Improper sexual relationships between students and teachers are being prosecuted more than ever across the country, and Texas is no exception. Although it may be an unfortunately commonplace occurrence, a relationship between a primary or secondary school student and an educator within the same school district the student attends is prohibited under Texas law, even if the relationship is consensual and the student is over the age of 17.
If you or someone you love has been accused of having an improper teacher/student relationship, you need an experienced local sex crimes defense firm who will properly defend you against this charge.
Our team has successfully defended teachers throughout greater Houston in both private and public schools, both male and female, who have been accused of having improper relationships with children of all ages.
There is no question that this charge is the most dangerous and life-altering moment in your life. If you or someone you love has been accused of this serious offense, it’s expected and natural for you to be petrified. What you need is to pull yourself together and start fighting for your life. However, you should not attempt to fight this alone. You don’t just need a lawyer, you need a team of experienced sex crime defense lawyers and staff. Schiffer Law Firm is that team.
With over 45 years of combined defense experience, as well as working in both state and federal prosecutors’ offices, both prosecuting and defending sex crimes cases, our attorneys have found that investigation and intensive preparation are the keys to a successful resolution.
According to Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code, an offense occurs when an employee of a primary or secondary school (private or public) has any kind of sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a student enrolled in the school or district in which the educator works. An offense is also committed when a person who holds a certificate or permit from the State Board for Educator Certification program or is required to hold a license through a state agency according to the Texas Education Code has sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a student in the teacher’s school or district, anywhere, or the student in question is enrolled in an educational activity program that is sponsored by that employee’s school or district.
It doesn’t matter if the relationship occurs outside of school hours or off of school property. As long as the relationship occurs in Texas and the participants are active as an educator and student as outlined in the statute, there is an actionable offense. So, cautionary warning….the Senior trip out of state does NOT become a crime free zone!
In our vast experience, individuals charged also face the possibility of additional felony charges. The law also covers the online solicitation of a student. This is defined as any sexually explicit communication between the school employee and a student, as well as the distribution of sexually explicit material to a student, via any type of electronic communication for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal.
It should be noted that this law doesn’t apply to relationships involving post-secondary schools. In these cases, college and universities tend to have their own rules and guidelines regarding educator and student relationships. Absent other circumstances, these relationships aren’t considered crimes under Texas law.
While sexual contact, sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse, and electronic sexually explicit communication are offenses under this law, there are actions between an educator and a student that can exist without rising to the level of the offense of an improper relationship. For example, as long as the actions don’t escalate to a proscribed offense by becoming sexual in nature, non-sexual communication including private phone calls and spending time privately together outside of school aren’t considered a crime. However, these things may be used later as evidence if an offense is alleged. It should also be noted that these actions might be against the code of conduct of the school or school district, and that the educator may find himself or herself terminable under school district rules.
To obtain a conviction, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an employee who at the time was working in a public or private primary or secondary school entered into a sexual relationship with a student who at the time was enrolled in the school or within the same district. That means that the enrollment status of the student has to be proven, along with the employment status of the educator. The actual sexual contact or online solicitation also must be proven. If there are any other charges along with this specific one, those will also need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you’re convicted of having an improper relationship with a student, you face a state prison sentence ranging from 2 to 20 years, and fines up to $10,000. This crime is a second-degree felony. Recent cases have resulted in even first time offenders spending time in prison, despite their eligibility for probation.
Being found guilty of improper teacher/student relationship results not only in a potential lengthy prison sentence and thousands of dollars in fines, you’ll also face additional difficulties if, and when, you’re released. These ramifications can change your life and affect your personal relationships.
Because an improper relationship between a student and an educator is not a reportable conviction insofar as the state’s sex offender registry is concerned, if you were convicted, you would not have to register as a sex offender upon leaving prison. However, it’s possible that the court can rule otherwise, especially if you are found guilty of other crimes arising from the same event or set of events. There are also efforts currently being made to change this, so it’s possible that people convicted of this in the future can be required to register as sex offenders.
Some of the consequences of registering as a sex offender are:
You may also find that schools will no longer wish to employ you based on your involvement with a student, regardless of whether or not you are convicted of the crime. That means that you may have to change professions in order to find gainful employment.
Since it is a second degree felony, this crime is serious and may result in severe penalties. It is critical to your future that you have a qualified defense firm on your side, who rely not only on their knowledge of the law, but on decades of local sex crimes defense experience and solid team of experts, doctors, investigators, and more to craft a solid defense against the accusations made against you.
There are two notable statutory defenses against this accusation. The first is that there is no offense if you and the alleged victim were married at the time of the sexual relationship. The second is that there is no offense if the two in question are no more than three years apart in age and the relationship started prior to the educator’s having accepted employment with the school or school district.
Your defense team will also use all available evidence to form a defense. This includes securing witnesses for you, if there are any, and cross-examining the witnesses prepared to testify against you, analyzing all of the evidence, and discovering the flaws in the prosecution’s case.
You should never fight such a serious charge as an improper student/teacher relationship alone. If you or someone you love is being accused of this crime, call our firm immediately. Our sex crimes team has over 45 years of combined defense experience, and has successfully defended improper student/teacher relationship cases before. We know what it takes to protect your rights.
It is also important that you have a defense attorney who will treat you with respect despite the charges against you. At the Schiffer Law Firm, you will be welcomed openly and treated with dignity from the moment you contact us. We know that these are difficult times, and we will handle your case sensitively to make sure that you get through the process with the best possible result. Don’t wait any longer. The sooner you get in touch with us, the sooner we can begin to build your defense.
That’s a great question, but you won’t find the answer here. While there is nothing inherently secret about a great defense, some attorneys are simply better prepared, more creative, and more experienced than others. It’s that combination that makes our sex crimes defense team so successful in defending these cases. A professional sports team, or an army preparing for battle, doesn’t disclose its strategy to the opposition. It is only through a confidential, in-person, meeting with our attorneys, where your information is protected by the attorney-client privilege and away from any prying wire taps or snooping law enforcement investigators, that we will discuss potential strategies that are tailored specifically for you.
Call today to set up a confidential in-office or virtual meeting.
The first thing you need to do is accept the situation. You have been charged with a crime, and yes, this is really happening. Having worked with thousands of clients throughout our attorneys’ careers, we understand thoroughly the storm of emotions that you may be feeling right now. Accepting the situation you are in will allow you to make rational decisions moving forward.
Now that you’ve accepted the reality of your situation, it is imperative that you maintain a clear head and stay in control of your emotions. In far too many situations, we see clients betrayed by their emotions which negatively impacts their own defense. Panic, anxiety, and second-guessing everything is the soil where bad legal strategy and decision making grows.
If you find yourself stressing about your situation, do what you can to calm yourself down. If you find that you need to talk with someone, please call us. We’ll discuss what’s going on and help you get a clear picture of your situation.