Austin Sexual Assault Lawyer
Table of Contents
- Is It Sexual Abuse, Assault, or Harassment?
- Your Legal Rights After a Sexual Assault
- Liability in Texas Sexual Assault Cases
- Texas Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations
Anyone who becomes the victim of an assault knows how physically and emotionally painful the wounds can be. However, if the assault was sexual in nature, recovering from these wounds can be even more challenging. Despite decades of public awareness campaigns and stricter penalties, sexual assault continues to be a serious problem in the United States and throughout the state of Texas. Consider these startling statistics uncovered by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas at Austin:
- 6.3 million Texans have experienced some type of sexual assault.
- Two in five women in Texas have been sexually assaulted.
- One in five men in Texas has been sexually assaulted.
- Approximately 413,000 Texans have experienced some form of sexual assault in the last year.
If you or a family member suffered a sexual assault, you have the legal right to hold the perpetrator accountable in both criminal and civil courts. Take the first step in seeking justice by contacting the experienced Austin sexual assault attorneys at the Patel Law Firm today.
There are marked distinctions between sexual abuse, assault, and harassment. Some of these distinctions are made by the law and some by society. However, in criminal cases and often civil cases as well, the prosecution or victim’s Austin sexual assault attorneys must adhere to the legal definitions.
The terms sexual assault and rape are often interchanged in Texas. “Any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another” is how the Texas Attorney General’s Office describes sexual assault. Furthermore, Texas Penal Code Section 22.011 describes sexual assault as:
- Intercourse and penetration lacking consent
- Sexual abuse of an individual who isn’t able to give their own consent, such as in the case of a disability or decreased permanent or temporary mental capacity
- Sexual, including intercourse or penetration with a minor child
- Forcible and violent sexual contact, intercourse, or penetration, even if consent is given
- Coercive sexual acts
To receive a conviction on sexual assault charges, the prosecution must prove that the person charged with sexual assault is guilty of committing one or more of these acts.
Under Texas code, sexual assault is a second-degree felony punishable by 20 years in prison. If the assailant makes death threats or uses a weapon while committing the assault, or if the victim is extremely young or old, offenders could be charged with aggravated sexual assault and face a sentence of up to 99 years imprisonment.
It’s crucial to note that sexual abuse doesn’t have a legal definition in Texas. However, it’s usually described as unwanted sexual contact achieved with the use of force, by making threats, or taking advantage of people who can’t give their consent. Sexual assault is one form of sexual abuse.
One lesser category of sexual assault is sexual harassment. Examples of sexual harassment include:
- Sharing or sending inappropriate letters, emails, texts, images, or cartoons,
- Making or attempting to make unwelcome physical contact
- Asking for sexual favors
- Making harassing phone calls
- Sending inappropriate love letters
- Threatening to fire an employee if the sexual advances are not accepted
Although it can take a lot of courage, reporting your sexual assault to the authorities is one of the best ways to exercise your legal rights as someone who has been victimized. The sooner you report the incident, the better. Evidence is better when collected shortly after the crime, and there is a greater chance that the assailant can be located. Your police report and evidence will allow law enforcement and the district attorney to pursue criminal charges against the person who harmed you. If they are convicted or even seek a plea deal, they can face the following penalties:
- Imprisonment or jail time
- Steep fines
- Mandatory community service
- Mandatory restitution payments
- Loss of freedoms such as the right to vote or the right to own or possess a firearm
- Mandatory sex offender registration
While a criminal case can obtain justice on your behalf, it still doesn’t make you whole again. It won’t fix or compensate for your physical or emotional pain or expenses.
In addition to criminal reports and charges, you also have the right to hire Austin sexual assault lawyers to pursue a civil claim on your behalf. The purpose of a civil claim is to obtain compensation for your pain and suffering and expenses related to the assault. You can file a civil claim no matter if the offender is facing criminal charges, has been found not guilty of criminal charges, or is found guilty. The results of criminal and civil cases don’t dictate what goes on with the other type of case.
Civil and criminal cases accomplish different goals and are quite different from each other. They both rely on evidence and involve lawyers. However, civil claims:
- Require less proof. A “preponderance of the evidence” as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
- Can obtain monetary compensation for the victim’s damages instead of jail time or other penalties for the assailant.
- Are focused on what the victim needs, as opposed to punishing the criminal.
- Don’t rely on criminal statutes to prove if the at-fault party’s behavior was wrong.
- Often settle out of court.
- Can have different outcomes than criminal cases.
- Are pursued by the victim and their Austin sexual assault attorneys as opposed to law enforcement, the prosecutor, and the state.
- Have a five-year filing deadline from the date of the offense. The criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault offenses is between 10 and 20 years or more, depending on the victim’s age at the time of the incident.
It’s crucial for sexual assault victims and their families to understand that they have a right to pursue both criminal and civil claims. Furthermore, they should remember that even if one case isn’t successful, the other could be, particularly because the burden of proof is lower for civil cases.
When most people think of an assault or another crime, they think of the person who committed the crime as the single liable party. While they are correct in some cases, they aren’t in all of them.
Sometimes additional parties could be civilly liable for the damages the victim incurs. They may not have as much responsibility for the incident as the assault, but they do have some. If this applies to your case, your Austin sexual assault lawyers can name them as defendants in your civil claim. If your case is successful, they may be held accountable for paying a portion of your damages. Consider the following scenarios:
Sexual Assault at an Apartment Complex
In some scenarios, the manager or owner of your apartment complex could have some liability in your assault. Suppose you came home from work late one night. It’s dark, and the outside lights to your building have apparently burnt out. You may find your way to your front door, only to find that an assailant has been hiding in the bushes nearby. In that case, the manager or owner of your apartment complex was negligent in not ensuring the proper functioning of the lights. Had they been functioning, it may not have allowed the assailant to hide out of sight, allowing them to commit an assault.
Sexual Assault at Retail Establishment
Much like the liability of the apartment complex manager or owner, the manager or owner of a retail establishment can also be held responsible for their negligence. Suppose there’s been an increase in violent crimes in the area, prompting increased security patrols through the parking lot after dark. One night a security guard calls in sick, and the retailer doesn’t bother to try and replace them for their shift- leaving only one security guard to patrol three parking lots. You return to your car after shopping as the store closes. There are not many people around, and the single security guard patrolled one of the busier parking lots. In that case, the retail establishment might be partially liable for your damages.
Sexual Assault in the Workplace
Unfortunately, sexual assault and other crimes of a sexual nature are frequent in the workplace. Employers can be held liable in the same way that apartment or store owners can be held liable—for not ensuring a safe environment. They can also be held liable for negligent hiring or failing to act on complaints they have received. For example, they might be partially responsible for a sexual assault if:
- You or someone else previously reported inappropriate behavior or threats by the offender, and the employer didn’t do anything.
- The offender has a criminal history, especially involving sex crimes that the employer didn’t dig deep enough to find when they were hired or ignored when hiring them.
Sexual assault cases arising from the workplace can be terribly complex and stressful. It’s crucial to have the representation of compassionate and skilled Austin sexual assault lawyers as you pursue compensation for your damages.
Suppose your employer is the one acting inappropriately in a sexual manner. In that case, they are in violation of not just state sexual assault laws but also Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can begin exercising your rights under these circumstances by filing an “administrative charge” with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). This filing can be a confusing and daunting task; however, the reputable Austin sexual assault lawyers at the Patel Law Firm will be there for you through every step of this process.
Other Potentially Liable Parties in Sexual Assault Civil Claims
In addition to employers and property owners/managers, potentially liable parties in a sex assault civil claim might also include:
- Doctors’ offices
- Daycare centers
- Uber, Lyft, or similar services
A deadline for a legal claim is known as a statute of limitations. Criminal and civil cases have legal deadlines, but they are often different. Texas allows victims of sexual assault five years from the date of the incident to file a civil claim. Criminal charges must be filed within set deadlines, but these deadlines depend upon the victim’s age at the time of the assault. Suppose the victim was at least 18 years of age when the assault occurred. In that case, they have ten years to report the incident and for the prosecution to seek a criminal conviction. If the victim was under 17 when the crime occurred, the statute is tolled or paused until they reach 18 years of age. Once they reach 18, the clock starts ticking again, giving them 20 years from the day they turn 18 to pursue legal charges.
In most cases, if the applicable statute of limitations has passed, a victim will not be able to pursue justice. However, just because civil statutes of limitations have expired doesn’t mean that criminal ones have or that the victim can’t use the criminal courts to seek justice. If you’ve been sexually assaulted, it’s best to reach out to experienced Austin sexual assault lawyers as soon as possible to ensure your rights don’t expire before you can exercise them.
Contact the Knowledgeable Austin Sexual Assault Attorneys at the Patel Law Firm Today
You deserve to see the person who hurt you face the full penalties of the law. Still, you also deserve compensation for your losses, such as pain and suffering and medical bills. Take the time to find attorneys who are good at what they do and willing to help you in this charged situation. At The Patel Law Firm, our Austin sexual assault lawyers are well-versed in both criminal and civil law. We know how the law applies in your case and will be fierce advocates for your rights. Our legal team will navigate your case with the privacy, respect, and compassion it deserves, all the while ensuring you’re given the best service possible. Call us today at 361-400-2036 to receive a confidential sexual assault claim review. We can help you seek the compensation you deserve for such a traumatic event.