Statutory rape is a crime that occurs when an individual engages in sexual activities with someone under the age of consent for that state. It is important to note that statutory rape is a strict liability crime.
This means that the intention of the parties engaging in the sexual activities is not considered when determining whether an individual is guilty of the crime. Instead, only the individuals’ ages will be considered when determining guilt. In other words, it is immaterial to the criminal case as to whether the child consented to the sexual activity or not. Additionally, mistake of age is usually not allowed as a legal defense to being charged with statutory rape.
It is important to note that the age of consent will vary from state to state. It is also important to note that the state of Texas does not use the term “statutory rape.” Instead, the Texas Penal Code refers to the criminal act of engaging in sexual activity with a person younger than 17 years of age as either aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, or indecency with a child.
In Texas, it is considered “statutory rape” to have sex with any individual that is under the age of consent. In Texas, the age of consent is 17 years of age. Specifically, the laws regarding the age of consent may be found in the Texas Penal Code Sec. 22.011.
Importantly, Texas does recognize a close-in-age exception that allows an individual to be exempt from criminal punishment for engaging in sexual activities with someone under the age of consent, so long as the older person is not more than three years older than the minor. However, this exception does not apply to any individuals who have had to register as sex offenders.
What Are the Consequences for Statutory Rape in Texas?
Once again, Texas law contains several different criminal offenses that are related to statutory rape. As such, the criminal penalties for statutory rape in Texas will depend on the specific circumstances of each individual case, as well as the ages of the defendants involved in the case. The following is a list of criminal consequences for statutory rape-related matters in Texas:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault: In Texas, a person commits aggravated sexual assault of a child by knowingly or intentionally engaging in sexual intercourse, no matter the type or how slight, with a child under the age of 14.
- Aggravated sexual assault is charged as a first-degree felony in Texas, which carries a criminal penalty of imprisonment for 5 years to life, criminal fines of up to $10,000, or a combination of both;
- Importantly, the criminal penalties increase to a minimum 25 years imprisonment in cases where the victim is under the age of 6;
- Sexual Assault: In Texas, an individual commits sexual assault of a child by knowingly or intentionally engaging in sexual intercourse, no matter the type or how slight, with a child under the age of 17.
- Sexual assault is charged as a second-degree felony, with criminal penalties ranging from 2 to 20 years of imprisonment, criminal fines of up to $10,000, or a combination of both;
- Once again, Texas does recognize the close-in-age exception as an affirmative defense if the child is aged 14 to 17 and the alleged offender is not more than 3 years older in age; and
- Indecency With a Child: In Texas, a person commits indecency with a child if they are involved in sexual contact with a minor who is younger than 17.
- Sexual contact refers to the physical act of touching, other than penetration, of a person’s intimate parts, whether it be over or under their clothing. Sexual contact may also refer to the exposure of one’s sexual organs;
- Indecency with a child is charged as a third-degree felony;
- The criminal penalties for indecency with a child involving sexual contact in Texas are imprisonment of 2 to 20 years in prison, up to a $10,000 criminal fine, or a combination of both.
Depending on the case, alternative sentencing options might be available.
What Is the Punishment for Statutory Rape in Texas?
As mentioned above, the criminal punishments for statutory rape in Texas will be dependent on the exact type of criminal charges that the defendant faces and the circumstances of the individual case. The criminal punishments for statutory rape in Texas are outlined above.
However, if the criminal charge involves aggravated sexual assault, then there may be additional consequences in addition to the punishments listed above. First, anyone who is convicted of aggravated sexual assault is not allowed to have any parental rights of a child who may be born as a result of the criminal sexual activity. These rights include both custody rights and rights of inheritance.
Additionally, individuals charged with aggravated sexual assault will have to register on a sex offender registry and may also lose their rights to obtain professional licensure. Further, they could also have their driver’s license revoked, along with their right to vote.
Specifically, Texas’s Sex Offender Registration Program requires that all individuals convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault must register as sex offenders for life. Additionally, a criminal conviction for indecency with a child requires registration for a minimum of 10 years, and possibly more depending on the circumstances of the criminal offense.
Further, failure to comply with the sexual offender registration requirements will result in an additional felony charge being brought against the convicted individual. The felony charge may be either for a second-degree or third-degree felony, depending on the conditions of the sex offenders’ registration requirements.
Criminal convictions for failing to properly register may result in an additional 2 to 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or a combination of both. It is important to note that a juvenile who violates registration requirements may face imprisonment of 180 days to 2 years, a $10,000 fine, or a combination of both.
What Are the Defenses for Statutory Rape in Texas?
Once again, statutory rape crimes in Texas are considered strict liability crimes. In Texas, there are a few legal defenses that apply and don’t apply to statutory rape crimes:
- Mistake of Age: Once again, in Texas, a defendant may not argue that he or she believed that the victim was over the age of consent;
- Rape by Fraud: A defendant in Texas may argue that the minor purposely misrepresented their age to have sex with the defendant. However, this legal defense is newer, so it will be difficult to prove applicable in most cases;
- “Romeo and Juliet” Defense: Texas does once again have an exception to statutory rape crimes based on the age difference between the partners. Thus, consensual sexual activity between a minor who is 14 to 17 years of age and an offender who is not more than 3 years older than the minor is an affirmative defense; and/or
- Innocence: The best defense to charges related to statutory rape is actual innocence. As such, if the defendant is able to prove that the alleged conduct did not occur or that the alleged conduct occurred with someone else and not the defendant, then the charges against the defendant must be dismissed.
Do I Need a Texas Criminal Attorney?
If you have been accused of statutory rape in Texas, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced Texas criminal lawyer immediately.
An experienced criminal attorney will be able to advise you of your legal rights, as well as help you build a solid legal defense against the charges brought against you. Finally, an attorney will also be able to assert any applicable legal defense on your behalf and represent you at any in-person criminal proceedings, as necessary.