The legal age of consent in Texas is defined by the Texas Penal Code Section 21.11 and Section 22.011 as the legal age to which an individual can legally choose to participate in sexual conduct –– the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. In other words, it is illegal for any person over the age of 17 to engage in sexual activity with a child under the age of 17, regardless of whether or not the act is consensual.
Charges for such activity can include statutory rape, aggravated sexual assault, compelling prostitution, indecency with a child, and child pornography. If you have been arrested for or are being investigated for any of these sex crimes, do not wait to contact a Fort Worth sex crimes attorney. Punishments for sex crimes against minors are serious and often include a minimum jail sentence, a hefty fine, and a lifetime on the sex offender registry.
The Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas
The formal name for the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas is an “affirmative defense” to sexual assault. More specifically, Texas Penal Code 22.011 states that parties between the age of 14 and 17 are legally able to consent to sexual relations so long as the other party is within 3 years of their age. This law was put in place to protect teenagers from harsh convictions when their main intention was love.
So, can an 18-year-old date a 16-year-old in the state of Texas? According to the Romeo and Juliet law, a sexual relationship between an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old would be legal due to the age defense that the “actor” was within three years of the “victim” at the time of the offense — so long as the sexual act was consensual. If the older individual was 20 years old, even if it was consensual sex, would be considered statutory rape under Texas law.
Sex crimes against minors younger than the age of consent in Texas
Texas takes sex crimes against minors seriously and punishes them as such. Here are some examples of charges you could face for engaging in sexual conduct with a minor and their penalties:
With exception to cases that fall under the Romeo and Juliet law, statutory rape, known as sexual assault in Texas, occurs when an adult over the age of 18 engages in sex with a minor under the age of 17, even if the sexual exchange was consensual. Charges of this nature do not require proof of force or violence to be considered rape.
Offenses of statutory rape are charged as second-degree felonies and face penalties including 2 to 20 years of prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravated sexual assault of a child
Aggravated sexual assault is defined as non-consensual sexual conduct of any kind. Although this charge can be applied to any age group, for this article we will focus on its application to minors under the legal age of consent in Texas. As such, aggravated sexual assault of a child is defined in Texas Penal Code 22.021 as intentionally or knowingly conducting sexual acts with a child under the age of 14, regardless of whether the offender knew the child’s age at the time of the act.
Aggravated sexual assault is charged as a first-degree felony and is punishable by a minimum prison sentence of 5 years up to a lifetime and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Though if the child is younger than 6 at the time of the offense or if the victim is under the age of 14 and suffers serious bodily injury, the minimum prison sentence is increased to 25 years. You will also be required to register on the Texas Sex Offender Registry for life.
In Texas, compelling prostitution is defined in Texas Penal Code 43.05 as “causing a child younger than 18 years to commit prostitution, regardless of whether the actor knows the age at the time of the offense.”
Compelling prostitution is a felony of the first degree and is punishable by up to a lifetime in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If you are being accused of compelling prostitution, do not give any statements until you’ve hired a prostitution lawyer in Fort Worth. Even if you’re trying to clear your name, what you say could be used against you later.
Continue reading: Is Soliciting a Prostitute a Felony in Texas?
Indecency with a child
According to Texas Penal Code 21.11, a person commits an offense if they engage in sexual conduct with, expose their own genitals to, or cause the child to expose their genitals when the child is younger than 17 years of age “whether the child is of the same or opposite sex and regardless of whether the child’s age is known at the time of the offense.”
Punishments for indecency with a child charges depend on the nature of the act. If the offender engaged in any form of sexual conduct with a minor under the legal age of consent in Texas (17), they will be charged with a second-degree felony that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. The offender will be charged with a third-degree felony if they exposed their genitals in the presence of a minor punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
The possession or promotion of child pornography offenses occurs when an individual “knowingly or intentionally possess or accesses visual material (i.e. videos, photos, negatives, slides, or films) depicting a child younger than 18 years” at the time the pornography was made.
As per Texas Penal Code 43.26, possessing or promoting child pornography is a third-degree felony unless the individual has one or more previous child pornography convictions. In such cases, second-time offenders would be charged with a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If the offender has two or more previous convictions, they will be charged with a first-degree felony punishable by 5 years to a lifetime in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000
Registering as a sex offender
If you’re convicted of certain sex crimes, especially ones against minors, you may be required to register as a sex offender for anywhere from 10 years to a lifetime. The Texas Sex Offender Registry is maintained by the Texas Department of Public Safety. It is accessible by anyone, anywhere, and can affect what types of jobs you’re able to work, where you’re able to live, and how you’re treated by those around you.
If required to register as a sex offender, the responsibility to register, re-register after a move, and verify your record each year is on the offender. Keep in mind that you only have a set amount of time to register after being charged or moving. Failing to register as a sex offender is considered a felony facing penalties of jail time that is between 180 days and 20 years depending on your convicted offense and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Facing charges for sexual conduct with a minor? You need a serious sex crimes attorney from Westfall Sellers on your side.
If you’re facing criminal charges, were arrested on account of a sting operation vs. entrapment, or are facing investigations due to accused sexual conduct with a minor under the age of consent in Texas, you need to hire the best criminal defense attorney. Convictions of sex crimes against minors, including statutory rape and indecency with a child, can have serious, lasting effects on your life — even if you’re able to get the charges dropped or were wrongly accused.
The sex crime attorneys from Westfall Sellers have the experience you need to fight the charges against you and defend your name. Our lawyers are prepared to examine every detail of your case, building a defense that pushes the prosecutor for a dismissal or to find you “Not Guilty.”
Now is not the time to sit back and wait. Take the first step towards regaining your freedom — contact Westfall Sellers online or at 817-928-4222 to schedule a free consultation today.
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