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Your Guide to the New Texas Assault Laws

On Sept. 1, 2019, several new laws took effect in Texas that broadened assault classifications and toughened penalties for offenses.

Being hit with assault charges in Texas is a serious situation — the state has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world — so it’s important to be aware of these changes and hire a trusted attorney before making any costly errors navigating the legal system.

What are the New Assault Laws?

Here’s a brief overview of Texas’ new assault laws:

  • SB 194 – Creates a new Class A misdemeanor offense called “indecent assault,” which refers to touching someone in a sexual manner without consent.

  • SB 1259 – If a health service provider uses “human reproductive material from a donor knowing that the other person had not expressly consented to the use of material from that donor,” it is considered sexual assault.

  • HB 8 – The statute of limitations doesn’t apply to sexual assault cases where rape-kit samples are collected and has yet to undergo forensic testing. Beginning in 2021, DNA samples from sexual assault cases must be tested within a 90-day period.

  • HB 3106 – Sexual assault investigations must now be included in an FBI database.

  • HB 667 – Enhances the punishment for the offense of incestuous sexual assault up to 99 years in prison.

  • HB 902 – Assault of a pregnant woman now carries a tougher penalty if the attacker knew the victim was pregnant.

What You Should Know

INDECENT ASSAULT

Groping used to be one of the lowest-level criminal offenses in Texas, punishable by a $500 fine at most. Not any longer. What used to be a Class C misdemeanor is now a Class A misdemeanor called “indecent assault,” which includes any unwanted touching of the breast, buttocks or genitals for sexual gratification. Indecent assault now carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

SEXUAL ASSAULT

Several new laws will make it easier for police to track sexual assault cases, including requiring that all cases be entered into an FBI database, and stricter rules for testing and tracking rape kits.

This law was spurred by a backlog of rape-kit testing. Now kits must be analyzed within 90 days. And if a kit is involved in a felony case, the evidence must be preserved for at least 40 years or until the statute of limitations expires.

Also, Texas became the first state to add specific artificial insemination wording to its sexual assault classification. This action was triggered by the case of an East Texas fertility doctor who had artificially inseminated women with his own sperm without consent.

DOMESTIC ASSAULT

Now, after months of coronavirus stay-at-home orders, more sexual and domestic assaults are being reported throughout Texas.

For example, in Austin, SAFE Alliance has seen a 16 percent increase in domestic violence call volume over the past two months. And Austin Police took 670 reports of domestic violence from March 13 to April 20.

Fort Worth, San Antonio and Amarillo have reported similar increases in domestic assault calls.

With an increase in cases, there will also be an increase in the toughness of penalties.

For instance, attacks against pregnant women are now considered a felony crime, and if convicted, offenders could receive a sentence of between 2 and 10 years in prison.

This type of assault case is expected to be reported and prosecuted often — in just the first two months the law existed last year, Harris County prosecutors alone lodged at least 46 cases of assault against pregnant women.

Another law increases the penalty for incestuous sexual assault from 5 to 99 years in prison. Previously, the penalty was capped between 2 to 20 years.

What You Should Do

Always ask for a lawyer when you’re accused of assault charges of any kind. Then call on the lawyers at Chappell, Lanehart & Stangl.

We have decades of experience defending clients accused of assault with great success. Choosing an experienced, aggressive lawyer to protect your reputation and liberty is of the utmost importance when dealing with assault charges. Feel free to call our office and set up a free consultation.

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