Statutory Rape and Penalties in Texas
In Texas and throughout the United States, minors are unable to give legal consent to any form of sexual activity with an adult. If prosecutors are able to prove that an alleged offender engaged in sexual conduct with a minor, the individual potentially faces severe penalties. These charges depend on certain factors pertaining to the crime, which includes:
- Indecency with a child means the offender engaged in sexual contact, or sexual touching that does not include penetration (which can occur over clothes), between an adult three or more years older than the minor victim.
- Indecency with a child is a second-degree felony with penalties from two to 20 years in prison. Sexual assault indicates sexual penetration between a minor that is three or more years younger than the defendant is. This crime is also a second-degree felony with a prison sentence of at least two years and up to 20.
- Aggravated sexual assault includes any amount of sexual penetration with a minor younger than 14 years old and can involve a defendant of any age. This crime is the most serious statutory rape penalty, as it is a first-degree felony with a prison sentence of five to 99 years.
In addition to prison time and any fines, anyone convicted of statutory rape must register as a sex offender. Registered sex offenders must provide identification and contact information to law enforcement who can notify the public of the presence of a sex offender. Even after sex offenders get out of prison, they must deal with the lifelong trouble the repeated recognition for their crimes may cause.
Exemptions and Defenses for Statutory Rape
Certain laws grant shelter to those accused of statutory rape. For example, the “Romeo and Juliet” exception prevents serious criminal charges if sexual activity occurs between a minor at least 14 years of age and someone who is less than four years older.
Defendants may also argue that he or she did not know the victim was a minor, and/or that the alleged victim presented him or herself as a legal adult. However, statutory rape is considered a “strict liability” crime. Therefore, a mistake of age argument is often not enough to avoid conviction, as Texas does not consider this an adequate defense.