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Texas Statutory Rape Laws

Being charged with sexual assault of a child is serious criminal offense in TX.
Learn about statutory rape, age of consent, Romeo and Juliet law and more...


The origin of statutory rape laws goes back centuries.


They were originally enacted to protect children and teens whom society judged were not mature enough to give their consent for sex. While this safeguard is certainly needed for our children, innocent people can unfortunately get caught in the crossfire of this politically-charged criminal sex offense.

The American criminal justice system states that every person is "innocent until proven guilty." However, for charges of statutory rape and sexual assault of a child, the opposite is often the case. The legal process for disputing a sex crime is often hell for defendants and the penalties can be severe.

statutory rape laws in Texas

In addition to the harsh legal punishments faced by individuals who are convicted of statutory rape such as imprisonment and fines, being accused of statutory rape can lead to other lasting consequences including probation, community services, having to register as a sex offender, losing your job and being shunned by friends and family.


Time is not on your side.

Talk to an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney at the Neal Davis Law Firm immediately.

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What is Statutory Rape?

According to Section 21.011 of the Texas Penal Code, statutory rape is a type of sexual assault that occurs between an adult and a victim under the age of 17 who is not his or her spouse. The state defines sexual assault as inappropriate sexual contact, penetration of the anus, sex organ or mouth of a child or causing the child's sex organ, anus or mouth to make contact with the sex organ, anus or mouth of another.

More specifically, statutory rape refers to "consensual" sex between an adult and a minor; however, if one person does not meet the state's legal age of consent then consent is not a defense and the adult can be charged with sexual assault of a child.

Statutory rape differs from child molestation and aggravated sexual assault of a child in that the act would not have been a crime had both parties been above the legal age of consent.

Statutory rape laws in Texas are gender neutral - meaning it does not matter what gender the adult or minor are - and penalties for being convicted of this second-degree felony sex offense range from 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.


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What is the Age of Consent in Texas?

In Texas, the legal age at which a person can consent to sexual activity or contact is 17. This means that anyone who engages in a sex act with someone age 16 or younger, regardless of whether or not the act is consensual, can be charged with statutory rape.

For instance, if a 21-year-old male has a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female, then statutory rape charges can be filed against the adult. Likewise, if a 19-year-old girl engages in sexual activity with a 15-year-old boy, the crime of sexual assault of a child has been committed according to the law.


What are Romeo and Juliet Laws?

Many states have enacted certain provisions, known as "Romeo and Juliet laws," to reduce or eliminate certain cases of alleged statutory rape. Texas is one such state. Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas provides protection to teens who have a sexual relationship with someone who is technically under the age of consent but where there is a minor age difference.

If all of the following statements are true, an individual in Texas cannot be convicted of statutory rape and will not be required to register as a sex offender for having sex with a minor:

  • The defendant is less than 3 years older than the victim.
  • The victim was at least 14 years old when the sexual relationship began.
  • The defendant was not a registered sex offender at the time of the alleged act.
  • The sexual act was consensual.

For example, Noah, age 18, is a senior in a Texas high school who dates a 15-year-old freshman girl named Emma. According to Texas sex crime law, if Noah engages in consensual sexual activity with Emma he would be guilty of statutory rape were it not for Romeo and Juliet law. However, because Noah was not a registered sex offender, is less than three years older than Emma and she is over the age of 14, this legal defense protects Noah from prosecution.


What Other Defenses Exist for Statutory Rape Charges?

If an individual does not qualify for a defense under Texas' Romeo and Juliet laws, they are in for the fight of their lives. The fact that the relationship was consensual or that the defendant was unaware of the victim's age is not a valid legal defense in statutory rape cases.

However, there are certain affirmative defenses and other defense strategies that an experienced attorney can use to reduce or eliminate your charges. These possible defenses include:

  • Marriage. Because statutory rape charges have a consensual component, an exception is made for married couples. So unlike aggravated rape, if an individual under 17 years of age is the spouse of the defendant then the "age of consent" rule is waived and sexual assault charges cannot be filed.

  • Medical. According to Texas Law, "It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party."

  • Evidence. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that statutory rape occurred. A skilled defense lawyer can cast doubt on the victim's testimony by investigating the facts, questioning evidence and identifying the victim's ulterior motives.

  • Stress. Using the defense that the defendant committed the criminal act under great duress or other mitigating circumstance is not likely to get statutory rape charges dropped completely; however, it may help reduce your sentence.


What To Do If You've Been Charged with Statutory Rape of a Minor?

If you or a loved one have been charged with a sex assault crime in Texas, it is time to brace yourself for a tough legal battle ahead. Houston sex crime defense lawyer Neal Davis has over 20 years of experience successfully helping clients in Harris County, Montgomery County, Fort Bend County and all throughout Texas. He has argued before the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals and even appeared as lead counsel in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case.

CONTACT US TODAY TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE CASE EVALUATION.
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