Updated on August 23, 2022
Charges of indecency with a child in the State of Texas are serious charges that typically lead to police investigation and can lead to arrest and conviction. A conviction of this nature often means prison time and getting your name on the sex offender registry. As such, the social stigma associated with even the accusation of indecency with a child is often profound.
If you are facing such a charge, it is time to reach out to an experienced Killeen criminal defense lawyer for the professional legal counsel that you need.
The Crime of Indecency with a Child
There are specific statutes in the State of Texas that make specific actions with children who are under the age of 17 subject to arrest on the charge of indecency with a child.
The accused can be charged with indecency with a child if the charge involves a child who is not yet 17 years old—regardless of whether the accused is aware of the child’s age at the time the offense occurs—and if any of the following actions are taken:
The perpetrator engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact.
The perpetrator exposes any part of his or her genitals or anus (knowing that the child is present)—or causes the child to expose any part of his or her genitals or anus—with the intention of arousing or satisfying sexual desire.
In this context, sexual contact refers to any of the following actions:
Any touching of the child’s breast or anus or any part of the child’s genitals (including touching through clothing)
Any touching of the child’s body (including touching through clothing) with the accused’s breast or anus or any part of his or her genitals
The Establishment of Indecent Conduct
In the State of Texas, indecent conduct can be established in one of two ways, which include indecency by contact and indecency by exposure.
Indecency by Contact
If there is alleged sexual contact with a child who is not yet 17, the charge will likely be indecency with a child by contact.
Indecency by Exposure
If the alleged crime involves physical exposure without sexual contact (on the part of the accused, another person, or the child in question), the charge will likely be indecency with a child by exposure.
The Child’s Age
The charge of indecency with a child can be levied even if the accused was not aware of the child’s age at the time of the charge-related event. This means that any fabrication by the child regarding age will not serve as a valid defense. Similarly, assuming the child is older than he or she actually is (with no overt deception on the part of the child) will not affect the charge.
The best thing to do to protect your rights is contact a Killeen criminal defense attorney. He or she will identify a valid defense that will best fit the circumstances of the case.
A Felony Subject to Sex Offender Registry
A conviction for indecency with a child can have serious consequences depending on the type of crime committed. The following penalties apply:
Penalties for the Charge of Indecency by Contact with a Child
A conviction for the charge of indecency by contact is a second-degree felony. Penalties include 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. In addition, the conviction requires sex offender registration for life.
Penalties for the Charge of Indecency by Exposure with a Child
A conviction for the charge of indecency by exposure is a third-degree felony. Penalties include 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000. This crime requires sex offender registration for ten years after completing one’s sentence or after being discharged from probation.
Texas is exceptionally strict in relation to the protection of children from sexual offenses (including indecency with a child), but there are affirmative defenses on the books that amount to exceptions to charges of indecency with a child.
It is important to point out that affirmative defenses are exacting and must be carefully satisfied in order for the exception to apply. A Killeen criminal defense attorney can help you meet all of the requirements for your defense. Contact us online today to get started.
The Marriage Exception
A primary affirmative defense is if the child in question is the spouse of the accused. This affirmative defense prohibits a person from being charged with indecency with a child if he or she is married to the child (who is not yet 17) in question.
The Romeo and Juliet Exception
Another primary affirmative defense that prevents the accused from being charged is if he or she is no more than three years older than the child in question. This is often referred to as the Romeo and Juliet clause or the close in age exception. To learn more about this exception, read “Texas Romeo and Juliet Law: Not Quite What the Bard Intended.”
The Age of Consent in Texas
In Texas, the age of consent is 17. Before this age, teenagers are not considered mature enough to provide legal consent. However, under the Romeo and Juliet clause, a teenager under the age of 17 may provide legal consent as long as there is an age difference of less than three years between the two parties.
The Statute of Limitations in Texas
In Texas, there is no statute of limitations for the charge of indecency with a child, which means the charge can be brought at any time—regardless of how much time has passed since the alleged crime occurred.
No matter how long ago the alleged event took place, a Killeen criminal defense lawyer can help you collect evidence for your defense. Contact a lawyer today if you are facing charges of indecency with a child.
The Sex Offender Registry
Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act in 1994 in its efforts to elevate the severity of sex offenses and to identify convicted sex offenders in a public registry. With this Act, the federal sex offender registry was instituted—along with guidelines that allow states to do the same. The registry tracks registrants via a yearly verification of their addresses.
The Texas Sex Offender Registration Program requires adults and juveniles who have been convicted of specific sex offenses to register as sex offenders with their local law enforcement agencies (in the counties or cities where they currently live). The information each registrant is required to provide (at a minimum) is listed below:
The registrant’s name and address
The crime the registrant was convicted of
A color picture of the registrant
This information is kept on record with the law enforcement agency and is made readily available and accessible to the public via the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry website.
How It Works
The requirements for registration on the sex offender registry are exacting, and anyone who has been convicted of a reportable offense must register prior to his or her release to either mandatory supervision, parole, or community supervision (probation).
Upon arriving in the municipality in which the registrant plans on living or visiting for more than one week, he or she must register within the first seven days. If work requires the offender to spend at least 48 hours on three or more occasions in a month in a different county or city, the registrant must also register in that location to remain in compliance with the law.
Registrants who are convicted of violent sex crimes are required to remain on the registry for life. Other registrants are typically required to stay on the registry for 10 years after all prison time is served or after being discharged from parole or probation.
The crimes that require registration on the sex offender registry include the following convictions:
Indecency with a child (by exposure or contact)
Sexual performance by a child
Continuous sexual abuse of a child
Compelling prostitution by minor
Promotion or possession of child pornography
Being on the sex offender registry can have nearly insurmountable social consequences. Because the registry is public, anyone can access the information and use it against a registrant at any time.
This means it can affect one’s ability to rent an apartment, get a bank loan, find a job, and much more. Once a registrant finds a place to live, however, it does not necessarily stop neighbors from harassing him or her, and registrants can face ongoing prejudice and harassment from law enforcement. In other words, the negative consequences can evolve into cascading challenges.
One of the more difficult consequences of being on the registry is that registrants are posted right alongside the most violent sex offenders—without any information regarding the details or the relative severity of the crimes in question.
There is a process by which some registrants may have their names removed from the sex offender registry, but the process is difficult, and there is no guarantee that it will be successful. To deregister, the registrant must undergo a process that often requires years in sex offender counseling. In order for deregistration to be successful, all of the following events must occur:
The applicant must receive an assessment from a qualified professional regarding his or her limited risk of re-offending.
The applicant must not have re-offended since the original charge.
The applicant must receive approval from the Texas Council on Sex Offender Registration.
After each of these components is satisfied, it is up to the judge on the case to determine whether or not to grant the deregistration request (which is also called early termination) from the sex offender registry.
It is important to note all of the following information regarding deregistration:
Deregistration is only available for certain kinds of sex crimes.
Violent crimes typically do not qualify for deregistration.
Whether or not deregistration is available depends upon wide-ranging variables that can include the ages of the parties involved in the case and any other relevant circumstances.
Deregistration does not alter the registrant’s criminal record.
Having a Dedicated Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side Can Help
Facing a criminal charge of the magnitude of indecency with a child is intimidating and overwhelming. Crafting a strong legal defense is complicated, and moving forward without the experienced legal guidance of a practiced Killeen criminal defense lawyer is ill-advised.
Your lawyer will compile all the relevant evidence in your case into a coherent and effective defense (while skillfully negotiating with the prosecution as applicable) in pursuit of your case’s best possible outcome.
It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing a charge of indecency with a child, it is a serious matter that can lead to a prison sentence, hefty fines, and registering as a sex offender. In other words, the stakes are too high not to bring your strongest defense.
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a savvy criminal defense lawyer who takes great pride in skillfully defending the legal rights of clients like you—in focused pursuit of beneficial case resolutions.