In the state of Texas, those aged 17 or younger do not legally have the ability to give informed consent to sexual activities. Therefore, an adult aged 18 or older who engages in sex with them is said to have committed a crime known as "statutory rape," even if the sex was actually consensual. In statutory rape cases, the prosecution is not required to prove that any force or violence was involved, just that sexual conduct occurred between an adult and someone younger than the age of 18.
Penalties of Statutory Rape
In the state of Texas, statutory rape is broken down into three sub-categories:
- Aggravated Sexual Assault, which includes any sexual penetration of a minor under the age of 14, is a first-degree felony, which can land you between five and 99 years in prison.
- Sexual Assault, which includes any sexual penetration of a minor who is 17 or younger and an adult who is more than three years older than the victim, is a second-degree felony, which can be penalized with a prison sentence between two and 20 years in length.
- Indecency with a Child includes sexual contact and touching other than penetration with a minor who is 17 or younger and an adult who is more than three years older than the victim. This is a second-degree felony, which can be penalized with a prison sentence between two and 20 years in length.
The "Romeo & Juliet Exception"
Perhaps somewhat appropriately, this law gets its name from the famous star-crossed young lovers from Shakespeare's play by the same name. This law is designed to prevent serious criminal charges from being levied upon teenagers who engage in consensual sex with another person who is close to their own age. This applies to a minor who is between the ages of 14-17 who has consensual sex with someone who is less than three years older than they are.
One of the less-frequent exceptions to statutory rape allows for consensual sex between a married minor and their adult spouse, even though the law would prohibit them from sex outside of marriage. This law is meant to protect couples who choose to get married where one spouse is on the verge of adulthood and the other has just reached it (i.e. a 17 year old and an 18 year old). That being said, marriage is not a valid defense for forcible sexual contact between a minor and an adult, otherwise known as marital rape.
Mistake of Age
The most common excuse given by those accused of statutory rape is "I didn't know he/she/they were under the age of 18!" Defendants often give this excuse, claiming that the victim represented themselves as older than they were, to the point where any reasonable person would have truly believed they were over the age of 18. However, this is not an accepted defense in court.
If you or a loved one are facing charges of statutory rape, you should not hesitate to seek council and defense representation from a New Braunfels criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Kyle Law Firm, we understand the emotionally-charged and heavily-stigmatized nature of statutory rape cases, which is why we strive to provide reputable, award-winning legal counsel to help fight back against these charges and preserve your rights.