Age of Consent in Texas – Essential Aspects Explained by an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
The Texas Penal Code Section 21.11 and Section 22.011 define this term as the legal age at which a person can choose to have sexual intercourse.
However, there are still many questions about the legal age of people who can consent to sexual activity, the potential penalties for related violations, and how some laws may influence this concept.
Therefore, individuals accused of violating this law or being involved in a child sex crime should understand the state and federal laws regarding the age of consent.
Here's an overview of the definition and other key related details, explained by an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Is the Age of Consent?
As mentioned, the term "age of consent" refers to the age at which a person can legally consent to any sexual act.
Under federal law and from state to state, this age may vary. However, it's essential to understand that age of consent rules always apply at the federal level. Also, there are some exceptions.
In some states, such as Texas, certain affirmative defenses may become an issue. The Romeo-Juliet statutes may differ on the age of consent matters based on the nature of the offense, for example.
Therefore, instead of just looking up the age of consent for a particular state, those accused of a sex crime should seek help from an experienced attorney and understand the related federal laws.
What Is the Legal Age of Consent in Texas?
Based on the Texas Penal Code Section 21.11 and Section 22.011, the legal age of consent in this state is 17. In other words, anyone who engages in sexual activity with a child aged 16 and under can be charged with statutory rape.
Even if an individual under 17 agreed to sexual relations or lied about their actual age, adults involved in sexual activities with them can face prison terms for violating age of consent rules.
The Penal Code Section 21.11 prohibits sexual conduct with anyone under 17. Additionally, the Penal Code Section 22.011, which deals with the sexual assault of minors, states that anyone under 17 is a "child."
According to this definition, in contrast, anyone aged 17 or older is considered an adult and can consent to sexual activity.
However, some exceptions make the age of consent laws in Texas more complicated. The so-called "Romeo and Juliet" law, an affirmative defense to sexual assault, states that anyone aged between 14 and 17 can consent to sexual intercourse as long as the other party is within three years of their age.
Understanding Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas
The Romeo and Juliet law was designed to protect teenagers and young adults from harsh penalties and convictions for sexual activity with someone under 17 when they were motivated by love.
In these cases, a sex crime may be reduced or dismissed. However, children can never consent to sexual activity if they're under 14.
Could a sexual relationship between an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old be legal? Due to the age defense that the other party was within three years of the victim's age when the offense occurred, it could be legal. However, it must be consensual.
Contrastingly, if the older individual was 21 years old, for example, a sexual relationship between them would be considered statutory rape even if it was consensual.
Furthermore, the Romeo and Juliet law may vary based on the alleged offense.
Romeo and Juliet Law According to the Offense
In Texas, the Romeo and Juliet law is not always a three-year provision. It may vary based on the offense, as follows:
The Penal Code Section 22.011 states that the Romeo-Juliet provision for the sexual assault of a child is three years
The Penal Code Section 21.11 states that the Romeo-Juliet provision for indecency with a child is three years
The Penal Code Section 33.021 states that the Romeo-Juliet provision for online solicitation is three years
The Penal Code Section 43.261 states that the Romeo-Juliet provision for electronic transmission of certain visual materials is two years
The Penal Code Section 21.01 states that the Romeo-Juliet provision for continuous sexual assault is five years
Sex Crimes Against Individuals Younger than the Age of Consent in Texas
Texas punishes sex crimes against minors with severe penalties. These are the charges a person could face for engaging in sexual conduct with someone under the age of consent in this state:
Cases that don't fall under the Romeo and Juliet law may be considered statutory rape or sexual assault. It occurs when an adult over 18 engages in sexual conduct with someone under 17.
An individual could face statutory rape charges even if the sexual activity was consensual. Furthermore, these cases do not require proof of force or violence.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
This term defines the charges for any non-consensual sexual conduct that apply to any age group.
In this state, sexually aggravated assault of a child is defined under Texas Penal Code Section 22.021. It's described as intentional sexual acts with a child younger than 14, regardless of whether the sex offender knew the child's age when it occurred.
The Texas Penal Code 23.05 defines compelling prostitution as causing a person under 18 to commit prostitution. This charge applies even if the actor did not know the child's age when the offense occurred.
Indecency with a Child
The Texas Penal Code 21.11 states that a person who engages in sexual conduct or exposes their genitals to someone under 17 could be charged with indecency with a child.
This charge applies if the child is of the same or opposite sex as the offender, even if the actor did not know their age at the time of the offense.
Possessing or promoting child pornography is also punishable in Texas. It occurs when a person possesses or accesses visual material depicting individuals younger than 18 who engage in a sexually explicit activity.
According to state laws, this visual material includes videos, negatives, slides, photos, or films.
Potential Penalties for a Child Sex Crime
All of the charges mentioned above can be harshly punished in Texas. This is what the laws say:
Statutory rape: It's considered a second-degree felony and can be punished with 2-20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravated sexual assault of a child: It's a first-degree felony and is often punishable by 5 years up to life in prison. Fines start at $10,000. However, the minimum prison sentence increases to 25 years if the victim is under 6 or under 14 and suffers injuries.
Compelling prostitution: It's a first-degree felony and is often punishable by a $10,000 fine and life in prison.
Indecency with a child: It depends on the nature of the sexual act. Individuals who engage in sexual conduct with a child under 17 are charged with a second-degree felony. It carries up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Those who expose their genitals in the presence of a minor can be punished with up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Child pornography: It's a third-degree felony unless the sex offender has other pornography convictions. In those cases, they're punished with up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Second-time offenders can be punished with 5 years to life in prison and fines of $10,000.
Registering as a Sex Offender Under Texas Law
In Texas, people convicted of sex crimes may be required to register as sex offenders for at least 10 years.
Failing to register as a sex offender is also considered a felony. Therefore, individuals who do not comply with this requirement may face fines of $10,000 and 180 days to 20 years in jail.
Even if it is consensual sex, engaging in sexual contact with a person under 17 can be harshly penalized and carry severe consequences in this state. As mentioned, the legal age of consent in Texas is 17.
However, due to some provisions, the minimum age of consent varies slightly depending on the nature of the act.
Therefore, anyone who is accused of a sex crime should seek help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
A seasoned attorney can help offenders understand Texas consent laws and build a strong case to reduce or dismiss their charges.
In addition, anyone facing criminal charges or investigations for alleged sexual conduct with a minor under the age of consent in Texas has the right to seek legal counsel to defend their case. Contact Sparks Law Firm for other questions like, "Are brass knuckles legal in Texas?"
Contact Sparks Law Firm Today!
Our firm has a specialized team of criminal defense lawyers ready to defend any individual facing sex crimes against children in Forth Worth Texas charges. Sparks Law Firm can answer questions like, "Is delta 10 legal in Texas?" as well.
We go the extra mile to find a favored solution on our client's behalf. In addition, we have extensive experience handling cases related to sexual relations with minors under the age of consent in Texas.
Sparks Law Firm's attorneys are ready to fight for people's rights. Call us today!