Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer
Table of Contents
- Sexual Assault Liability in Texas
- Defining Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Harassment in Texas
- Texas Sexual Assault: Is a Criminal Case Enough?
- The Differences Between Criminal and Civil Courts
Sexual assault is a serious matter throughout the U.S., and Texas is no exception. In fact, over six million Texans—4.2 million women and 2.1 million men have experienced some type of sexual assault in their lifetime. In contrast, approximately 413,000 have experienced it in the past year. There were 18,112 reported incidences of sexual assault in Texas in 2017 alone. These crimes involved 18,774 offenders and 18,750 victims.
Individuals who were assaulted in this manner need to know that they have legal rights and options. The perpetrator will likely face criminal charges and civil liability if a victim chooses to pursue a civil case. The best way to determine what your options are after you or a loved one has suffered a sexual assault is to speak to the compassionate Houston sexual assault attorneys at the Patel Law Firm as soon as possible.
Sometimes it’s not just the person or party that committed a sexual assault that is liable. Other parties who didn’t commit the assault and can’t be held criminally responsible for it could potentially be liable for allowing the conditions for it to occur. Your Houston sexual assault lawyers can ensure that the person who committed the assault, as well as any others who created or allowed the conditions for such an act to occur, are held liable in civil court.
Did Your Sexual Assault Occur at an Apartment Complex?
Under some circumstances, apartment complex owners or managers could be liable for your damages. Suppose you were assaulted when you were attempting to unlock the front door of your apartment. The lights on the outside of your building were out, making it much darker than it is typically. In this case, it’s possible that with the lights out and the area being dark, your assailant was able to remain unseen, just waiting for the opportune time to attack someone. The manager or owner of the apartment complex should have ensured proper lighting around the outside of your building. They beached their duty of care to you, and their negligence partially contributed to the assault.
Did Your Sexual Assault Occur in a Retail Store?
Likewise, depending on the specific situation, retail store owners or managers can be held legally responsible for assaults that occur on their premises. They are responsible for ensuring the well-being and safety of anyone who is legally on their property. Suppose someone is assaulted in the parking lot of a department store. In that case, the store’s lack of security might have allowed the circumstances that resulted in the assault.
For instance, suppose a string of crimes has been taking place in the mall parking lot for a couple of months. The mall doesn’t take any measures to increase security—such as installing surveillance cameras or increasing lighting and security patrols. In this case, they could be partially liable for any damages that result from a sexual assault in the parking lot.
Did Your Sexual Assault Occur at Work?
Sadly, some sexual assaults occur in the workplace. When they do, a third party could be liable for your damages. Those victimized are frequently hesitant to report sexual assault in the workplace because they don’t want to risk their employment or face retaliatory acts. However, if an employer fires an employee or otherwise takes retaliatory actions, they have violated Texas sexual assault laws and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Don’t be intimidated by your employee or the perpetrator at work. Our Houston sexual assault attorneys can guide and support you as we seek justice and compensation on your behalf. First, we can assist you in filing an “administrative charge” with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC).
If a co-worker or contract employee sexually assaulted you at work, your employer or another party might still share some liability for your damages based on the concept of “negligent supervision.” For instance, the person who assaulted you has a documented history of committing aggravated assault or a sexual crime. However, your employer should have found this information when hiring them. They either ignored the information they found or failed to screen the applicant thoroughly before hiring them. Either way, they were negligent, which led to your assault. Another example would be if this person had sexually harassed or threatened you in the past. If you reported it to your employer and did nothing or very little, they could also be liable.
Depending on the situation, other parties besides the assailant who might be liable in a civil sexual assault claim include:
- School districts, administrators, or teachers
- Hospitals and other medical facilities
- Physician offices
- Childcare centers and owners
There is no statutory definition of sexual abuse in Texas. Even still, sexual abuse is typically defined as unwanted sexual contact involving the use of threats or force or taking advantage of those who can’t or aren’t of legal age to give their consent. Sexual assault is a form of sexual abuse.
According to the Texas Attorney General’s Office, sexual assault is “any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another.” Rape and sexual assault are frequently used interchangeably in Texas
According to Texas Penal Code Section 22.011, sexual assault is defined as:
- Intercourse and penetration without consent
- Sexual contact with an individual who can’t give consent due to reduced mental capacity or disability
- Intercourse, penetration, or any sexual contact with a child under the age of 18
- Violent or forceable intercourse, penetration, or sexual contact, even with consent
- Coercive sexual contact
When someone is charged with sexual assault in this state, the prosecution must show that the accused is guilty of taking one or more of the above actions. Sexual assault in Texas is usually a second-degree felony that carries a 20-year prison sentence if convicted. If the assault is aggravated, the use of a weapon or death threats was involved in committing the assault, or if the victim is young or elderly, those convicted might face up to 99 years in prison.
As a lesser form of sexual assault, sexual harassment might include:
- Sending or exposing someone to explicit materials, such as images, cartoons, letters, emails, or texts
- Making inappropriate physical contact
- Asking for sexual favors
- Making harassing phone calls
- Making sexual advances and threatening the receiver with consequences such as firing if they aren’t responsive to them
Criminal courts handle criminal charges. If someone is convicted of a crime, the court ensures that they receive the appropriate penalties, such as a fine or jail time. While a victim of sexual assault or abuse might receive some help from victim’s assistance or a victim advocate, they don’t receive compensation for their damages based on a criminal case. They also need to know that they have a right to pursue a civil case that could provide them with the compensation they deserve.
A criminal action against a sexual assailant won’t start on its own, and neither will a civil action. A sexual assault must be reported to initiate a criminal investigation and prosecution. Likewise, to seek compensation for their injuries or damages, they need to file a civil claim. Criminal charges won’t start a civil process. Our skilled and compassionate Houston sexual assault lawyers can help you seek compensation and justice through the civil legal system.
Sexual Assault Criminal Charges
The U.S. justice system deals with and enforces both criminal and civil laws. When someone breaks the law, police collect evidence, and charges will be filed against them. A prosecuting attorney handles the case on behalf of the state. At the same time, the offender is represented by a criminal attorney—either a public defender who has been assigned to them or a criminal defense attorney they pay for themselves. If the person charged with a sexual crime is convicted, they will face penalties, including:
- Jail time
- Community service
- Other restrictions to their freedom such as a driver’s license suspension or mandatory registration as a sex offender
The specific penalties that apply to each conviction vary, depending on many factors, such as if the perpetrator has previously victimized someone.
Civil cases are quite different from criminal cases. Sometimes they are settled out of a courtroom, where the at-fault party or their insurance company pas the aggrieved party a pre-agreed upon amount of money for them to drop their legal action and move on. Other times, they do go before a judge. Instead of facing community service or jail time, they are ordered to pay the victim money for their losses.
Not all circumstances giving rise to criminal charges also lead to civil actions, but sometimes they can. For example, if a drunk driver hits you, the prosecutor would file criminal charges filed against them. At the same time, you could also file a lawsuit in the civil court system, seeking monetary compensation for your injuries. The same is true if you are a victim of sexual assault; there can be a criminal and civil case against the other person. Criminal courts focus on the perpetrator and penalizing them for what they have done. In the civil court system, the focus is on financial recovery for the victim.
In criminal court, prosecutors need to establish that the offender’s behavior is sexual assault under Texas statutes. In a civil claim, the victim’s Houston sexual assault lawyers will need to establish that the assailant acted intentionally or they were negligent based on the following:
- The other party owed them a degree of care. For example, a store owner should prove adequate lighting in the parking lot at night.
- They breached their duty of care to the victim.
- As a result of the violation, you were harmed.
- Your harm led to your damages such as medical bills and physical and emotional pain and suffering.
The standard of proof is also different between criminal and civil cases. Criminal cases must show the jury that the offender facing charges is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Even the slightest bit of doubt on the part of a single juror means they must find the offender not guilty.
Civil cases have a much lower standard of proof known as a “preponderance of the evidence.” The victim or their Houston sexual assault lawyers must only tip the scale slightly in their favor to receive compensation for damages. The jury only needs to believe that the victim’s claim is more likely true than not.
Does One Case Outcome Impact the Other?
Criminal and civil cases don’t rely on one another. They are different, and the outcome of one can be entirely different from the other. Although some of the same evidence might apply to each, criminal and civil cases don’t share Houston sexual assault lawyers, laws, or penalties.
A civil case will not impact the outcome of a criminal case. However, sometimes a criminal case can impact a civil case. Since a criminal case requires a higher standard of proof, a successful one often means there’s enough proof for a civil claim to be successful. Don’t let the status of criminal charges against the individual who victimized you keep you from reaching out to our knowledgeable Houston sexual assault attorneys. We don’t have to wait on criminal charges or the results of a criminal case to pursue justice on your behalf.
Contact Our Reputable Houston Sexual Assault Attorneys Firm for Help Today
In any legal matter, it’s essential to reach out to a qualified lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. Sex assault claims can carry deadlines and must be filed on time. Survivors must be able to determine who should be held liable for the assault, who might have been negligent for allowing it to happen, what the victim’s damages are, negotiate with defense adjusters and attorneys, and ensure that all other deadlines are met. In short, they need representation from Houston sexual assault lawyers to protect their claim and ensure it’s as successful as possible.
At the Patel Law Firm, our clients rely on us to provide competent legal representation that protects their legal rights and options. We realize that sexual assaults are extremely sensitive in nature. Accordingly, we offer completely private and confidential consultations to discuss your claims. Contact us today to schedule a complimentary no-obligation case consultation. We can be reached at 361-400-2036.