Statutory Rape in Texas: Laws, Penalties and Defense Options

For many people, statutory rape in Texas is a sticky topic surrounded by confusion and misinformation. But with potential punishments like jail time, hefty fines, and even a lifetime placement on the Texas sex offender registry, it’s important to keep the facts about statutory rape in Texas straight — especially if you’re currently being accused of statutory rape or indecency with a child.

Get the facts about statutory rape in Texas to help avoid bad consequences now and in the future.

What is statutory rape in Texas?

Statutory rape in Texas occurs when an adult aged 18 or older has sexual relations with anyone under the age of 17. It may sound simple enough, but there are a lot of specifics to unpack. Let’s break it down using questions we are often asked about statutory rape in Texas.

Statutory rape in Texas: “What is the age of consent in Texas?”

Unlike most states, the age of sexual consent in Texas is 17. When an individual engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of 17, that counts as statutory rape in Texas, regardless of whether the minor gave their consent to the activity or not.

Statutory rape in Texas: “Are there any legal exceptions?”

There are exceptions to the aforementioned rule, known as the “Romeo and Juliet” laws. In these laws, the state of Texas allows for anyone between the ages of 14 and 17 to consent to sexual activity with anyone within three years of their current age. In other words, a 19 year old can have consensual sex with a 16 year old without being guilty of statutory rape. This rule cuts off at age 14. No individual below the age of 14 can legally consent to sexual activity, regardless of their partner’s age.

Statutory rape in Texas: “What if I didn’t know their age?”

Not knowing a minor’s age before engaging in sexual activity isnot a valid defense against statutory rape in Texas. Even if the minor lied to you about their age, you can still be charged and convicted of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or indecency with a child or a minor.

Penalties & jail time for statutory rape in Texas

As we all know, Texas is tough on crime, especially when that crime involves children. When it comes to statutory rape, Texas Penal Code 22.021 places it in the same category as rape or sexual assault. In the eyes of the law, there is no difference between engaging in sexual activity with a child and having non-consensual sex with an adult — this means you can face jail time for statutory rape in Texas.

Just like with a prison sentence for child abuse, your prison sentence for statutory rape in Texas depends on the specific details of your case. Statutory rape in Texas charges fall into three distinct categories:

  • Aggravated sexual assault: If you engage in sexual activity with a child under the age of 14, you will most likely be charged with aggravated sexual assault, a 1st degree felony. If convicted, you could be facing anywhere from 5-99 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and a lifetime spot on the Texas sex offender registry.
  • Sexual assault: Statutory rape is most commonly charged as sexual assault, a second degree felony. If an adult sexually penetrates a minor under the age of 17 and more than three years younger than them at the time of the offense, they could face 2-20 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and may spend the rest of their life on the Texas Sex Offender Registry.
  • Indecency with a child: The least severe statutory rape-related charge, indecency with a child refers to any sexual contact (excepting penetration) between an adult and a minor, regardless of consent. Although not considered sexual assault, indecency with a child goes beyond sexual harassment, so it’s important to know the difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment. Also a 2nd degree felony, a conviction of indecency with a child could land you with 2-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, an indecency conviction does not require lifetimeplacement on the Texas sex offender registry. After 10 years on the registry, you will be eligible for removal should you complete court requirements.

Accused of statutory rape in Texas?

Being charged with statutory rape in Texas (or elsewhere) is the kind of serious accusation that can ruin your entire life. Don’t give up without a fight. If you are being accused of sexual misconduct with a minor, you need an attorney who specializes in sexual assault cases to help you defend your rights in court.

Leveraging decades of experience as both a state prosecutor and a winning criminal defense attorney, Doug Wilder and his team at The Wilder Firm know the ins and outs of sex crime defense, domestic violence charges in Texas, and more, and can create the perfect strategy for you and your case.

Get the defense your case deserves with a professional but aggressive Dallas sexual assault lawyer. Fill out the form or call (214) 855-7737 to schedule your free consultation today.

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