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What Is a Sex Crime, Anyway?

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

Are you or a loved one facing a sex crime charge? Many people are confused about what qualifies as a sex crime in Texas. While the laws may be confusing, ignorance of the law is not an excuse and you owe it to yourself to better understand what’s at stake.

Sex crimes can be hard to define because they depend on the jurisdiction. The definition of a sex crime is constantly evolving as technology and society continue to advance. For example, a person can be charged with solicitation of a minor via text or email if the adult intends to engage in a sexual liaison.

Regardless, sex crime convictions can result in long prison sentences and offenses involving sexual assault or child pornography are especially serious.

While this is an uncomfortable topic for most, it’s important we all take an objective look at the laws and definitions of sex crimes in Texas. Let’s explore.

What Is a Sex Crime?

The law defines sex crimes as any criminal act of a sexual nature. These types of offenses may include the following:

  • Child pornography
  • Prostitution
  • Solicitation
  • Sexual battery
  • Lewd conduct
  • Penetration with a foreign object
  • Distributing obscene material

Federal and state sex laws are applicable even if all parties consent to a sexual encounter. Prostitution, for example, is still illegal in most parts of the United States, even though both adults consented to the transaction.

Consenting to a sexual encounter does not mean a sex crime didn’t occur. In fact, undercover police often pose as sex workers or prostitutes in order to catch anyone who may be soliciting for sex. This can happen online or in person so it’s important to be aware of what constitutes solicitation and avoid any potential entanglements.

How Tough Is Texas on Sexual Crimes?

Most sex offenses in Texas are considered felonies. Felonies carry harsher sentences and punishments than misdemeanors.

For example, aggravated sexual assault comes with harsher penalties than sexual assault. A person commits aggravated sexual assault when:

  • They commit sexual offenses against a person under 14
  • They cause the victim to fear for his or her life
  • They sexually assault someone with an accomplice
  • They cause physical harm to the victim
  • They use drugs to render the victim unconscious

Aggravated sex assault cases are first-degree felonies in Texas. First-degree felonies come with the heaviest sentences, including hefty fines.

  • Example: In general, a first-degree felony can carry a sentence between 5 and 99 years, with a $10,000 fine.

A standard sexual assault case is a second-degree offense. Second-degree felonies come with sentences between 2 to 20 years and a $10,000 fine. With that, you could face a lighter sentence for other sex crimes, such as sex tourist crimes.

What Is a Sex Tourism Crime?

Sex tourism crime occurs when an individual travels to another region or country to pursue illegal sexual relations. Sex tourism isn’t illegal if a nation permits it. It’s legal if all parties are consenting adults and if the government allows the industry to flourish.

Many nations around the world have a thriving sex tourism industry, such as Thailand and Amsterdam. It becomes illegal when a person engages in sexual contact with a minor or a sex trafficking victim.

But sex tourism isn’t limited to faraway nations. In fact, sex tourism is very prevalant along the border with Mexico. In particular, child sex tourism in Mexico and along the border is a major problem.

When it comes to the United States, federal law forbids Americans from traveling abroad to have sex with a minor. However, federal law is ambiguous if Americans travel abroad to have sex with adults.

Overall, there are different types of sex tourism:

  • Prostitution
  • Sex shows
  • Mail order brides
  • Child sex tourism
  • Sex Slavery

Authorities continue to uncover sex operations throughout Texas involving minors. There are many illegal brothels throughout the state, especially in big cities like Houston and Dallas.

The children working in these brothels are often minors and human trafficking victims. All too often, women and girls from Latin America are forced into sexual slavery as they attempt to enter the United States.

If caught, Texans who are caught in these brothels can face extensive charges. The penalties can be longer if they have any history of sex offenses.

What Does the Court Do if You’re a Repeat Sex Offender?

The phrase “Don’t Mess With Texas” certainly applies to Texas sex crime offenses. They are among the most severe in the nation. Texas courts will impose tough sentences for repeat sex offenders. However, the sentence can depend on the court’s discretion. Texas statues usually involve the following for habitual sex offenders:

  • Life sentences
  • Longer sentences
  • Stricter parole standards
  • Sex offender registration

The sentence also depends on the nature of the crime.

  • Example: If you’re twice convicted of child sexual assault, you could face a sentence of life with parole.

Repeat offenders may have to register as a sex offender with their local sheriff’s office. Under registration, the offender may not have contact with children. They also cannot live in areas where children are in the vicinity.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for a Sex Crime?

The statute of limitations for a sex crime against an adult is 10 years. This limitation applies to rape and sexual assault cases.

For civil matters, the statute limit is five years. There is no statute of limitations in the following instances:

  • If an aggravated rape case has no identifiable suspect
  • If a serial rapist committed the crime

For sex crimes against minors (those under 17), the statute deadline is 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday. In a civil context, the statutes hover between 10 to 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. The statute limitation also depends on the type of sex crime.

  • Example: A 20-year limitation is reserved for aggravated kidnapping cases where the perpetrator intended to sexually assault the minor. The same statute limit will also apply if the offender forces the victim to perform a sexual act.

What Should I Do if I’m Accused of a Sex Crime?

If you’re accused of a sex crime, contact a defense attorney who has experience in sex crimes cases. Sexual offenses have long prison sentences in Texas.

A first-time sexual offense can carry a decades-long sentence. If you’re a repeat offender, you could be facing a life sentence.

Are you facing a sex charge? Click here to learn how to find the best sex crime attorney.

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