Any crime that involves sexual assault is considered a serious offense by the Texas judicial system. As a felony charge, sexual assault can carry severe penalties, including lengthy periods of incarceration and significant fines. When a person is convicted of sexual assault, how they are sentenced will depend on several factors, one of the most notable being whether the criminal act included aggravating elements.
Such factors result in the elevation of the charge to aggravated sexual assault. Both charges are felony offenses, with aggravated sexual assault being an automatic higher level, first degree felony charge. If you’re facing any type of sexual assault charge, it’s important to understand the difference between aggravated and non-aggravated charges so you and your attorney can prepare the best possible defense.
What Is Sexual Assault?
The Texas Penal Code defines crimes of sexual assault, along with which elements will lead to enhanced charges. Under the Texas Penal Code, sexual assault is described as an act in which one person intentionally attempts to commit sexual acts with another person, without their consent. This includes causing the penetration of another person’s mouth, anus, or sexual organs without having their consent. This also includes causing the victim’s sexual organs to come in contact with the mouth, anus, or sexual organs of another person without their consent.
If you want to learn more about consext read my latest blog “Consent in Criminal Sexual Assault“
In cases of sexual assault, consent is the defining factor. For instance, a person under the legal age of consent is not considered to be legally capable of providing consent, even if they are willing. Therefore, having sexual relations with a person under the age of 17 (with the exclusion of certain juvenile exemptions) is considered sexual assault. Likewise, having sexual relations with any person who is incapacitated, or otherwise unable to provide consent is also considered sexual assault, regardless of whether one thinks consent is implied.
Furthermore, the category of sexual assault charges also broadens to include the misuse of power to engage in sexual misconduct. For example, a person who is in a position of higher authority using their status to force, coerce, or bully the victim into sexual relations. Examples of individuals who might be in a position to use their power of authority to engage in sexual misconduct include police officers, employers, landlords, or educators.
Sexual assault is considered a felonious crime, resulting in a second degree felony charge in the state of Texas. This degree of felony charge carries a two to twenty year prison sentence, along with fines and registration as a sex offender. There are also certain elements that can elevate a sexual assault charge. In most cases when these elements are present, the prosecution will likely seek charges of aggravated sexual assault instead.
When a Charge Is Elevated to Aggravated Sexual Assault?
Aggravated sexual assault occurs when additional criminal actions were committed during the course of the crime, meaning that aggravated assault charges are more severe than non-aggravated charges. Examples of elements that lead to an enhanced charge of aggravated sexual assault include:
- The perpetrator causes serious bodily injury to the victim, or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person during the course of the sexual assault
- The perpetrator exhibiting a deadly weapon during the course of the sexual assault
- The perpetrator drugs or otherwise impairs the victim’s ability to assess the nature of the act, respond, or resist the assault
- Any sexual assault committed against a person who is 14 years of age or younger, regardless of whether the perpetrator was aware of the victim’s age
- Any sexual assault committed against an elder person or a disabled individual
- The assault is committed during the commission of another felony offense
In Texas, a sexual assault conviction with no other aggravating factors is a second degree felony. A charge of aggravated sexual assault is a first degree felony charge, which involves mandatory prison time – in some cases with severe minimum penalties, as is the case when the victim in under the age of 14.
Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney In Dallas to Help With Your Case
Crimes of sexual assault are taken very seriously by the Texas judicial system. If you’re facing charges, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to contact a criminal defense attorney in Dallas to review your case and discuss the most strategic defense. Aggravated and non-aggravated sexual assault charges are too serious to take chances with.