Austin, TX

Austin Sexual Assault Lawyer

Austin Sexual Assault Attorney | Travis County, TX

Sexual assault (also called rape) is one of the most difficult cases for a criminal attorney to handle, both because the charges are so serious, and because the evidence is often lacking. An experienced sexual assault lawyer can advocate for your rights under Texas law, and help keep false allegations from ruining the life of the accused. As discussed below, the best time to seek legal advice is at the investigation phase before charges are filed. If you believe an investigation has been opened against you or a loved one, fill out a contact form to schedule a free consultation with an experienced sexual assault lawyer.

Get Representation Early: Don’t Wait Until You are Charged with Sexual Assault

Sexual assault investigations can begin long before any criminal charges are officially filed. They can involve a detailed analysis of the alleged incident, interviews with potential witnesses, and collection of evidence. It is during this crucial phase that the prosecution determines if a sexual assault occurred, often without the knowledge of the accused. This is why it’s imperative to have legal representation as early as possible. An experienced sexual assault attorney can intervene, ensuring that your rights are protected, advocating for your interests, and providing guidance. They can assist in navigating the complex legal process, potentially mitigating the impact of the investigation, and even sometimes preventing charges from being filed. Every investigation is potentially a case-building exercise. Having an experienced sexual assault attorney on your side at the onset can level the playing field and influence the trajectory of the case.

What Is Sexual Assault?

In Texas, the law defines sexual assault as any non-consensual sexual contact involving force, threat, or exploitation of a person unable to provide consent. This includes situations where the victim is mentally incapacitated, physically helpless, or under the legal age of consent. The severity of the charges and penalties can escalate based on certain factors, such as the age of the victim, the use of a weapon, or if the perpetrator is a repeat offender. It’s important to remember that lack of verbal or physical resistance does not imply consent, and prior relationship or sexual history also doesn’t justify or excuse the act. It’s always crucial to obtain explicit, informed, and voluntary agreement from all parties involved in sexual activities.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault in Texas

In the state of Texas, the statute of limitations for sexual assault is complex and depends on several factors. For most sexual assault cases, the statute of limitations is 10 years. This means that the state has a decade to initiate legal proceedings from the date the offense occurred. However, if the victim was a minor at the time of the assault, the clock doesn’t start until the victim turns 18. Moreover, there is no limitation period for sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault when probable cause exists to believe that the defendant committed the same or similar crime against five or more victims. It’s important for anyone involved in a sexual assault case, either as a victim or defendant, to understand these laws and to consult with a knowledgeable attorney. False allegations of sexual assault can ruin a person's life.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

In Texas, a sexual assault charge can be elevated to aggravated sexual assault under certain circumstances. These include the use of a deadly weapon during the assault, causing serious bodily harm to the victim, or if the assault results in the threat of death or fear of death or harm for the victim. Sexual violence is treated very seriously by prosecutors. Aggravated sexual assault charges also apply if the victim is a child under 14 years, or if the assault involved the use of a drug such as a “roofie” that incapacitates the victim. These severe circumstances lead to heavier penalties, reflecting the serious nature of the crime. Hence, anyone facing such charges should seek competent legal representation immediately.

Penalties for Sexual Assault in Texas

Under the Texas Penal Code, punishments for sexual assault vary widely, depending largely upon the specific circumstances of the offense. At the minimum, sexual assault is categorized as a second-degree felony, which carries a punishment range of 2 to 20 years in prison, along with a fine up to $10,000. If factors such as the use of a deadly weapon, the victim being under 14 years of age, or the assault resulting in serious bodily injury are present, the offense may be elevated to a first-degree felony. A first-degree felony can result in a punishment of 5 to 99 years, or life imprisonment, coupled with a potential fine up to $10,000. Repeat offenders or those with a prior felony conviction may face enhanced penalties.

Sex Offender Registration

The repercussions of a conviction for many sex crimes extend beyond fines and imprisonment. One significant consequence is the requirement to register as a sex offender. In Texas, anyone convicted of a sex crime, including sexual assault, is typically mandated to register as a sex offender – a status will show on background checks and can profoundly affect one’s personal, social, and professional life. This registration is public, affecting where convicts can live, work, and even how they interact with their community. Moreover, failure to comply with registration requirements can result in additional felony charges. Consequently, the assistance of a seasoned attorney becomes essential to navigate such complex legal scenarios.

Common Defenses for Sexual Assault in Austin, TX

In Texas, defenses against sexual assault charges often depend on the specifics of the case and the evidence presented. However, there are a few common strategies used. One is consent; if the accused can establish that the alleged act was consensual, it could serve as a strong defense. To successfully utilize this defense, the accused would need to provide compelling evidence that the alleged victim had freely given their consent for the sexual activity in question. This could be in the form of messages, witnesses, or any other proof that illustrates mutual agreement. It is important to note, however, that consent can be withdrawn at any time during the act, and any continued activity after withdrawal of consent can still be classified as sexual assault. Furthermore, consent cannot be given if an individual is incapacitated or under the legal age. A lack of evidence can also be a defense. If the prosecution is unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt with hard evidence that the assault occurred or that the defendant is the one who committed it, the charges may be dismissed.

Understanding the Legal Process for Sexual Abuse Cases in Austin

Phase 1: Pre-Charge Investigation

The legal process begins with a thorough pre-charge investigation. Law enforcement agencies gather evidence, interview witnesses, and gather any information relevant to the case. The purpose of this stage is to determine if there are sufficient grounds to press charges.

Phase 2: Charges, Arrest, and Bond

If the evidence from the investigation suggests a crime was committed, then charges are formally filed against the accused. The individual is then arrested and taken into custody. A bail hearing follows where the court decides the terms of release, potentially setting a bond that must be paid for the defendant’s temporary release. Bond in sexual assault cases is not guaranteed. If you or a loved one is seeking jail release on a sexual assault charge, seek out an experienced sexual assault attorney.

Phase 3: Pretrial Hearings

During the pretrial hearings, the defense and prosecution exchange evidence, witness lists, and other key information about the case. Motions can be made to suppress certain evidence, and the judge makes rulings on these requests. This phase also includes arraignment, where defendants formally enter pleas.

Phase 4: Plea Negotiations

At any point after charges are filed, plea negotiations can take place. These discussions occur between the defense attorney and the prosecutor. The defendant might agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge to avoid the risks of a trial, or the prosecution might reduce charges in exchange for the defendant’s cooperation in other respects.

Phase 5: Trial

If a plea agreement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial. Both the prosecution and defense present their cases, including evidence and witness testimony. It concludes with the jury’s verdict, after which the judge determines the sentence based on the jury’s findings.

Sexual Assault Defense Attorney in Austin, Texas

At ATX Legal, we are experienced in handling sexual assault cases. We provide legal representation across Travis County, Williamson County, and Hays County. Having an in-depth understanding of the complexities of such cases, we approach each one with meticulous attention to detail, fierce advocacy, and a commitment to securing the most favorable outcome for our clients. If you or a loved one is facing Austin sexual assault charges, or is being investigated, he or she needs legal guidance. Fill out a contact form or text “consult” to 512-677-5003 to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced attorney.
505 West 12th Street, Suite 200 Austin Texas 78701

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