Texas prosecutors file criminal charges against alleged offenders in a number of sex crimes scenarios beyond sexual assault, which is the name for the crime of rape in the State of Texas. These include lewdness or indecent exposure, which include activities that involve exposing intimate body parts in public or engaging in sexual acts in a place that is open to public view. Other crimes involve inappropriately viewing or recording other people in private locations, such as voyeurism or invasive video recording. Crimes related to sharing intimate images or videos of other people are the subject of some crimes in Texas, as well. There are also strict laws forbidding teachers and other school professionals from having any type of intimate relationship with students.
Anyone facing charges of sexual offenses defined by any of these Texas laws needs a strong defense. The experienced sex crimes attorneys in Austin at Cofer & Connelly, PLLC can evaluate your case. We’ll advise you on your rights and how to present the strongest possible defense under the circumstances.
What Are Sexual Offenses in Texas?
Some of the sexual offenses prohibited by Texas laws include:
- Public Lewdness
- Indecent Exposure
- Invasive Video Recording
- Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Visual Content
- Improper Teacher and Student Relationships
Elements of Sexual Offenses in Texas
Every sexual offense is defined by a set of elements that a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt before they can secure a rightful conviction. The penalties for sexual offenses vary according to the severity of each crime, and some may involve mandatory registration on a sex offenders’ list.
Texas law defines public lewdness as being sexually active in a public place or somewhere that could be in view of someone who might be offended or shocked by seeing sex acts happening. Engaging in sexual intercourse or some other act of sexual contact in a place that is open to public view can lead to criminal charges of public lewdness, a Class A misdemeanor.
The sexual offense of indecent exposure occurs when a person publicly exposes any private parts, including the anus or genitals, to public view with the intent to cause arousal or the gratification of sexual desire. The law in Texas says that indecent exposure is a crime if the person who exposes some intimate sexual body parts engages in reckless disregard for whether there is anyone else present in the area who will be “offended or alarmed” by the action. This offense is a Class B misdemeanor.
Texas law defines voyeurism as an offense wherein someone intends to arouse or gratify their sexual desire by watching another person without their consent while the other person is in a house or other structure where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Voyeurism can take place while the victim being watched is in their house, office, or other building, and a person watches from some other place, whether outside the building where the person is or from within a neighboring house by looking out the windows, or even by a hidden camera video connection.
The law specifies that if the action that constitutes an offense under this law is also a criminal violation under any other law, the prosecutor may bring charges under either law or both laws. For example, if the voyeurism is done by means of a hidden camera, the conduct may violate both the voyeurism law and the invasive visual recording law, and the state can charge the defendant under both laws or either one.
The offense of voyeurism is a Class C misdemeanor. If the accused has been convicted at least twice previously of a voyeurism offense, their case will be classified as a Class B misdemeanor. If the victim who is being watched for the accused offender’s sexual arousal or gratification is under 14, the crime will be charged as a state felony.
Improper Photography or Visual Recording
Texas law forbids the photography or video recording of any person’s private or intimate body parts or private activities. A violation of this prohibition is referred to as an Improper Photography or Visual Recording offense. A person violates the law against invasive video recording if they take pictures or videos of someone’s intimate body parts (or film while the person is in a bathroom or changing room without the person’s consent) with the intent to invade the person’s privacy. A person can be charged with violating the invasive visual recording law even if they didn’t personally take pictures or record video. When they become aware of photos or recordings and have knowledge that they were made in violation of someone’s privacy – and then promote this material by sharing it on the internet or making it public – they can be charged with this offense under the law.
Body parts that are discussed in the law as “intimate areas” include the genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, and female breasts, no matter whether they are clothed or naked. The term “changing room” covers any store’s dressing room where people try on items, as well as locker rooms or any other private area where people go to change clothes. The offense of invasive visual recording is a state jail felony. Even if there is a sign that gives notice that an area may be photographed or recorded, this is not equivalent to establishing the consent of the person who uses the area.
Unlawful Disclosure of Intimate Visual Content
Texas law forbids the sharing or distribution of “intimate visual material” that shows another person exposing their private body parts or engaging in sexual conduct without the consent and permission of the person shown in any given picture or video. The law defines an offense as:
- The sharing or disclosing of intimate sexual visual material
- which the person in the image intended to keep private
- with the intent to harm the person shown in the image
- which does harm that person’s image or reputation.
An offense can include merely the threat to display such images in a public way or the actual sharing of the images with the public on the Internet or by any other means. It is not a defense that the person shown in the visual image originally agreed to have the images recorded if they do not now agree to have them distributed publicly. This offense is charged as a state jail felony. The law states that if the activity that is at issue is also a violation of any other law, the prosecutor can bring charges against the accused under this law, the other law that applies, or both laws.
Improper Teacher and Student Relationships
Texas law makes it a sex crime for an employee of any primary or secondary school to be involved in any sexual contact or intercourse with a student who is enrolled at the school where that person works. It is also forbidden under this law for anyone included in a list of specialized employees at the school to have a relationship with a student at any other school or with someone who is participating in a school-sponsored activity. The list of school employees covered by the law includes:
- Teachers, teacher interns, and teacher trainees
- Librarians and educational aides
- Audiologists and occupational therapists
- Physical therapists, school doctors, and school nurses
- School counselors and social workers
Sexual conduct that is forbidden by the law includes sexual intercourse or any sexual contact that is made with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire when touching happens between private body parts of the school professional and the student. An offense under this law is classified as a second-degree felony. It is a defense to such charges if the people involved in the conduct are married to each other or if they are within three years of age with each other and were involved in a relationship before employment at the school began.
Defenses to Sexual Offenses in Texas
A skilled defense attorney understands how to evaluate the facts and evidence and knows where to probe to find crucial information that can bolster a defense. If you’ve been charged with a sexual offense, your legal team will conduct an independent investigation to understand the facts of the allegations in detail and gather every possible detail together that can help strengthen your overall defense to the charges.
Many sexual offenses require a specific state of mind as an element of the charges. If a prosecutor doesn’t have the evidence to show the proper degree of intent, the case should fail. A capable defense attorney will argue that the requisite state of mind has not been met, even before the trial begins, to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges or to convince the judge to rule in the defendant’s favor on various pre-trial motions.
Each criminal case is only as good as the evidence that law enforcement has gathered to support the charges of a criminal law violation. If officers overstepped legal bounds to get evidence or disregarded crucial procedural safeguards in making an arrest, the result is often that the ill-gotten evidence must be excluded from trial. Without that evidence, a prosecutor may have no choice but to drop the charges.
Many sexual assault cases are based on one person’s perception of what they believe to have happened. Mistakes can be made as to who was involved in the events of the moment, and it’s often possible to build a defense around alternative explanations that show that the accused was not the sex offender as the prosecutor has alleged.
A Strong Defense to Charges of Sexual Offenses in Texas
If you’ve been charged with any sex offenses, you need a capable sex crime defense attorney on your side. A conviction can leave you with damage to your reputation in the community and with the prospect of serving time behind bars and paying hefty fees and the potential requirement of sex offender registration. This is no time to hope for a good result with a court-appointed attorney; you need the best criminal defense lawyer you can get to fight back. Contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help.
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