Jessica’s Law: Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child

By January 7, 2015Sex Crimes

A Review of Jessica’s Law in Texas | Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys

The 80th Texas legislature enacted the “Jessica Lunsford Act” (H.B. 8) to create a criminal offense of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child (Texas Penal Code 21.02).  The chart below details the particulars of the offense of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child under Section 21.02.

The elements of Jessica’s Law:

  • The sexual abuse may be committed against 1 or more victims. (Texas Penal Code 21.02 (b)(1))
  • The complaining witness must be a child younger than the age of 14. (Texas Penal Code 21.02(b)(2))
  • This offense does not apply to juvenile offenders. (Texas Penal Code 21.02(b)(2))
  • A jury is not required to agree unanimously on which specific acts of sexual abuse the defendant committed or the exact date when those acts were committed. (Texas Penal Code 21.02(d))
  • The jury must agree unanimously that the defendant committed 2 or more acts of sexual abuse during a duration of 30 days or more. (Texas Penal Code 21.02(d))
  • An affirmative defense does exist for the offense. If the defendant was not more than 5 years older than the complaining witness; did not use duress, force, or threat; and was not a registered sex offender, then the defendant may raise these points as an affirmative defense. (Texas Penal Code 21.02(g))

Punishment:

  • For a first time offense, regardless of prior criminal history, the range of punishment is 25 to 99 years or life in prison. (Texas Penal Code 22.02(h))
  • Any subsequent offense will result in life in prison without parole (Texas Penal Code 12.42(c)(4))
  • Even for a first time offense, there is no deferred adjudication community supervision (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 42.12, Section 5(d) (3)), no judge-ordered community supervision (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 42.12, Section 3(e)(1)), or no jury-recommended community supervision (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 42.12, Section 4(d)(1)).
  • Essentially, probation in any form or fashion is not an option under Jessica’s Law.
  • Additionally, a defendant convicted under this law has no eligibility for parole. (Texas Government Code Section 508.145 (a)).

Aside from a capital murder charge, the offense of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child is now considered the highest level of offense a person in Texas can be charged with. We’ve had several years to watch juries handle these types of cases and we’ve seen that juries tend to punish severely when presented with continuous sexual abuse of a child.

If you or a loved one is facing a serious criminal charge in Tarrant County, Texas, please call our experienced criminal defense attorneys today at (817) 993-9249. We offer free consultations.

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