Texas Sexual Assault Lawyer
Table of Contents
- Sexual Misconduct: Assault, Abuse, and Harassment
- Texas Sexual Assault: Criminal vs. Civil Courts
- Who is Liable for Your Assault?
- Texas Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations
- Compensable Damages in Sex Assault Claims
In the 21st Century, sexual assault is a topic that still isn’t addressed or discussed as much as it should be. Worse yet, it continues to happen in astounding numbers and is far too often underreported. In 2017, there were 18,112 reported incidences of sexual assault in Texas alone. They involved 18,750 victims and 18,774 offenders. If you or someone you love became a victim of sexual assault, you have the right to report the offense and to seek justice in both the criminal and civil court systems. The Texas sexual assault attorneys at the Patel Law Firm can help you pursue compensation for your physical and emotional damages through the civil court system during this difficult time.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office describes sexual assault as “any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another.” In Texas, the words rape and sexual assault are often used interchangeably. Texas Penal Code Section 22.011 defines sexual assault as an of the following:
- Intercourse and penetration that lacks consent
- Sexual abuse of someone who cannot give consent due to a disability or their mental capacity
- Intercourse, penetration, or sexual contact with a minor child
- Forcible and violent intercourse, penetration, or sexual contact, even with consent
- Coercive sexual acts
As such, the prosecution must show that the person charged with sexual assault is guilty of doing one or more of these things. Sexual assault in Texas is generally classified as a second-degree felony punishable with a 20-year prison sentence. If the assault is aggravated, meaning the perpetrator uses a weapon or death threats while committing the assault, or if the victim is extremely young or old, offenders could be sentenced to as many as 99 years in prison.
Sexual abuse is not a legal term in Texas. However, it is commonly defined as unwanted sexual contact made by the use of force, making threats, or taking advantage of those unable to give consent. Sexual assault is a form of sexual abuse.
Sexual harassment is a lesser form of sexual assault and generally includes:
- Showing or sending explicit images, cartoons, letters, emails, or texts
- Making inappropriate physical contact
- Requesting sexual favors
- Making harassing phone calls or sending inappropriate love letters
- Threatening termination from employment if the sexual advances are not accepted
When most people think about seeking justice for a criminal infraction, they think solely about reporting the crime to local law enforcement and cooperating with an investigation to bring the perpetrator to justice. While this is the correct line of thinking, they also need to be aware that they could have a civil court claim in addition to any criminal charges filed against the person who hurt them.
Just like a victim must take action to report the crime and help police with an investigation so they can press charges, they must also take action to seek a civil claim. Filing criminal charges won’t automatically begin a civil process. To receive compensation for your damages arising from a criminal act, contact experienced Texas sexual assault lawyers.
The American justice system has two bodies; criminal and civil. When someone breaks the law, a criminal case can be filed against them. It is handled by the government through a prosecuting attorney, and the offender is represented by a criminal attorney. If the person charged is convicted, they might have consequences like:
- Jail time
- Community service
- Other liberties restricted such as a driver’s license suspension or registration as a sex offender
On the other hand, most other cases result from civil disputes and are typically resolved with some sort of recovery. Civil cases are filed by a private party, such as a corporation or individual, against another corporation or individual. Usually, those who file a civil claim are presented by an attorney who practices civil law.
Not all circumstances giving rise to criminal charges also give rise to civil actions, but sometimes they can. For example, if a drunk driver hits you, they would face criminal charges. Still, you could also seek compensation for your damages through the civil court system. The same is true if you are a victim of sexual assault.
It can take a lot of courage to report an incident of sexual assault to the proper authorities. Those who are victims of sexual abuse need to know that they can pursue justice within the civil court system as well. Keep in mind that criminal courts focus on the perpetrator, whereas civil courts focus on victim recovery.
In civil court, someone who endured a sexual assault doesn’t need to prove that what the other party did fits the Texas definition of sexual assault. Instead, they or their Texas sexual assault lawyers will need to establish that the perpetrator acted intentionally or they were negligent based on the following:
- The other party owed them a duty of care (which can be evidenced by the law)
- They violated that duty of care
- 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
Standards of Proof
Among other things, criminal and civil cases have different standards of proof. In a criminal case, the prosecution must convince a jury that the person on trial is guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If a jury has the slightest doubt as to their guilt, they must find them not guilty.
However, civil cases have a lesser standard of proof that is usually referred to as a “preponderance of the evidence.” The injured party or victim or their Texas sexual assault attorneys on their behalf must only tip the scale in their favor to receive a favorable verdict. The jury simply must believe that the victim’s story is more likely true than not.
Does One Case Outcome Impact the Other?
Criminal and civil cases run entirely separate from one another. They have their own attorneys, laws, and consequences. However, they might rely on some of the same evidence. A civil case has no implications on a criminal case, although the opposite can be true. Since a criminal case requires a more significant standard of proof, it can often mean that there is more than enough proof to have a successful civil claim. Whether a criminal case has begun against the person who harmed you or not, you have the right to contact Texas sexual assault attorneys to help you recover compensation.
The circumstances and location where your sex assault occurred can have considerable implications on who is responsible for your damages. It might not be just the individual who assaulted you that is liable to you in civil court. It could also be other parties who could have done something to prevent or stop your assault.
While the person who assaulted you is liable for an intentional or deliberate tort, other parties can be liable for a negligent tort.
Sexual Assault in an Apartment Complex
Under some circumstances, the owners or managers of an apartment complex could be liable for your damages. Suppose you were assaulted when you were walking from the parking lot to your apartment. Several lights in the parking lot were burnt out, making it much darker than usual. In that case, the darkness might have allowed the offender to hide from you until they could quickly attack without you knowing what was coming. The manager or owner of your complex was negligent in not ensuring proper lighting. They violated their duty of care to you, which contributed to the assault you suffered.
Sexual Assault in a Retail Store
Similarly, owners or managers of retail stores can be held liable for assaults that happen on their property. Like an apartment complex owner or manager, retail property owners and managers are responsible for ensuring the safety of those who are legally on their property. Suppose you are assaulted in a stairwell of a department store. In that case, it’s possible that the store’s lack of security contributed to the circumstances that led to your assault. Your Texas sexual assault lawyers can help you pursue compensation from them.
Sexual Assault by Employer
Another example of additional liability for your assault is if you are assaulted by your employer. In these cases, victims are often afraid to report incidences of sexual assault because they don’t have to lose their jobs or become victims of retaliatory acts. This is especially true if the victim has few financial resources. If this occurs, the employer has violated not only state sexual assault laws but also Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
To pursue justice, you must begin by filing an “administrative charge” with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The knowledgeable Texas sexual assault lawyers at the Patel Law Firm can guide and support you through this process.
Even if it wasn’t your employer but another employee who sexually assaulted you, your employer could still have some liability under the legal framework of “negligent supervision.” Suppose your employer knew or should have reasonably known that their employee had committed aggravated sexual assault or a sexually violent crime. In that case, they can be held liable if the assaulter had made sexually harassing comments to you previously. Your employer was aware and did nothing to stop it from continuing. These types of cases can be quite complex, so it’s imperative to have the representation of reputable Texas sexual assault attorneys as you pursue compensation.
Other potentially liable parties in a sex assault civil case might include:
- Doctors’ offices
- Daycare centers
A statute of limitations is a legal deadline. Both criminal and civil cases have legal deadlines to bring charges or claims. In most cases, if the applicable statute of limitations has passed, a victim will not be able to pursue justice.
In Texas, victims who wish to file a civil claim against the person who assaulted them have five years from the date of the offense to do so. The criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault offenses involving a victim who is 18 years of age or older is ten years from the date of the offense. In criminal cases involving a victim who was under 17 when the crime occurred, the criminal statute of limitations is 20 years from the victim’s 18th birthday. Keep in mind that even if the civil statute of limitations has expired, victims can still pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator.
Successful tort claims against sex assault offenders will result in compensation for the victim’s damages. Damages can vary from one case to the next; however, victims of sexual assault usually have the following types of damages:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Lost wages/loss of earning capacity
- Rehabilitation and psychological counseling
- Scars and disfigurement
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
Your Texas sexual assault attorneys can also seek punitive damages on your behalf. Punitive or exemplary damages are awarded in civil claims when the at-fault party acted deliberately or reprehensibly. They serve as a consequence and deterrent for the at-fault party.
Call the Experienced Texas Sexual Assault Attorneys at the Patel Law Firm Today for Help
Remember that criminal charges don’t automatically lead to a civil claim. A civil claim is a separate legal action that you must pursue outside of the criminal courts, typically with the help of experienced Texas sexual assault lawyers.
Sexual assault is a serious criminal and civil infraction with complex issues that require the knowledge and experience of dedicated Texas sexual assault attorneys. At the Patel Law Firm, our lawyers know the nuances of such cases. They can provide skillful legal representation that protects your legal rights and options. Call us today at 361-400-2036 to schedule a confidential sexual assault claim civil consultation. We can help you seek the compensation you deserve for such a traumatic event.