In Texas, a sex crime is any criminal act involving sexual misconduct, unlawful sexual behavior, sexual assault, or illegal pornography. The state has a specific law that prohibits sexual conduct between certain people. This is called “prohibited sexual conduct” in the Texas Penal Code.

What Is Prohibited Sexual Conduct?

Per the relevant provision in the Texas Penal Code, prohibited sexual conduct refers to a person engaging in sexual intercourse or sexual activity with certain specified individuals. The state also includes deviate sexual intercourse in its law regarding prohibited sexual conduct.

Laws prohibiting certain types of consensual sexual activity are mostly state laws. Only two states, including Texas, have laws that specifically prohibit homosexual acts. However, while the Texas prohibition on same sex sodomy remains on the books, the U.S. Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in 2003, so the law is unenforceable. Laws regulating sexual activity also refer to offenses such as public lewdness, indecent exposure, and intentional HIV exposure.

How Does Texas Define “Sexual Intercourse”?

For the purposes of its prohibition of certain sexual conduct, Texas law defines sexual intercourse as any type of penetration of the female sex organ by a male sex organ.

What Does “Deviate Sexual Intercourse” Mean in Texas?

Deviate sexual intercourse is defined as a person’s genitals coming in contact with the another person’s mouth or anus with the intent to gratify or arouse either party.

With Which People Am I Not Allowed to Have Sexual Contact in Texas?

There are several people with whom a person is not allowed to have sexual contact in Texas, including the following:

  • A person’s ancestor or descendant, whether by blood or adoption;
  • A person’s current or former stepparent or stepchild;
  • A person’s parent’s brother or sister of whole or half blood;
  • The person’s sister or brother whether by whole or half-blood;
  • A person’s child whether the child is related to them by blood or adoption;
  • Any whole or half-blooded cousins or any cousins related to the person via adoption.

To put it in plain language, sex is prohibited between parents and children; stepparents and stepchildren; siblings, including half-siblings; aunts or uncles and their nieces or nephews; and first-cousins, among others. Sexual conduct is prohibited even if the parties who meet these descriptions are consenting adults. Also, it does not matter if the familial bond is by blood, either full or half, or by adoption.

The most serious prohibited sexual conduct is sex with a parent or child (even with an adult child). This case of incest is a second-degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000.

If the sexual conduct is not between a parent and child, but between other covered family members, the offense is a third-degree felony. Third-degree felonies are punishable by two to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Statutory rape generally describes an offense in which a consenting adult and a consenting minor engage in sexual relations. Even though the contact is consensual, Texas law prohibits sexual contact between a person who is younger than 17 years of age, and someone who is more than three years older than the minor. Statutory rape laws assume that a child under the legal age is incapable of giving meaningful consent.

Of course, this means that a person who is less than three years older than the minor who gives consent is not guilty of statutory rape in Texas. This exception, however, is not available to people who are registered sex offenders in Texas.

Again, incest is illegal in Texas per the statute that outlaws prohibited sexual conduct, even between consenting adults. It is a felony that can land the perpetrator in prison for up to 20 years.

What Is the Punishment for Engaging in Prohibited Sexual Conduct?

In Texas, the punishment for engaging in prohibited sexual conduct, which is a felony in the third degree, is:

  • Two to 10 years in state prison;
  • Payment of a $10,000 fine;
  • Both payment of the fine and prison time.

When a person is indicted for a felony sex offense, or upon request of victim of alleged sex offense, court may order HIV testing of offender

In addition, a person convicted of engaging in prohibited sexual conduct must register as a sex offender for the rest of their life. If a person required to register as a sex offender does not do so, they can be charged with the crime of “Failure to Register,” which is a felony. The level of felony with which a convicted person who does not register would face depends on the nature of the crime that required the person to register in the first place. Potential punishments would include the following:

  • For a state prison crime: 6 months to 2 years in a state prison and a fine of up to a $10,000;
  • ​Third Degree Felony: a term in prison of from 2 to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000;
  • Second Degree Felony: a term in prison of from 2 to 20 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000;
  • First Degree Felony: 5 to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Keep in mind, the prosecutor may also be able to enhance the punishment if the convicted person has spent time in prison previously. Or, if the person has been either charged or convicted of failing to register before, their sentence could be enhanced.

If a person is required to register, they must do so with the municipality or county where they reside or intend to reside for more than seven days. Among other information, the registration must report the type of offense of which the person was convicted, the age of the victim, and a recent color photograph of the person.

If the person required to register spends more than 48 hours in a different municipality or county three or more times in a month they must provide the local authority in that municipality or county with certain information. In addition to registering, the person must comply with a request for a DNA specimen. Also, if the Department of Public Safety has assigned the person a numeric risk level of 3, the person must give public notice of where they intend to live. In addition, the type of employment that some registrants may hold is restricted in certain ways.

It is important to note that failure to register is taken very seriously in Texas. Prosecutors are reportedly quick to charge a non-registrant with a felony. Additionally, prosecutors almost always only offer prison time as part of any plea agreement in these cases. This means that even offering to plead guilty does not allow a person to escape a term of imprisonment. On top of this, a prior felony conviction means a person cannot win a sentence of probation only from a jury.

Can I Get More than 10 Years in Prison for this Crime?

A person can be charged with a second degree felony if the victim was the person’s descendant or ancestor by blood or adoption. The punishment for a second degree felony is a term of imprisonment of from two to 20 years and/or a $10,000 fine.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Conviction of engaging in prohibited sex crimes carries a serious penalty of possibly as much as 20 years in prison and in addition requires you to register as a sex offender in Texas for the rest of your life if you are convicted. It is imperative that you consult a Texas criminal defense lawyer to help you fight your criminal charge.