Every 73 seconds, a sexual offense occurs in America. With children being the easiest prey, every 9 minutes, a child becomes a victim of sexual offenses. However, each day, thousands of Americans are directly or indirectly affected by sexual violence.
Accusations of sex crimes either under federal or state law, even before charged are laid, destroy lives. Sexual crimes destroy the accused and also the people closest to them. A sexual offense can destroy a family’s reputation and prospects.
Not only do sexual crimes come with stigmatization, but they also come with added penalties, and the possibility of appearing on the sexual offender registry for life, if convicted.
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How prevalent are sexual offenses in Texas?
In 2018, Texas reported 19,816 sexual assault cases, with victims being 88.1% female and 11.9% male. This was 9.4% yearly increase from the reported 18,112 cases in 2017. Clearly, sexual offenses are a big, and growing problem in Texas.
Chapter 21 of the Texas Penal Code also comprehensively defines the various sexual offences. Texas Penal Code 22.011 & 22.012 details sexual assault and indecent assault and Sec. 22.021 defines aggravated sexual assault.
Let’s explore further and understand more about sexual offenses in Texas.
What are sexual offenses?
A sexual offense is defined as knowingly or with intent doing the following;
- Penetration of sexual organ including anus of another person using any means without that’s individual consent;
- Penetration of the actor’s sexual organ to another person’s mouth without their consent; or
- The sexual organ of the actor coming into contact or penetrating another person (anus, mouth or sexual organ) without their content.
- Coercive sexual acts;
- Sexual contact, penetration or intercourse with a minor. In Texas, a minor is a person below 17 years.
- Sex abuse of person(s) with diminishing mental disability and an aged person without their consent.
- Forcible sexual contact, penetration or violent intercourse.
Texas legal age of consent
In Texas, the legal age of sexual consent is 17 years. This means that any individual who is 16 and below, cannot legally engage and consent to having sexual intercourse, regardless of whether they initiated the act.
Even if a minor consented to the act, the consent is not binding, and the offender can be charged with a sexual felony crime.
What about Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas?
Well, Texas also has the Romeo and Juliet law. This law protects teenagers within the same age range from harsh sexual offenses penalties, including prosecution, societal stigmatization and being labelled as a sex delinquent.
However, to qualify for protection under the Romeo and Juliet law, the teenagers must meet the following criteria;
- They must be within a three-year age difference;
- Both teenagers must be at least 14years of age;
- Neither of the teenagers is a registered sexual offender; and,
- They must both be consenting.
For example, this law would shield a teen of 17 years who has had consensual sex with a teen of 14, 15, or 16 (all are within the same age gap of 3 years). Likewise, this law shields a teenager of 18 years having consensual sex with a teen of 15, 16 or 17 years.
Types of sexual offenses in Texas
Assault by contact
Assault by contact sexual offence in Texas is a misdemeanour Class C with no jail term but a maximum fine of $500.
The offence happens when you consciously or deliberately physically touch another person, who reasonably believes you did it provocatively or offensively.
As such, the charges can take place when unwanted sexual contact is initiated over the victim’s clothing. For example, groping another person’s breast, crotch or backside or kissing them without their consent.
In Texas, indecent exposure happens when you intentionally expose your genital parts, like the anus, breasts or crotch, with the intent to gratify or arouse their sexual desire without considering if the present party is alarmed by their act.
Indecent exposure is a class B misdemeanour, and carries a fine of $2000 and three months jail term.
An individual commits public lewdness offence by having sexual contact or sex with another person in an unrestricted or private place without thinking if the person(s) present gets alarmed or is offended by your actions.
Therefore, public lewdness charges are laid when two people engage in sex in public places. This can be behind an alley, a car or the park.
Technically, public lewdness charges can be applied for persons having sex near windows in their homes or hotels, if the intent was for others to notice or see.
As a class A offence, public lewdness is punishable by a fine of $4000 and jail time of one year.
Online solicitation of a minor
Online solicitation occurs when an individual, via electronic messages (like internet chat, texts, and emails) asks a minor (someone below 17 years) to meet them or another person, for sexual contact or sex.
This sexual crime falls under third-degree felonies, and carries a jail sentence of between 2-10 years with a fine of upto $10,000, if the affected minor age was (or believed to be) 14-16 years old.
Further, this may become a second-degree felony if the minor was or believed to be below 14 years. The offender receives a fine of $10,000 and a 2-20 years prison term.
Improper relationship involving educator and student
The improper relationship law is a unique one since it doesn’t only apply to educators, but also to others employed in a learning environment like custodians, police officers, coaches, and administrative staff.
This law applies to learning institutions from kindergarten through high school.
The offence happens when an individual has sexual contact or sex with a student enrolled in their working environment. This applies regardless of whether the student gave consent or initiated it, or the victim was above 18years or older.
It’s a second-degree felony and punishable by $10,000 fine and 2-20 years prison term.
Sexual assault of an adult
Sexual assault for adults (someone above 17 years and older,) occurs when someone deliberately or intentionally:
- Causes the penetration of sexual organ by any means to another person without their consent
- The offender causes the penetration of their sexual organ to another individual’s mouth without their consent.
Further, in Texas, a sexual assault can occur when the offender:
- Forces the victim to engage in sex and another sexual contact;
- Uses violence, threatens or blackmails the victim;
- Assaults a person with mental illness;
- Sexually assaults an impaired person due to consumption of substances unknowingly;
- Is in a position of authority such as a health worker, priest, public servant and asks for sex as a favour.
This offence falls under second-degree felony with a punishment of $10,000 and 2-20 years in prison.
Indecency with a minor
Indecency with a minor (someone below 17 years) offences include
- Engaging in or causing a child to engage in different sexual contact or
- Using your genital parts to gratify or arouse your sexual desires by exposing them to a child or when the minor is present or
- Asking the child to expose their genital parts, including the anus.
“Sexual contact” under this law includes the following done to gratify or arouse a person’s sexual desire:
- Any touching either through clothing or bare of a child’s genitals, breast, anus or body parts.
The punishment of this sexual offence depends on whether its “exposure” or “sexual contact.”
For the crime of exposure, the offence is a three-degree felony punishable by 2-10 years imprisonment and $10,000.
In case of sexual contact, this sexual offence becomes a second-degree felony, with a prison term of 2-20 years and $10,000 fine.
Sexual assault of a minor
Sexual- assault of a child occurs when a person, whether knowingly or not, commit the following with someone below 16 years:
- Penetration of the child’s sexual organ or anus by any means;
- Causes the child mouth to penetrate on the offender sexual organ;
- Makes the child’s sexual organs penetrate or come into contact with the offender or another person anus, mouth or sexual organ.
- Cause the child’s anus or mouth or sex organ come into contact with the offender or another person’s sexual organ.
In Texas, whether non-consensual or consensual, any sex or sexual contact with a child results in sexual assault charges, which is a second-degree crime. This is punishable by a $10,000 and a jail term of 2-20 years sentence.
Aggravated sexual assault on adults
Aggravated sexual assault on adult happens when an individual sexually assaults a mature person and;
- Attempts murder to the victim or another person or inflicts serious bodily injury during the assault;
- Uses blackmail like kidnapping, human trafficking, serious bodily injury to the victim’s loved ones, if they don’t adhere to their sexual request;
- Uses deadly weapons to assault their victims sexually;
- Commits the sexual assault in cohort/performance with another person;
- Sexually assaults a disabled person or an elderly (above 65 years); or,
- Administer substances to the victim to impair their ability to resist the sexual assault.
This is a first-degree felony, carrying a jail sentence of 5 years to life imprisonment and $10,000 fine.
Aggravated sexual assault on a child
When an adult sexually assaults a child below 13 years and:
- Attemptsthe death or serious bodily harm of the victim or loved ones during the assault;
- Threatens to harm the child’s loved ones through kidnapping, human trafficking, body injury or death; and
- Exhibits or uses fatal weapons and commits the assault as a concert to another person
In Texas, aggravated sexual assault on a child penalties depends on the age of the child.
If the victim (child) is older than five years, the punishment ranges from 25years to life and for older kids above 13 years and two of the above things took place the offender receives a punishment of five years to life.
So, how does the court determine if the sex crime is a federal or state offense?
Well, most sex felonies in Texas are state offences but in case of crossing the state lines or interstate commerce, or if the crime occurs on federal property, the crime is federal.
A sex crime can become a horrifying and stigmatizing experience with the offender facing mandatory lifetime sex delinquent registration, fines and prison time. Additionally, being convicted a sex offender carries standard penalties like losing the right to vote, serve in a jury, own firearms or become a public officer. If you find yourself accused of sexual offenses of any kind, it’s advisable to solicit the services of an experienced criminal attorney in North Texas for legal representation.