Waco Sexual Assault Lawyer
Table of Contents
- After a Sexual Assault: Your Options for Justice
- Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Harassment Under Texas Laws
- Civil Liability for Sexual Assault in Texas
- Sexual Assault Statute of Limitations in Texas
Assault victims suffer physical wounds and sometimes emotional ones as well. If they experienced a sexual assault, recovery from their wounds is often more difficult. Even with numerous public awareness campaigns and stricter criminal penalties for perpetrators, sexual assault continues to be a serious problem in Texas and this country. Texas is ranked as the 15th most dangerous state for rape and sexual assault in the United States. According to FBI crime statistics, Texas has a rate of 55.2 rapes and sexual assaults per 100,000 people.
The Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas at Austin reports that:
- Over six million Texans have experienced a sexual assault.
- 40 percent of women and 20 percent of men in Texas have been sexually assaulted.
- In the past year, around 413,000 Texans have experienced some form of sexual assault.
If you or a loved one experienced a sexual assault, you have the right to seek civil and criminal legal action. Seek justice you deserve today by reaching out to the skilled Texas sexual assault lawyers at the Patel Law Firm.
Reporting a sexual assault to the authorities isn’t easy. In fact, more often than not, these crimes go unreported. However, making a report is often the first step in standing up for your rights. It’s better to report such an assault sooner rather than later since valuable evidence can be lost or dissipate. Evidence is crucial in criminal cases to link the perpetrator to the crime—without it, you may never see justice. The criminal justice system relies on evidence to establish that a crime has occurred and that the right person is held accountable. If a sexual assailant is convicted or even agrees to a plea deal, some or all of the following penalties can be imposed:
- Significant fines
- Jail or prison time
- Mandatory restitution payments
- Mandatory community service
- Loss of other freedoms such as the right to vote or the right to own or possess a firearm
- Mandatory sex offender registration
Although criminals should have legal consequences for their actions, unfortunately, a criminal conviction doesn’t erase what happened to you. These penalties won’t make up for your physical or emotional pain or other damages. However, you can also pursue civil charges, which can.
With the help of Waco sexual assault lawyers, you can potentially receive compensation for your pain, suffering, and expenses related to the assault you suffered. This compensation is sought through the civil court system, which differs from the criminal court system in many ways. Civil and criminal cases run independently of one another. The outcome of one doesn’t necessarily impact or reflect the outcome of the other. Someone can be found not guilty of sexual assault but still be held liable in civil court. In fact, civil claims are often successful even when criminal charges are not because civil claims:
- Require less proof. A “preponderance of the evidence” must sway someone to believe the perpetrator caused the victim’s damages as opposed to “beyond a reasonable doubt” in a criminal case.
- When successful, result in monetary gain to compensate the victim’s damages instead of prison time or other penalties for the offender.
- Are focused on making the victim whole again, not necessarily punishing the criminal, although punitive damages may be appropriate.
- Don’t rely on criminal laws to establish the wrong-doing of the assailant.
- Can end in an out-of-court monetary settlement.
- Are pursued by the victim and their Waco sexual assault lawyers instead of law enforcement officers, the prosecutor, and the state.
- Have a five-year filing deadline from the date of the offense, known as the statute of limitations— in contrast, the criminal statute of limitations for sexual assault offenses is between 10 and 20 years or possibly more, determined by the victim’s age at the time of the assault.
Sexual assault victims and their families should be aware that they have a right to pursue justice with both criminal and civil claims. They should also keep in mind that even if one case isn’t successful, the other could still be. An unsuccessful criminal or civil claim shouldn’t be a reason to give up.
With a civil claim, you could receive monetary compensation for your damages—such as pain and suffering and medical bills. You may also be awarded punitive damages designed to punish the perpetrator and deter future similar behavior from them and others. When you hire experienced Waco sexual assault lawyers, they can explain more about how a civil case differs from criminal charges.
Texas lacks a statutory definition of sexual abuse. Typically, sexual abuse is defined as unwanted sexual contact in conjunction with threats or force or taking sexual advantage of those who aren’t legally old enough or of sound mind to give their own consent. Sexual assault is a form of sexual abuse.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office states that sexual assault is defined as “any unwanted, non-consensual sexual contact against any individual by another.” It’s common for the terms rape and sexual assault to be used interchangeably in this state.
According to Texas Penal Code Section 22.011, includes:
- Intercourse and penetration lacking consent
- Sexual contact with someone who can’t give their consent due to their mental capacity or disability
- Any sexual contact, including intercourse or penetration with a child under the age of 18
- Violent or forceable sexual contact, including intercourse and penetration, even with consent
- Any coercive sexual contact
Suppose the prosecution charges someone with sexual assault. In that case, that person must be ready to prove that the person facing charges committed one or more of these acts. In Texas, a sexual assault conviction is typically a second-degree felony that assesses a 20-year prison sentence. However, if the assault is committed by using a weapon or death threats or if the victim is particularly young or elderly, a conviction could carry a sentence of up to 99 years.
Sexual harassment is a lesser form of sexual assault and often includes the following:
- Sending or showing someone explicit materials, including texts, images, cartoons, letters, or emails
- Inappropriate physical contact
- Requesting sexual favors
- Harassing phone calls
- Sexual advances and threatening the receiver with consequences such as losing their job if they don’t respond positively to them
When civil courts are involved, there may be more than one party responsible for a sexual assault. Of course, the person who committed the assault should be held accountable. However, other parties can also be liable based on their actions that could have led to what happened to the victim. The person who assaulted you is liable for what is known as an intentional or deliberate tort, but other parties can be liable for a negligent tort. Here are just a few examples. If any of these or other similar ones apply to your case, speak to experienced Waco sexual assault attorneys as soon as possible.
Apartment Complex Sexual Assaults
Owners or managers of an apartment complex could be liable for your damages. Suppose you came home from work late one night and were sexually assaulted while walking from the parking lot to your front door. A few big lights in the parking lot were burnt out, making it much darker than usual. In that case, the lack of light might have given the offender an opportunity to hide from you until they could attack without you being aware anyone was in the vicinity. The manager or owner of your complex was negligent for not ensuring proper lighting by monitoring for burnt-out lights and promptly replacing them. They violated their duty of care to you, contributing to your assault. Although they aren’t directly responsible, had they not violated their duty of care, you might not have suffered an assault.
Retail Store Sexual Assaults
Likewise, retail stores owners and managers can be held liable for assaults that happen on their property. They are responsible for ensuring the safety of others who are on their property legally. For example, suppose you are assaulted in a dressing room of a department store. In that case, it’s possible that the store’s lack of security contributed to the situation leading up to the sexual assault. Your Texas sexual assault lawyers can help you pursue compensation through a negligent security claim.
Employer and Work Sexual Assaults
Sexual assaults also happen at work. Sometimes they come directly from the employer or manager, and other times, it’s from coworkers or clients. Unfortunately, many work sexual assaults don’t get reported because workers fear losing their jobs or facing retaliatory actions. If this happens, the employer has violated state sexual assault laws and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
If this happens to you, you will want to file an “administrative charge” with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). The seasoned Waco sexual assault lawyers at the Patel Law Firm can help you navigate this sometimes confusing and emotional process.
If another employee sexually assaulted you, your employer could be liable under the legal concept of “negligent supervision.” For example, your employer could be responsible if:
- They didn’t perform a sufficient background check or ignored something on a background check when hiring the person who assaulted you.
- Your assailant previously made sexually harassing comments to you, and your employer was aware but failed to do anything about it.
However, negligent supervision cases can be challenging to prove. Suppose you think you have reason to pursue one. In that case, it’s best to meet with knowledgeable Waco sexual assault attorneys as soon as possible to discuss your claim.
Sexual Assaults at Other Locations
There are many other situations and places where sexual assaults can occur that might indicate the liability of a third party. Other potentially liable parties might include:
- Doctors’ offices
- Daycare centers
Criminal and civil claims alike have legal deadlines to which sexual assault victims need to be aware and adhere. These deadlines are officially referred to as statutes of limitations. Typically, victims can’t pursue justice if criminal charges or civil claims aren’t filed within the applicable statute of limitations. It should also be noted that even if the civil statute of limitations has passed, victims can still pursue criminal charges against the perpetrator.
Under Texas law, those who wish to file a civil claim against the individual who sexually assaulted them have five years from the date of the assault. Keep in mind that civil and criminal statutes of limitations are different. The criminal sexual assault statute of limitations for victims 18 years of age or older is ten years from the date of the assault. Victims who were less than 18 years of age when the assault occurred have 20 years from their 18th birthday to pursue criminal charges.
Sexual assault victims and their families shouldn’t wait to speak to Waco sexual assault attorneys. Waiting can delay the time an attorney has to prepare and pursue your claim, decreasing the chance of success. The more time your lawyer has to work on your case, the better.
Questions About Your Next Steps? Contact Our Reputable Waco Sexual Assault Attorneys Today
At the Patel Law Firm, our reputable Waco sexual assault lawyers know how sexual assault can impact victims and their families. We take the time to compassionately listen and account for your damages. Then we formulate a legal game plan to help you pursue justice in the civil court system. Our attorneys work tirelessly to ensure every possible action is taken to make your case as successful as possible.
Call us today at 361-400-2036 for a no-obligation confidential sexual assault claim civil consultation. Criminal and civil laws surrounding sexual assault can be confusing and overwhelming. Our team is here to help support you as you understand and exercise your rights by filing criminal and civil charges against the individual who harmed you and any other liable parties.