Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children Law Image

Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children

Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children is a criminal offense where a person (17 years or older) commits two or more sexual acts against one or more victims younger than 14 years of age within a 30 day time period or longer. Because the offense requires a pattern of sexual abuse, it carries a higher punishment then any of the single sex crimes on which it is based.1

Have you been charged with Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child? Call criminal lawyer Paul Saputo at (888) 239-9305.

Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child is a relatively new offense in the Texas Penal Code. The offense was created as part of a bill called “Jessica’s Law,” passed in 2007 under House Bill 8. The call for tougher sex offender laws throughout the United States had Texas legislatures examining Texas criminal sex offenses. Prior to 2007, there was no law punishing a sex offender’s pattern of engaging in multiple child sex offenses.

How can I be charged with Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child?

Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child is defined in Texas Penal Code Section 21.02(b). This subsection says that someone commits the Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child offense if:

(1) during a period that is 30 or more days in duration, the person commits two or more acts of sexual abuse, regardless of whether the acts of sexual abuse are committed against one or more victims; and (2) at the time of the commission of each of the acts of sexual abuse, the actor is 17 years of age or older and the victim is a child younger than 14 years of age.

The jury does not have to agree unanimously on the specific acts of sexual abuse or the exact dates on which the abuse occurred.2 The jurors only have to agree unanimously that two or more acts of sexual abuse were committed by the defendant during a period that is 30 or more days in duration. The state’s attorney does not need to prove that all sexual abuse acts were committed against the same victim.3

For example, a person has committed Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child by committing indecency with a child against Jane Doe (age 8) on March 2, 2008 and by committing sexual assault against John Doe (age 13) on May 2, 2008. However, if a person commits sexual assault against Jane Doe on March 1 and commits sexual assault against John Doe on March 29, the element of “within a 30 day period” has not been met. The person may still be convicted of two separate instances of Sexual Assault.

Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child does not contain a statute of limitations.4 In other words, a person may be prosecuted for this offense at any time regardless of how long ago the offense occurred.

What is “sexual abuse“?

As described above, Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child offense requires multiple acts of “acts of sexual abuse.” A person who has committed one of the following offenses has committed an act of sexual abuse for purposes of committing Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child:5

However, the prosecuting attorneys are not supposed to charge a person with one of the offenses listed above and Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child for the same victim unless (1) the person is charged in the alternative, (2) the offense occurred during less than a thirty day time period, or (3) it is found to be a lesser-included offense.6 A person who has committed multiple counts of sexual assault against a single child victim is only supposed to be charged with a single count of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child.7

Who can be charged with Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child?

The alleged victim(s) must be younger than 14 years of age at the time the assault occurred, and the accused person must be at least 17 years old.8 For example, if John Doe (17 years old) commits sexual assault against Jane Doe (13 years old) on March 1, 2015 and again on April 1, 2015, John Doe has committed Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child. However, if John Doe (17 years old) commits sexual assault against Jane Doe (15 years old) on the same two dates, John Doe has not committed Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child, although he could still be prosecuted by the state’s attorneys under other sex crimes laws. Additionally, a 17 year old in this circumstance may have an affirmative defense, as described in more detail below.

Who qualifies as a “child” under the law?

The Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child statute defines child as a person younger than 17 years old.9 However, the statute also limits its applicability to prosecutions of child abuse offenses where the alleged victims are 13 years old or younger.10 Therefore, a person has not committed this particular offense if the victim is 14 years old or older.

What is the punishment for Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child?

The punishment for Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child is a first-degree felony.11 A felony in the first degree is punishable by 5-99 years in prison, or life, and a maximum fine of $10,000.12 However, Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child carries a special minimum punishment of 25 years.11 Persons convicted of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child are not eligible for parole.13

What are the possible defenses?

Everyone is entitled to a jury trial, and the most common defense is to fight the state’s attempt to prove you “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

However, there is an affirmative defense against prosecution of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child called the “Romeo and Juliet” defense.14 This defense would protect two younger people who are close in age, such as a 17-year-old senior in high school and a 13-year-old freshman in high school. This defense only applies if “the actor is not more than five years older than the victim, the actor did not use duress, force, or a threat, and the actor is not a registered sex offender.”14


Legal References:

1John Bradley, ‘Jessica’s Law’ comes to Texas

2Texas Penal Code § 21.02(d)

3Texas Penal Code § 21.02(b)(1)

4Texas Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(1)(D)

5Texas Penal Code § 21.02(c)

6Texas Penal Code § 21.02(e)

7Texas Penal Code § 21.02(f)

8Texas Penal Code § 21.02(b)(2)

9Texas Penal Code § 21.02(a), referencing the definition of “child” under 22.011(c):

(c) In this section: (1) “Child” means a person younger than 17 years of age.

10Texas Penal Code § 21.02(b)(2)

11Texas Penal Code § 21.02(h)

12Texas Penal Code § 12.32

13Texas Government Code § 508.145(a)

14Texas Penal Code § 21.02(g)