Attorney Explains Texas Sexual Assault Statute
Sexual Assault under Texas Law
One of the most serious crimes under Texas law involves an allegation of sexual assault or rape under Texas Penal Code section 22.011. Under this statutory scheme, sexual assault is generally defined as any non-consensual, unwanted sexual contact against another person involving penetration. The definition of "lack of consent" can include physical force, threats of violence, coercion, and even manipulation. Depending on the facts of the case, this sex crime can be charged as either a first or second-degree felony.
In many cases, the case can be prosecuted based on the word of the alleged victim even though no physical evidence supports the accusation. Cases involving false allegations do occur for a variety of reasons. Despite the severe sanctions imposed on those convicted of sexual assault, Texas law provides for several important defenses against this serious criminal charge when the allegations are false or when the evidence is insufficient.
Contact an experienced Houston sexual assault defense attorney for any case in Harris County, TX, or the surrounding areas including The Woodlands. Call Attorney Matt Horak to discuss the particular facts of your case. Obtaining representation as soon as possible after the allegation is important so that all favorable evidence can be gathered before memories fade or physical evidence is lost.
Allegations of Sexual Assault at Houston's Local Colleges and Universities
The National Center for Victims of Crime and Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center estimates that more than 104,000 adults and 226,000 children are raped every year in the State of Texas. Additional shocking surveys show that one out of every five women in college reported being "forced" to have sexual intercourse according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in a published article entitled Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance: National College Health Risk Behavior Survey.
Allegations of sexual assault are particular rampant on college campuses across Texas where young people often engage in risky behavior while consuming alcohol or drugs. Even false allegations can have tremendous consequences to a person's career and educational opportunities that last long after the criminal investigation is over.
As the 2006 Duke University Lacrosse Case shows, the prosecutors and investigating officers often engage to a rush to judgment that can lead to false allegations. An aggressive defense by an experienced criminal defense attorney is required in the courtroom as publicity surrounding the case plays out in the media.
The Issue of Consent under Texas Law
The most commonly asserted issue in sexual assault cases involves the issue of consent. Texas law provides for numerous provisions that allow the prosecutor to prove a lack of consent in a several different ways including:
- The defendant compels the alleged victim to participate or submit to the act through the use of violence or physical force;
- Even when no physical force is used, the defendant compels the alleged victim to participate or submit through the threatened use of violence or physical force when the alleged victim believes that the defendant has the immediate ability to execute the threat;
- Even when no force or threat of force is used, the defendant knows the alleged victim has not consented and is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
- Even when no violence or threat of violence is used, the defendant knows that the alleged victim is incapable of resisting the act or appraising the nature of the act because of the alleged victim's mental defect or disease;
- Even when no force or threat of force is used, the alleged victim has not consented and the defendant knows the alleged victim is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring; and
- Even when no physical violence or threat of physical violence is used, the defendant has intentionally caused the victim's power to control or appraise the defendant's conduct by administering any chemical or controlled substance without the alleged victim's knowledge.
Allegations of Sexual Assault Against a Person in Authority under Texas Law
Under Texas law, the prosecutor may be able to establish a "lack of consent" even when:
- no violence or threat of violence is used, and
- the alleged victim is aware that the act is occurring; and
- the alleged victim is able to appraise the nature of the act.
In those cases, the prosecutor can allege a lack of consent because of the professional relationship of the parties that allows the defendant to use an occupation license to exploit a client or former client.
Allegations of Sexual Assault Against a Public Servant in Texas
The defendant is a public servant who coerces the other person to participate or submit to the act of sexual assault.
Allegations of Sexual Assault Against a Health Care Services Provider under Texas Law
The defendant is a health care service provider who causes the other person, who is a patient or former patient of the defendant, to participate or submit by exploiting the alleged victim's emotional dependency on the defendant. Under Texas' sexual assault statute, a health care services provider is defined as;
- a physician licensed under Subtitle B, Title 3, Occupations Code;
- a physician assistant licensed under Chapter 204, Occupations Code;
- a physical therapist licensed under Chapter 453, Occupations Code;
- a registered nurse licensed under Chapter 301, Occupations Code;
- a vocational nurse licensed under Chapter 301, Occupations Code;
- an advanced practice nurse licensed under Chapter 301, Occupations Code;
- a chiropractor licensed under Chapter 201, Occupations Code;
Allegations of Sexual Assault Against Mental Health Services Provider in Texas
The defendant is a mental health care services provider who causes the alleged victim, who is a patient or former patient of the defendant, to submit or participate by exploiting the alleged victim's emotional dependency on the defendant.
Under the Texas sexual assault statute, a "mental health services provider” is defined as a person, licensed or unlicensed, who actually performs or purports to perform mental health services, including a:
- psychologist offering psychological services as defined by Section 501.003, Occupations Code; or
- licensed marriage and family therapist as defined by Section 502.002, Occupations Code;
- chemical dependency counselor as defined by Section 504.001, Occupations Code;
- licensed professional counselor as defined by Section 503.002, Occupations Code;
- licensed social worker as defined by Section 505.002, Occupations Code; or
- Certified special officer for mental health assignments under Section 1701.404, Occupations Code.
Allegations of Sexual Assault Against a Clergyman under Texas Law
Texas law provides that if the defendant is a clergyman who causes the alleged victim to participate or submit to the act of sexual assault by exploiting the alleged victim's emotional dependency on the clergyman because of the clergyman's professional character as spiritual adviser. Any member of the clergy is defined as a "mental health services provider" under Florida law. The definition includes a pastor, minister or similar religious leader.
Allegations of Sexual Assault Against an Employee of a Residential Facility in Texas
Even an employee of a residential facility can be charged with sexual assault because of the nature of his relationship with a resident in the facility. A statutory exception exists when the employee and resident are informally or formally married under Chapter 2 of the Texas Family Code. Texas law defines an “employee of a facility” to include any individual who provides services for a facility for compensation, including a contract laborer or an employee of a facility defined by Section 250.001, Health and Safety Code.
Related Links for Sexual Assault Issues in Texas
Texas Association Against Sexual Assault - Non-profit organization committed to ending sexual violence in Houston and throughout Texas through prevention, advocacy and raising public awareness. TAASA has described itself as the voice of the sexual assault movement in Texas.
Sexual Assault Prevention and Crisis Services (SAPCS) - A program of the Crime Victim Services Division of the Office of the Attorney General. The AG's Office is committed to ending sexual violence by enhancing the services for survivors of sexual assaults by promoting multi-disciplinary collaboration and developing inter-agency training through the State of Texas including funding for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) and Sexual Assault Response Teams (SART). The Texas Attorney General's website also provides information on the Crime Victims' Compensation fund which provides financial reimbursements for certain out-of-pocket expenses related to the crime of sexual assault in Houston and the surrounding areas of Texas.
Finding an experienced Sexual Assault Defense Attorney in Houston, TX
Matt Horak is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Houston who fights for individuals who have been falsely accused of sexual assault in Harris County and Montgomery County, Texas. Call Horak Law at (713) 225-8000 to speak directly with a Houston sexual assault defense attorney about the particular facts of your case.