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Legal Definitions of Rape and Sexual Assault Under Texas Criminal Law

rape & sex assault definitions
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Legal Definitions of Rape and Sexual Assault Under Texas Criminal Law

Have you or a loved one been charged with rape or sexual assault and need criminal defense?

If so, you may want to know the definitions of such sex crimes and the nature of their charges in the state of Texas. Veteran Houston defense lawyer Neal Davis can help.

Such definitions come from Texas sex crime laws, found in the Texas Penal Code (Title 5, Chapter 22, Sections 22.011 and 22.021).

There, Texas law provides elaborate definitions for what constitutes a sexual assault, or rape. Many of these restrictions are designed to protect innocent children from adult predators.

However, Texas law can unfairly target consensual sexual relations between teenagers under 17. Under Texas sexual assault law, willing participants in sexual activity are considered children, not adults, when under 17 years old, and can be deemed either victims or defendants.

In fact, defendants under 17 can be tried in the adult criminal system rather than the juvenile criminal system, which is for persons 10 to 16 years old. In other words, a sexually active teen could face the same criminal charge as a sex predator in Texas.

Even so, most sexual assault cases involve adults who are accused of sexually assaulting a child or another adult. Such an act is deemed to have been without consent if physical violence was used or threatened to get a victim to participate or submit, or if the victim was physically unable to resist.

Consent also is considered absent when the defendant was in a position of power or was in charge of the victim’s care. That would include clergymen, public servants, health care services providers or employees of a facility where the victim lived.

Sexual Assault vs. Aggravated Sexual Assault

In Texas, a sex crime can be considered sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. What’s the difference?

A sexual assault can involve many factors, including penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person's consent. It also can include such sexual activity, with or without consent, when it involves a child under 17.

An aggravated sexual assault is such a sexual assault with one or more additional factors. Such “aggravating” factors can include:

  • Using violence, serious threats or a weapon
  • Using a “date rape” drug
  • Sexually assaulting a disabled or elderly person
  • Sexually assault a child under 14
  • Collaborating with another individual to facilitate the sex crime

A 2017 update to Texas law (H.B. 1808, 85th Texas Legislature) added that the defendant did not have to have known the age of the accuser. It also added that many substances can count as a “date rape” drug, not just rohypnol or ketamine, two common date rape drugs.

What is Statutory Rape?

“Statutory” rape involves the age at which a person is deemed capable of consenting to a sexual act. Persons below that age are not considered to be participants in consensual sexual activities. Non-consensual sex then becomes rape, or in this case, statutory rape.

Specifically, under Texas law, it is statutory rape for a person 18 or older to engage in sexual activity with a person under 17. If the underage person allegedly “consents” to the sexual activity, that makes no difference under the law, which holds that persons under 17 cannot make informed decisions about sexual activity and thus are under the age of consent.

Texas Rape & Sexual Assault Punishments

Texas is known to be an especially aggressive state in prosecuting sex crime defendants, particularly when the victims of such crimes are children. Defendants may face steep fines, a prison sentence of many years and a lifetime of being a registered sex offender.

In Texas, aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony with a prison sentence of at least 25 years if the victim was younger than 6 when the crime was committed, or if the victim was younger than 14 and the child was seriously injured, a deadly weapon was used or exhibited, the defendant tried to kill the child or the defendant used drugs to facilitate the assault.

In Texas, sexual assault is usually a second-degree felony with a state prison sentence of 2 to 20 years and/or a fine of as much as $10,000.

As for statutory rape in Texas, punishments include 5 to 99 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a minor below age 14, a first-degree felony. Punishments for sexual assault of a minor 17 or younger by an adult more than three years older than the victim include a 2 to 20-year prison sentence for that crime, a second-degree felony.

A similar prison sentence is applied for indecency with a child, which includes touching and sexual contact other than penetration with a minor 17 or younger by an adult more than three years older than the victim.

Sex Offender Registration

Under Texas law, any person convicted after Sept. 1, 1970 of a sex offense or comparable crime which requires sex offender registration must register or face prosecution. Such crimes include but are not limited to:

  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Indecency with a child
  • Prohibited sexual contact
  • Sexual performance by a child

Hiring a Rape or Sexual Assault Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one have been unfairly charged with a sex assault crime, you need a skilled sex crime defense lawyer to champion your legal rights. Neal Davis is that lawyer.

The Neal Davis Law Firm has helped many sex crime defendants in Houston and throughout the state of Texas get rape or sexual assault charges reduced or dismissed before trial. Contact us today for a free legal consultation of your case.

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