Have you been charged with a sex crime involving a teenager? If so, you may assume that you could get out of that charge if the teenager consented to the sexual relationship. You would be wrong.

Texas criminal statutes set an “age of consent” for minors to agree to sexual conduct. If a person is under the age of consent, the law presumes that the minor does not have the capacity to consent to sexual relations. Therefore, having sex with a minor – even consensual sex – could lead to a variety of criminal charges.

What is the Age of Consent in Texas?

The age of consent in Texas is 17 years of age. Texas Penal Code §21.11 defines indecency with a child as an adult engaging in sexual conduct, sexual contact, or actions to gratify sexual desire with a child under the age of 17 years. An adult is someone 18 years of age and older.

The law applies to both males and females and whether the child is of the same or opposite gender. It also applies regardless of whether or not the person committing the offense knew the age of the child at the time of the offense.

If you have intercourse with a minor under the age of 17 years, the police can charge you with statutory rape. Statutory rape charges are a felony of the second degree. Exposing yourself or causing a minor to expose themselves for sexual gratification is a felony of the third degree.

The prison sentence for a felony in the second degree is between two and 20 years. A felony in the third degree can result in a prison sentence between two and ten years. Both felonies have a potential fine of up to $10,000.

Additionally, a conviction of indecency with a child has other consequences. If you are convicted, you may be required to register as a sex offender. Whether you are required to register as a sex offender depends on the severity of the crime, the charges against you, and the sentence imposed by the court.

Aggravated Sexual Assault and Minors

If the minor was under the age of 14 years, the charge becomes aggravated sexual assault. It does not matter whether you knew the age of the minor at the time of the sexual contact. If you engage in a sex act with someone under 14 years of age, you can be charged with aggravated sexual assault.

Aggravated sexual assault is a felony in the first degree. The penalty for a conviction of aggravated assault is five to 99 years in prison. You may also have a fine of up to $10,000.

Defenses to Charge of Statutory Rape in Texas

There are some affirmative defenses that you can assert when facing charges of indecency with a child.

The Romeo and Juliet exception allows minors to engage in sexual activity with another person as long as the parties are within three years of age. This applies to minors between the ages of 14 and 16 years. Therefore, a 15-year-old could engage in sexual acts with an 18-year-old without fear of statutory rape charges.

However, other conditions must be met for the Romeo and Juliet defense to apply.

The parties must be of the opposite sex. The older individual cannot use force, threat, or coercion to make the younger party engage in sexual acts. At the time of the offense, the person was not required to register for life as a sex offender.

Romeo and Juliet laws do not prevent charges of rape when both parties are minors. A person can still be charged with rape if one party did not consent to the sexual acts, even if both individuals are minors. 

It is also an affirmative offense to charges of statutory rape if the parties were legally married at the time of the offense. However, this does not prevent a person from being charged with marital rape if the spouse did not consent to sexual activity. 

What Should You Do if You are Charged With Statutory Rape?

If you believe the police are investigating you for sex acts with a minor, take steps to protect your legal rights immediately. Contact a sex crimes defense lawyer now. 

End all contact with the minor immediately. It does not matter whether the conduct was consensual or not, do not have any further contact with the alleged victim until you speak with a criminal lawyer. Anything you say to the victim could be used against you in a criminal case.

Do not talk with anyone about the matter except for an attorney, including friends, family members, or on social media. If the police arrest you for statutory rape or other sex crimes, remain silent. Do not answer questions or make a statement.