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Texas Statutory Rape Laws

Sexting Minor

Most sex-related offenses in Texas do not involve physical violence or the threat of physical violence. Despite this, most of them are felonies. It is possible to get a felony conviction for some sex offenses that do not involve violence, threats, or physical coercion, and even for some that do not involve physical contact. For example, if you exchange sexually explicit text messages with someone or make plans through text message to meet in person, and you later find out that your chat partner was 16 or younger, you could be charged with and convicted of soliciting a minor, even if you never met your chat partner in person.

In its common usage, the term “statutory rape” refers to sexual contact that does not involve violence or threats but cannot legally be considered consensual because one of the partners is a minor. As a result, an adult can be charged since a minor is too young to consent legally. Therefore, it is statutory rape if a 20-year-old and a 16-year-old have sex in the context of a dating relationship. The only difference between this and a sexual relationship between an 18-year-old and a 22-year-old is a slight difference in both parties' ages. Despite this, the 20-year-old in the former scenario can be convicted of a felony. 

Statutory rape is a serious charge. But, you may be able to overcome your predicament if you are being accused of statutory rape. A Texas sex crime attorney at the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, can help you in this scenario.

If Not Statutory Rape, Then What?

The Texas Penal Code does not list a crime called “statutory rape,” although that is the term commonly used in everyday life and in the media for sexual contact between an adult and a teenager below the age of 17. Unfortunately, the term that Texas law uses sounds just as scary, namely “indecency with a child.” 

This is the charge you can face if the younger partner is younger than 17 and was not incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, or illness and if there was no physical coercion or threat of violence. The penalty for indecency with a child is two to ten years in prison. If the alleged crime involved a minor younger than 14 or if physical violence or weapons were involved, you can face charges for sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault, both of which carry longer prison sentences.

Possible Defenses to Accusations of Statutory Rape

As draconian as Texas laws can be about sexual conduct, the law acknowledges that a romantic relationship between a high school senior and a high school sophomore is not statutory rape. The “Romeo and Juliet” defense may apply. In other words, you are not guilty of indecency with a child if the age difference between the sexual partners does not exceed three years. 

Therefore, if you are an 18-year-old man and your girlfriend is 16, you cannot be convicted of statutory rape. As written, the law only applies to opposite-sex couples, but in practice, the defense would probably work if you are an 18-year-old man and your boyfriend is 16. You could even try calling it the “Romeo and Mercutio” defense.

Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, About Sex Crime Cases

You should hire a Dallas criminal defense lawyer if you are accused of unlawful sexual contact with a teenager younger than 17. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. McLain, PLLC, in Dallas, Texas, to discuss your case.

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