a child between one month and one year old. It is frightening because it is strikes without warning, and medical science has been unable to determine exactly why it happens.

SUDC (Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood) is the sudden and unexpected death of a child over the age of twelve months, which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation is conducted. Similar to SIDS, SUDC is a diagnosis of exclusion – given when all known and possible causes of death have been ruled out. By definition, SIDS applies only to the death of babies younger than 12 months, while SUDC victims are past their first birthday whose deaths go unexplained even after an autopsy, a death scene investigation and medical history review.

The death of an infant due to SIDS or SUDC is a devastating event that can leave parents feeling sad, guilty, angry, and confused. Although we all do our best to keep children safe, sometimes the worst happens and kids suffer major injuries. If your child has been seriously hurt and you need legal advice, contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson anytime at (713) 222-7577 for a free case review.

Shaken Baby Syndrome

There is a growing trend of misdiagnosed Shaken Baby Syndrome cases occurring in America today. Typically, a parent or caretaker is falsely accused of murdering or injuring a baby by shaking him or her, when the actual cause of the death or injury occurs from another source.

If a child is held by the shoulders or chest and shaken violently, often no external injury is visible. The impact of the brain on the inside of the skull may prove damaging or even fatal, especially if the child is less than two years old or is shaken repeatedly. Symptoms of injury include vomiting and seizures. An infant who is violently shaken may suffer convulsions, permanent brain damage, and death. A young child who survives a severe shaking episode may be blind, deaf, or otherwise disabled as a result. Even less violent shaking of older children may cause neurological deficits, as well as learning and behavioral disorders.

If you have been charged with child abuse involving Shaken Baby Syndrome, it is important to contact an immediately to begin gathering all necessary medical information and begin preparation of your case. If your child or a child you have been caring for has been injured or has passed away, you already have too much to deal with. Do not let overzealous prosecutors portray you as a violent child abuser.

Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse remains, in the overwhelming majority of cases, a crime perpetrated by members of the child’s family and circle of trust. Sexual abuse is defined in the Family Code as any sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare as well as failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct with a child. A person who compels or encourages a child to engage in sexual conduct commits abuse, and it is against the law to make or possess child pornography, or to display such material to a child.

If you are facing potential Child Sexual Abuse charges, it is critical that you use a legal defense team with specific experience and expertise dealing with crimes against children. Call Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson at (713) 222-7577 for a free, confidential initial consultation. Early intervention is critical to obtaining the best results.

Best Child Abuse Defense AttorneySexual abuse may consist of a single incident or many acts over a long period of time. Boys and girls of any age can be victims of sexual abuse. The molester can be just about anyone, but most often, it is someone known to the child. The abuse may escalate over time, particularly if the abuser is a member of the child’s own family. The child’s non-abusing caregiver(s) may be unaware of the abuse or may be in a state of denial.

Child sexual abuse includes fondling, lewd or lascivious exposure or behavior, intercourse, sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, child pornography, child prostitution, and any other “sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.” These acts may be forced upon the child or the child may be coaxed, seduced, and persuaded to cooperate. The absence of force or coercion does not diminish the abusive nature of the conduct, but, sadly, it may cause the child to feel responsible for what has occurred.

It is extremely difficult for a child to report sexual abuse. A very young child may not understand that what has happened is not normal or accepted. More importantly, the abuser almost always discourages the child from telling anyone about the abuse. The strategies for silencing a sexual abuse victim are as ruthless as they are varied. The abuser may be someone whom the child depends upon and trusts; s/he may use the child’s dependency and affection to extort a promise of secrecy. A more brutal perpetra­tor may threaten to harm and even kill the child or other family members or pets. Or the abuser may tell the child that the family will be broken up, the child blamed, or the child taken away from home if the secret becomes known. These are not altogether unrealistic fears for the child, unfortunately.

For many people, an allegation or disclosure of sexual abuse is indeed hard to accept. This is particularly true when the perpetrator is a family member or an otherwise law-abiding, respectable, and seemingly “nice,” “normal” person. Many adults have a tendency to overlook, discount, minimize, explain away, or simply disbelieve allegations of sexual abuse. Yet children rarely lie or invent stories on their own about being sexually abused. The fact that children can sometimes be manipulated or coached should not dissuade anyone from reporting a child’s revelation of sexual abuse. All responsible adults, but particularly those who work with children, should be aware that sexual abuse occurs and should be alert for the opportunity to aid a child who attempts to disclose abuse. The child’s need for support and protection must come first.

Sexual assault by a stranger versus a family member

Sexual assault of a child is a violation of the Penal Code, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a stranger or family member. Assault by a stranger and assault by a family member may involve similar criminal charges. In addition, an assault by a family member, especially one who lives in the household with the child, may be the basis for a civil action such as removal of the child from the home. In fact, assaults by strangers are much less common than assaults by persons known to the child. Perhaps the most common scenario for child sexual assault involves the male partner of a young girl’s mother (the girl is assaulted by her father, stepfather, or her mother’s boyfriend).

Child molesters

The child molester is sexually attracted to children (usually children of a certain age) and assaults them to obtain sexual gratification. While anyone of any age, race, or gender can be a child molester, this person is typically an adult heterosexual male. Most often, molestation is not a “stranger” assault, and may not involve force. Many child molesters relate quite well to children and seek out professions, jobs, or volunteer positions that give them access to children. They often make or collect child pornography.

Their methods of seduction may include bribes and the use of pornography depicting sex between adults and children the age of the intended victim. The relationship with the child may develop over a period of weeks or months, becoming increasingly coercive and invasive. Child molesters repeatedly offend and may molest or attempt to molest literally hundreds of children before being caught. The victims, while frequently befriended by the child molester, are generally not related by blood or marriage.

Molestation is an umbrella term that includes a number of sex offenses against children including, but not limited to:

A person convicted of any of the above acts will suffer extensive damage to their personal, professional, and social life in addition to other serious penalties and punishments including imprisonment, loss of rights, financial reimbursement to the victim, and more.

Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson has a wealth of experience handling sex crime cases and will work diligently to ensure your legal rights and interests are protected every step of the way. His firm is dedicated to thoroughly investigating your case, building a strong defense, negotiating with other parties to dismiss or reduce your charges, and more. If you want someone who is on your side, please contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson today for a complimentary consultation.

Sexual Assault of a Child as Defined by Law

Like all states, Texas protects children from sexual contact short of statutory rape. Like statutory rape, consent is not an issue, the age of consent is 17, and there is an affirmative defense if the two parties are close in age:

§ 21.11. INDECENCY WITH A CHILD.  (a) A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years and not the person’s spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person:

(1)  engages in sexual contact [defined below]with the child or causes

the child to engage in sexual contact;  or

(2)  with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(A)  exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the    child is  present;  or

(B)  causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.

(b)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:

(1)  was not more than three years older than the victim and of the opposite sex;

(2)  did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim at the time of the offense;  and

(3)  at the time of the offense:

(A)  was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register    for life as a sex offender;  or

(B)  was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or    adjudication for an offense under this section.

(c)  In this section, “sexual contact” means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(1)  any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or  any part of the genitals of a child;  or

(2)  any touching of any part of the body of a child, including touching through clothing,  with the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a person.

(d)  An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree and an offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a felony of the third degree.

Sexual Assault (Statutory Rape)

Forcible rape was a common law offense.  Consensual sex with a child was criminalized by a statute by Parliament, and is thus termed “statutory” rape.   The Texas version is found in TPC sec. 21.011 (2). It provides that an actor commits an offense if he or she

2)  intentionally or knowingly:

(A)  causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;

(B)  causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;

(C)  causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;

(D)  causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person,  including the actor;  or

(E)  causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.

Note that like the forcible rape version, the statute is gender neutral and includes sex acts other than vaginal intercourse.  There is no element of lack of consent .

A child is defined as someone younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor.  Because the acts are consensual, there is, unlike in the forcible rape version, a spousal exception. Persons under 17 are presumed incapable of giving a valid consent, except when married.  Age 17 is referred to as the “age of consent,”–the age at which the law assumes a valid consent can be given.

There is a defense of medical care: “(d) It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”

There is also a defense if the offender and victim are close in age, are not close relatives, and the offender does not have certain prior convictions for certain sex offenses.  In these situations it is less likely that there is some form of improper exploitation of a young victim by an older predator.

(e)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that:

(1)  the actor was not more than three years older than the victim and at the time of the offense:

(A)  was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for

life as a sex offender;  or

(B)  was not a person who under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section;  and

(2)  the victim:

(A)  was a child of 14 years of age or older;  and

(B)  was not a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.

The statute does not say that the defendant must know that the victim is under 17, and Texas courts have not created such a requirement.  Thus, (as in a majority of states) mistake of fact about the victim’s age is not a defense.

New Super Aggravated Offenses: Continuous Sexual Abuse Of Young Child Or Children

In response to legal issues regarding notice, election, jeopardy and unanimity, the 80th Legislature added Section 21.02 to the Penal Code, which defines a new offense entitled Continuous Sexual Abuse Of Young Child Or Children. The new statute provides that a person commits an offense if, during a period of time of 30 days or more, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse, regardless of whether the acts of sexual abuse are committed against one or more victims, and at the time of the commission of each of the acts of sexual abuse, the actor is seventeen years of age or older and the victim is a child younger than fourteen years of age. § 21.02(b). For purposes of this section an “act of sexual abuse”, includes aggravated kidnaping with the intent to violate or abuse the victims sexually; indecency with a child, other than by touching the breast of a child, or exposure; sexual assault of a child pursuant to section 22.011; aggravated sexual assault under section 22.021; burglary with the intent to commit one of the foregoing offenses; and sexual performance by a child under section 43.25. §21.02(c), P.C.

It is imperative that you contact Houston Lawyer Charles Johnson immediately when you learn that you are under investigation for this serious offense. You can reach him directly at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your options.

Penalties for Child Abuse and Sentencing

A person charged with child abuse faces a wide range of penalties and sentencing possibilities, depending on several factors. These include the state where the abuse took place, the age of the child, whether the offense involved sexual abuse, whether the child was physically or mentally injured, and the criminal history of the offender.

Sentencing for child abuse and neglect cases is often difficult for everyone involved — especially since child abuse cases are often highly publicized and the potential for a social stigma on the family is great.

In most states, child abuse may be charged as either a felony or a less serious offense depending on the circumstances. The most severe cases of child abuse may carry felony lifetime sentences, while the least serious cases are considered gross misdemeanors with potentially no jail time. Punishment will typically be more severe if the offender has a prior record of criminal child abuse activity and greatly reduced if there is no prior record.

For sentencing purposes, a person charged with child abuse may enter a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea. In a large number of cases, sentencing will typically include probation or a prison term of up to five years. Sentencing in other, more serious, cases may include a longer prison term.

Other possible penalties and/or consequences may include:

  • Lifetime requirement to register as a child sexual offender
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Ruined reputation
  • Criminal record
  • Supervised access to the child
  • Physical or actual loss and enjoyment of a child
  • Continual involvement with a child protective services agency

People who fail to report child abuse or neglect also face penalties and consequences in some states with mandatory reporting laws. In those states, if a person has reason to suspect that someone is abusing a child, they must report it through a hotline or law enforcement agency. Failure to report such cases in a timely manner is considered a misdemeanor in most states and may result in fines, jail time, or both.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of a Child Crimes

Felony indictments must be presented within these time limits:

No limitation:

  • Continuous sexual abuse of a young child/children
  • Aggravated sexual assault of a child
  • Sexual assault of a child
  • Indecency with a child
  • Sexual assault of an adult if DNA evidence is present

20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday:

  • Sexual performance by a child
  • Aggravated kidnapping with intent to commit sexual offense
  • Burglary of habitation with intent to commit sexual offense

10 years from the date of the commission of the offense:

  • Sexual assault of an adult
  • Aggravated sexual assault of an adult

Sections 21 and 22 of the Texas Penal Code define indecency with a child, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault and other sex crimes. In these cases, “child” means a person younger than 17 years of age who is not the spouse of the actor.

Possible Defenses for Child Abuse Charges

Defending yourself against a child abuse charge can be difficult especially if it involves the testimony of a child. Combine that with the media’s negative depiction of child abuse offenders and it may seem impossible to overcome the harsh realities of a child abuse allegation.

If you are charged with child abuse – whether physical, emotional, or sexual – a criminal defense lawyer can devise a sound defense strategy and help cast doubt on the prosecutor’s case. Like other crimes, a person charged with child abuse has the same rights as defendants of other crimes, including the right to defend themselves against a criminal charge.

While child abuse laws aim to protect children, the justice system is set up to vindicate those who are wrongfully accused. Below are some of the most common (and some not so common) defenses that a person may assert on a child abuse charge:

False Allegations of Child Abuse

A common defense to child abuse charges is to say you didn’t do it. False accusations of child abuse are more common than most people think, especially in dysfunctional families or between parents who are involved in a difficult child custody battle. Although sometimes difficult to prove, the best strategy to defend false child abuse charges is to aggressively counter-attack allegations and show proof of the lie or similar wrongful conduct by the accuser.

The Injury Is a Result of an Accident

Most state child abuse laws do not punish accidents, unless the accident was a result of recklessness or gross carelessness. Examples of true accidents may include pushing your child on a bike and causing him to fall and scrape his knees or unknowingly slamming your toddler’s hand in the door. When a child’s injuries are a result of an accident, a person may raise this as a defense against child abuse charges but courts are split as to whether to prosecute parents who accidently cause harm to a child when acting with negligence (such as leaving a sleeping baby in a car alone on a hot day).

The Injury Is a Result of Something Other Than Child Abuse

Sometimes parents are falsely accused of child abuse based on non-accidental situations, such as when a child fights with another child and injures himself or when a child has a pre-existing medical condition that contributes to her own injuries. For example, one type of disease called “brittle bone disease” has been raised as a defense to show that one’s injuries were the result of a disorder that causes a child’s bones to break easily, and not a result of child abuse.

Parent’s Right to Discipline

Parents are generally free to discipline their children in any manner they choose, so long as the discipline is reasonable and causes no bodily injury. The question of how a parent disciplines a child (such as through spanking or threat of spanking), however, is often the subject of many child abuse cases. In certain circumstances, a parent, or one standing in “loco parentis “(such as a teacher), can raise the defense of “parental privilege” and claim that they had the right to reasonably discipline a child under their authority. However, if a child’s injuries are more serious than minor bruising as a result of the discipline, the parental privilege may not apply.

Religious Beliefs or Exemption

Even though it’s hard to grasp the thought of a child dying from an easily treatable illness, parents may claim an exemption to child abuse for religious reasons when a child dies because of a parent’s failure to seek medical care for their sick child. Although controversial, this religious exemption is a defense in all but a handful of states, and allows parents to escape charges of child abuse if they choose to pray for their sick children rather than take them to a doctor.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

In rare cases, an individual accused of child abuse may raise the little-known defense called Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). MSBP is used to describe incidents in which a child caregiver, usually the mother, either lies about or promotes illnesses in their children in an attempt to draw attention or sympathy to themselves. This defense usually requires proof of psychological or medical data.

There may be other defenses available depending on the circumstances in your particular case. If you need assistance with defending charges of Child Abuse in Houston, Attorney Charles Johnson can help you understand your rights with respect to child abuse laws in your state. You can contact him directly day or night at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

Hire the Best Houston Child Abuse Lawyer: The Charles Johnson Law Firm

The abuse or neglect of a child can have devastating effects on children and their families, as can false allegations, underreporting, and lack of knowledge. Child abuse is often zealously prosecuted and certain people are required by law to report instances of child abuse believed to have taken place.

Best Child Abuse Defense AttorneyWhen very small children are involved, the statements of the children themselves can be manipulated by the investigator. When older children are involved, the child’s behavioral or emotional problems can result in false accusations or manipulation of the investigator’s sympathy. In many cases, a child may simply tell the investigator what he or she thinks the investigator wants to hear.

The goal in a child abuse prosecution is to protect you from the criminal penalties that would follow a conviction and to protect your professional and family interests. Houston Sex Crimes Lawyer Charles Johnson knows how to challenge the findings of a CPS investigation and broaden the inquiry to cover circumstances that show you in a better light as a parent or child care professional.

Child abuse is, of course, a very sensitive issue and Houston Domestic Violence Lawyer Charles Johnson will address your case with this firmly in mind. Any children who are involved in the case will be engaged in the proceedings as little as possible in order to shield them from this litigation. When their involvement is necessary to improve the chances of a positive outcome, they will be treated with the utmost care and respect. Attorney Johnson is well versed in all areas of domestic violence and abuse cases and is ready to assist you in your legal matter. Contact him directly around the clock at (713) 222-7577 to discuss your case.

 

Houston Child Abuse Lawyer Charles Johnson

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Related News Stories – Child Abuse Charges in Houston, Texas

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