Texas Sexual Assault Law – Penal Code 22.011

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 What Is Considered Sexual Assault in Texas?

Sexual assault is non-consensual sexual contact or touching that is perpetrated using force, the threat of force, or violence. In numerous states, sexual penetration is not required for an individual to be charged with sexual assault.

The charge of sexual battery does require penetration between the defendant and the victim. However, a sexual assault charge may result from any form of sexual penetration.

In the State of Texas, an individual commits sexual assault if they intentionally, knowingly, and without consent:

  • Penetrated the sexual organs or anus of another individual by any means;
  • Penetrated the mouth of another individual;
  • Caused the other individual’s sexual organs to come in contact with the defendant’s mouth, anus, or sexual organs.

The statute of limitations for sexual assault in Texas, when the victim was 18 years of age or older, is ten years after the date of the incident. For civil cases, the statute of limitations for sex crimes against an adult is five years after the date of the incident.

If an individual has any questions regarding sexual assault issues in Texas, they should consult with a local Texas attorney.

What Does “Without the Consent of the Other Person” Mean in a Sexual Assault Charge?

The phrase “without the consent of the other person” means that:

  • The defendant forced the other individual to participate or submit to the assault due to a threat of force or violence;
  • The other individual could not consent because they were unconscious or unable to physically resist;
  • The defendant coerces the victim to participate in the act;
  • The defendant was a mental health provider or health care services provider who exploited their position with a current or former patient in order to have them participate or submit to the act; or
  • The defendant was a clergyman who used their position to influence the other individual to participate or submit to the act.

What Is the Law in Texas for Sexual Assault of a Minor?

In Texas, the law prohibits an adult from having sexual contact or intercourse with any individual 16 years of age or younger. The age of consent in Texas is 17.

Under the law, individuals who are under the age of consent are not considered capable of legally providing informed consent to sexual activity. Statutory rape in Texas is defined as sexual activity between an individual who is 18 years of age or older and an individual who is younger than 17 years of age.

There are multiple offenses that may fall under the classification of statutory rape, including:

Each of these crimes has its own penalties based on the severity of the crime.

What Is the Punishment for Sexual Assault in Texas?

In Texas, sexual assault is classified as a second-degree felony. A defendant who is convicted may face:

  • Two to 20 years in prison;
  • Criminal fines of up to $10,000;
  • A combination of both.

Sexual assault may also be charged as a first-degree felony if the victim was an individual with whom the defendant attempted to or had committed bigamy. If a defendant is convicted of sexual assault, they may face:

  • Five years to life in prison;
  • Criminal fines of up to $10,000;
  • A combination of both.

What Are the Defenses Against Sexual Assault Charges?

A defendant may be able to present defenses to sexual assault, depending on the circumstances of their case. One common defense used in criminal cases is to attack the evidence presented by the prosecution.

In criminal cases, there are facts and circumstances that may negate the elements of a criminal offense, especially the element of intent. If the prosecution cannot prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant cannot be convicted.

Another common defense a defendant can present is an alibi defense. With this defense, the defendant may present evidence that shows the defendant could not have committed the crime because they were at a different location.

There are also several defenses that may be available for defendants charged with the crime of sexual assault, including:

  • Suppression of evidence: If evidence such as text messages, emails, phone messages, video, or physical evidence can be suppressed, it can help in the defense of a defendant charged with sexual assault;
    • The suppression of evidence is typically based on an assertion that the evidence was collected in violation of a defendant’s right not to be subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures under the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution;
  • Actual innocence: Because every defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a U.S. court of law, an individual who did not commit the crime can assert that they did not do it;
  • Consent: Usually, sexual assaults happen in private. However, if an individual who is charged with assault can prove that the alleged victim consented to the activity, then this can constitute a successful defense; and
  • Insanity: A legally insane individual is not able to consent to sexual acts;
    • If the defendant who was charged with sexual assault is legally insane, it may serve as a successful defense.

It is important to be aware that being drunk is not a defense to the crime because if either of the parties was drunk at the time the activity occurred, the activity is technically illegal. An individual who is under the influence of alcohol is considered to be unable to consent.

If a plaintiff files a civil lawsuit to recover damages, there are also defenses that a defendant may present in these types of cases. In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff is required to prove the elements of:

The standard of proof in civil cases is different than in criminal cases. In a civil case, the plaintiff must prove their claim by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that it is more likely than not that the assault happened as claimed by the plaintiff.

This is considered to be a lower burden than the burden on the prosecution in a criminal case. This means that a victim may have an easier time succeeding in a civil case.

The potential defenses in civil cases are mostly the same as in criminal cases, such as:

  • Suppression of evidence: There is a clear right to suppress certain types of evidence, mostly evidence that was illegally obtained by the police, in a criminal trial;
  • Actual innocence: An individual who did not commit an assault can certainly assert that they did not do it;
  • Consent: If the defendant who was charged with assault can prove that the alleged victim consented to the sexual activity, then this can be a successful defense;
  • Attack the evidence of the plaintiff: Again, as noted above, the defense may be able to attack the evidence of the plaintiff by leading a jury to question how reliable and accurate it is.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help With My Criminal Charge?

If you have been charged with any type of sexual assault crime in Texas, it is essential to consult with a Texas criminal lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to determine what defenses you may be able to present in court.

Your attorney will also be able to negotiate with the prosecution to determine if the charges against you can be reduced or dismissed entirely. If you are facing a civil lawsuit for sexual assault charges, your lawyer can assist you with defending against the lawsuit.

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