Statutory Rape in Texas
Being charged with statutory rape in Texas is just as serious as anywhere. Sex crimes are difficult to discuss, and are made more difficult by misinformation and regional variations on the laws. One consistency is that punishments are always heavy, and can often mean things like jail time, fines, and lifetime placement on the Texas sex offender registry. It is important to get your facts straight, especially if you or a loved one has been accused of indecency with a child or statutory rape in Texas.
Have you or a loved one been accused of statutory rape? Hire a top Fort Worth sex crimes attorney from Westfall Sellers, and ensure that your case gets the attention to detail it deserves.
What is considered 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. This may sound simple enough, but there are a few illuminating details to unpack.
Let’s break it down using questions we are often asked about statutory rape in Texas.
“What is the age of consent in Texas?”
Unlike most states, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17. When an adult engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of 17 it is statutory rape in Texas regardless of whether the minor gave their consent to the activity or not. The law operates on the idea that minors are unable to give informed consent.
“How long do you have to report statutory rape in Texas?”
The normal statute of limitations for sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault is ten years after the offense was committed, however many sexual crimes committed against children, such as statutory rape, have no statute of limitations.
“Who can press charges for statutory rape in Texas?”
One of the aforementioned pieces of misinformation is the idea that you will not face criminal charges if a consenting minor and their parents do not want to press charges. The court can file statutory rape charges even if everyone involved ostensibly consents to the sexual relationship.
“Are there any legal exceptions?”
There is one significant exception to the rule, known as the “Romeo and Juliet” law. Enacted to protect close-in-age teenagers that have engaged in consensual sex, the law 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 who had consensual sex with a 16 year old would likely be shielded from prosecution. The rule does, however, cut off at age 14. No individual below the age of 14 can legally consent to sexual activity, regardless of their partner’s age.
“What if I didn’t know their age?”
Not knowing a minor’s age before engaging in sexual activity is not a valid defense against statutory rape in Texas. Even if the minor lied to you about their age, you can be charged and convicted of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, or indecency with a child or a minor.
Penalty for rape in Texas
As we all know, Texas is tough on crime, especially when that crime involves children. There is no distinct charge for statutory rape under Texas Penal Code 22.021; it is charged instead 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.
Is statutory rape considered a felony? Statutory rape charges fall into three distinct categories in Texas, all of which are felonies:
- Aggravated sexual assault: If an adult engages in sexual activity with a child under the age of 14, they will most likely be charged with aggravated sexual assault, a 1st degree felony. If convicted, they could face 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: Indecency with a child refers to any sexual contact (excepting penetration) between an adult and a minor, regardless of consent. Also a 2nd degree felony, a conviction of indecency with a child could land someone with 2-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, an indecency conviction does not require lifetime placement on the Texas sex offender registry. After 10 years on the registry, they would be eligible for removal should you complete court requirements.
Accused of statutory rape in Texas? Hire the sex crimes attorneys at Westfall Sellers.
Being charged with statutory rape in Texas 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.
More Helpful Articles by Westfall Sellers
- Child Pornography Lawyer
- What is Online Solicitation of a Minor in Texas?
- Prostitution Lawyer: How to Beat a Solicitation Charge
- Is Soliciting Prostitution a Felony in Texas?
- The Difference Between a Sting Operation and Entrapment