sexual assault

New Law Removes SOL for Some Sexual Assault Cases and Permits Remote SANE Exams

By Peek & Toland on August 7, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill into law that will expand the ability of remote and rural healthcare providers to effectively treat the needs of sexual assault victims. The measure creates a statewide telehealth network to allow these providers with Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), who have specialized training to collect evidence and testify as experts in sexual assault court proceedings. The point of the bill is to ensure that sexual assault survivors receive appropriate and compassionate care from trained individuals and that the evidence collected from them will stand up in court.

Texas currently has 357 certified SANE operators among 80 hospitals, but most are located in urban areas. With the help of the new telehealth network, providers in rural areas would be able to access the same resources, which should improve not only the quality of care, but enhance the ability of law enforcement authorities to prosecute those accused of committing sexual assault.

New Law Removes SOL for Some Sexual Assault Cases and Permits Remote SANE Exams

State officials modeled the program after a 2017 program that the Pennsylvania State University’s College of Nursing initiated using a U.S. Department of Justice grant. The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center provides a platform for Penn State SANEs to train rural healthcare providers and assist them in treating sexual assault victims. The focus of the program is to provide the extensive technology necessary to properly document analyze forensic evidence to rural areas, which simply cannot afford or justify the expense of obtaining and maintaining the equipment. By providing much-needed training to nurses who are unaccustomed to testifying in court and explaining forensic evidence, this program can improve outcomes for sexual assault prosecutions. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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Few Sex Assaults in Austin Lead to Prosecutions

By Peek & Toland on August 24, 2017

Sex assaults in Austin often are serious crimes with heavy sentences. However, as few as 10 percent end up in convictions, police revealed in a recent report.

Austin’s public safety commission asked police officials for a snapshot of the criminal justice process in sexual violence cases, The Statesman reported in March.

The report they received was a reminder about how few prosecutions end up in convictions.

At the commission’s monthly meeting in March, Austin police officials gave a detailed breakdown of 113 sexual assaults. The cases in question dated from January to March 2015. The three-month period was a random sample.

few sex assaults in Austin lead to convictions

few sex assaults are prosecuted in Austin

Only 10 of the alleged sex assaults led to indictments, the data showed. Travis County prosecutors lacked sufficient evidence to make a case in 49 of those 113 cases. In another 40 cases the victim did not want police to pursue the case, officials said.

The Statesman report said many of the sex assault prosecutions were unraveling even before the closure of the city’s DNA lab which has caused issues with the testing of rape kits.

The report said of the 10 cases that resulted in arrest some are still pending. It reported:

  • Four of the cases ended up in charges other than sexual assault.
  • One case was dismissed.
  • One perpetrator was sentenced to three years in prison.
  • Another offender took a plea deal and served 120 days

Although this report suggested many sex assault cases were not leading to convictions, it’s not clear why these cases do not proceed. In some cases, a claim of sexual assault is spurious or made as part of a domestic argument when no such assault occurred. The Texas Penal Code deals very seriously with these offenses.

The Penalties for Sex Assaults in Texas

Sexual assault, commonly known as rape, can occur in a range of scenarios when the offense is committed without the victim’s consent. The Texas Penal Code lists those circumstances here.

Typically, a sex assault is a second-degree felony in Texas. It carries a sentence of two to twenty years in a state prison along with a fine of up to $10,000.

Rape may be elevated to a first-degree felony if the victim is under 17-years-old. If you are convicted of a first-degree felony in Texas, you can face five to 99 years in a state prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

Aggravated sexual assault is also first-degree felony. It can carry a minimum sentence of 25 years if the victim is younger than six when the crime was committed or if the victim was under 14 and either a deadly weapon was used or displayed, the child was seriously injured, the defendant tried to kill the child, or used drugs in the sex assault. Read more about assaults here.

These are serious charges. If you have been charged with a sex assault, you should contact our experienced Austin criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible at (512) 474-4445.

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Bill Would Make Groping More Serious in Texas

By Peek & Toland on May 26, 2017

Groping may become a more serious offense in Texas if the Association Against Sexual Assault gets its way.

An article in CBS Austin highlighted how the organization claims offenders can land up in more trouble for shoplifting than for groping an adult in Texas.

In January, the news station highlighted the case of a 22-year-old who is facing a felony charge of indecency with a child. He stands accused of groping a 16-year-old girl on the ACC Riverside campus

ACC administrator Virginia Fraire claimed there was inappropriate physical contact between the students.

Association Against Sexual Assault Seeks to Beef up Groping Law

However, if the victim was 17, just a year older, the second-degree felony that Aldaco is facing would be a Class C misdemeanor.

ACC has banned the 22-year-old from its campuses, stated the news channel.

Chris Kaiser, director of public policy for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, told the TV station a Class C misdemeanor is the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

His organization is behind Senate Bill 339 which would establish groping as a Class A misdemeanor, leading to a year in jail and/or a $4000 fine.

Kaiser said there are only five states in the nation where groping will not land a perpetrator in jail. Texas is one of them.

The bill relating to groping was filed by Republican State Senator Charles Perry. He said a loophole appears to be present in Texas when it comes to groping. Perry said:

 “It is unthinkable that forcible groping and attempted rape is considered legally equivalent to a traffic ticket. Texas is one of only five states where these heinous acts are not punishable by jail time and SB 339 will increase the punishment to protect victims of these vicious crimes.”

Sexual Assault and Groping Laws in Texas

Under Texas sexual assault law, a “child” is defined as a person younger than 17 years of age. If physical violence was threatened or used to force the victim to submit or participate to the defendant’s actions, the act is considered by the law to have been without the victim’s consent.

In cases where the victim is unable to resist or is unaware of the nature of the act being performed, the law deems a lack of consent.

Consent is lacking in any situation where the defendant is in a place of power or charged with the care of the victim. A care home manager and a resident, a lawyer and a client, or a psychologist and a client are all examples.

If you have been charged with a sexual offense in Texas, our experienced criminal defense lawyers can help. Please call us at (512) 474-4445, or read more about criminal defense here.

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Students Demand Rape Kits at Texas University

By Peek & Toland on February 27, 2017

As many as one in five female students are raped at their colleges and universities, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The figures have fueled demands for rape kits on campus at one Texas university.

An article in USA Today reported that hundreds of people signed a Change.org petition asking the University of North Texas (UNT) to supply rape kits its campus health center.

The requests were opposed by officials who said costs made the request unfeasible.

University of North Texas students ask for rape kits

Rape kits have become a big issue on some Texas campuses

The article quoted a group of undergraduate students who said they were shocked to discover there were no rape kits available on their campus.

Their shock quickly became galvanized into a petition that attracted in excess of 500 names. The USA Today article pointed out as many as 20 percent of women who study at a university or other institution become victims of sexual assault. That statistics suggests as many as 3,000 women out of 36,000 at UNT will experience sexual assault during their time on campus.

The campaign failed to move university authorities. Spokesman Buddy Price said the health center at the campus is geared toward sexually transmitted infections, trauma, and pregnancy — as opposed to sexual trauma.

There’s clear evidence that rape kits are beneficial. A recent study by Case Western Reserve University of approximately 5,000 un-submitted “rape kits” in Cuyahoga County, Ohio led to the indictment of 520 defendants and 211 sexual assault convictions, suggesting an ongoing conviction success rate of 90 percent, reported Forbes.

DNA evidence from these kits can also clear defendants who are wrongly convicted of crimes. In some cases, a defendant was convicted of sexual assault on the basis of false allegations.

Rape on campuses is has been a hot button for years. In 2014, Rolling Stone documented an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. The report came from an interview with an unidentified witness. The story later unraveled and the publication lost a defamation case brought by a former member of staff at the University in 2016.

Although sexual assault is clearly a serious problem at universities, our Austin criminal defense attorneys are well aware of the need for solid evidence. Texas, like many other states, has a large backlog in the testing of kits that threatens to impede justice.

If you have been accused of rape or another sexual assault, you should hire a seasoned Texas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Call us at (512) 474-4445.

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