Are you under investigation for an alleged improper teacher-student relationship? Have your or a loved one already been arrested? Not only is your job at stake, but your freedom and reputation are on the line too considering the ferocity with which the media and courts pursue these types of sex offense cases.
In addition to the embarrassment and punishments of a second-degree felony conviction, a Texas teacher or educator convicted of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student or online solicitation of a minor may face further disciplinary actions by the State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) that include revoking, restricting or suspending their teaching license. In fact, a new bill even grants the power to withhold pension benefits from educators convicted of an inappropriate student-teacher misconduct felony.
If you or a loved one are being investigated or have been charged with in improper relationship with a student, it is imperative you seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At the Neal Davis Law Firm, our Houston sex crime defense attorneys will listen to your story and evaluate the facts in your case to determine the best possible defense strategy.
Our Texas criminal defense lawyers are often able to favorably resolve sex crime cases quickly and quietly, without the need for trial.
Sex crimes involving improper relationships between educators and students have recently been called an "epidemic" in Texas, which some experts attribute to the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and text messaging that permits extended communication between teachers and students outside of a classroom setting.
One survey found that Texas had more cases improper teacher-student relationships reported by the media than any other state in the nation. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reports that allegations of improper teacher-student relationships are on the rise - with 188 cases investigated in 2015 alone.
In 2016, the TEA launched 222 investigations of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students, hitting an 8-year high and an increase of 42 percent over the last five years. Around 60 teachers in the Houston area's biggest school districts lost their teaching license due to impropriety with a student.
While it is clear that students must be better protected in the American school system from adult misconduct, it is also true that teachers and school employees must be protected from false allegations and publicized investigations that can cripple a person's career and lead to unjust punishments.
Texas has some of the toughest improper relationship laws in the nation. Most states prosecute educators who have engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with a student under their statutory rape laws. However, in 2003, Texas enacted a specific improper relationship statute regarding teachers and all students (even students over the age of 17), making it a felony offense. This law was expanded in 2011 to include not only students who attend the teacher's school, but also students who are enrolled at any school in the educator's district.
"Unless there's real strong evidence of a teacher trading sex for grades or using improper influence, then it's a statute that is really open to abuse," says Houston defense attorney Dick DeGuerin. (Source)
Sec. 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code states that any employee of a public or private elementary, middle or high school commits a sex crime if they engage in "sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse" with:
It's worth mentioning that Texas law on improper relationships applies applies not only to teachers, but all school district employees - including janitors, coaches, principals, counselors and superintendents.
Also, Texas improper relationship law applies at all times (not just during school hours), anywhere in Texas (not just on campus or school property) and regardless of the student's age or consent. That means even if the student is 18 years old and the sex is consensual, the teacher can still be charged with a felony if they are employed at the same primary school, secondary school or district as the student.
Improper relationships between educator and student is not currently listed as a "reportable conviction or adjudication" under Article 62.001(5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and therefore those convicted of this offense typically do not have to register as a sex offender unless otherwise ruled by the court. However, efforts have been made to close this loophole.
Texas sex crime law only applies to relationships between students and educators in primary and secondary schools. It does not apply to colleges and universities, which typically have their own internal guidelines regarding these types of relationships. A relationship between a college student and a professor is not considered a criminal offense in Texas.
In order to attain a sex crime conviction for improper sexual relations with a student, a prosecutor must prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the school employee or teacher being charged acted with criminal intent and engaged in sexual contact with the student. A common defense strategy is to question the evidence of a sexual relationship or reveal possible ulterior motives the alleged victim may have to accuse the defendant of a sex crime.
In addition, Texas statute 21.12 provides two affirmative defenses for educators charged with having an inappropriate relationship with a student. A sex offense has not occurred if the relationship was between two consenting adults and one of the following statements is true:
Other general defenses may apply depending on your situation. Consult an experienced attorneys to determine what other defenses may apply to your unique case.
What constitutes an "improper relationship" between educator and student in Texas?
While the law is clear on how it defines improper behavior between a teacher and student, the application of these statutes are often complicated. Here are some real-life scenarios of recent teacher-student sexual misconduct cases and how they played out:
The list goes on. Reports and news stories of improper relationship cases are extremely common nowadays as the media tries to capitalize on the sensationalism and readership that such stories bring in. Unfortunately, thanks to the Internet, these individuals will likely never be able to lead a normal life - even if their charges are dropped and they are found to be innocent.
An investigation or charge for an improper teacher-student relationship is serious. If you or a loved one are in danger of facing this offense, do not delay in contacting a criminal defense attorney near you who specializes in these complex sex crime cases.
Houston sex crime defense lawyer Neal Davis has skillfully defended thousands of clients in all types of legal matters for nearly 20 years, including charges of improper educator-student relationships. For over a decade, Neal worked alongside Texas criminal defense legend Dick DeGuerin and even appeared as lead counsel in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case. During your free initial consultation, we'll put our experience and passion to work for you right away. Time is not on your side, so contact us as soon as possible.
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