Penalties for Sex Crimes in Texas
Sex crimes are penalized harshly by the Texas criminal justice system. These offenses are often grouped into the category of violent crimes including assault and robbery. Because these crimes are viewed as especially dangerous by both the public and the judicial system, the penalties for a conviction can be very severe.
Sex crimes are unique among other criminal offenses because they can be punished with mandatory sex offender registration in addition to the more common punishments of incarceration and fines. In some cases, a convicted sex offender can be ordered to register on the Texas sex offender list for the remainder of their life.
The relative severity of sexually based offenses is the primary factor used in determining the appropriate legal punishment.
Common Sex Crimes and Their Penalties
In the state of Texas, a sex crime is any illegal offense which contains a sexual component. For example, sex crimes typically include:
- A lewd display of nudity or sexual behavior
- Inappropriate or non-consensual touching of another person’s sexual organs
- Attempting or completing sex with another person without their consent
- Attempting sexual contact with minors or children
The penalties for such crimes can range from relatively minor to lifelong and severe. The least severe punishments are usually reserved for sex crimes which do not permanently harm other people or which do not place others in serious danger of harm. The most severe penalties are applied to crimes which harm others, especially others who are members of protected groups, such as children and the elderly.
The following list will contain a breakdown of several common sex crimes, their punishments and the reasons for their classification. This list will help to illustrate the progression of severity in punishments for sexually based offenses in the state of Texas.
Severity of Sex Crime Punishments
The list starts with the least severe crimes and progresses to the most severe. For example:
- Indecent Exposure
Section 21.08 of the Texas Penal Code defines indecent exposure as a crime which involves a person who exposes his or her anus or any part of his or her genitals in order to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person and is reckless about whether or not another person is present to be offended by the action.
For example, Josh waits in a mall parking lot for women to walk by. He drops his pants, exposes his genitals and shouts obscenities. He is guilty of indecent exposure.
A conviction for this offense is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable up to six months in jail and a $2000 fine. This is relatively minor offense because it does not involve physical contact with the victim and the offense does not cause physical harm to another person.
- Public Lewdness
Section 21.07 of the Texas Penal Code states that public lewdness is a crime which occurs when a person engages in sexual activity, sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal in a public place or in a place where they are reckless about other people witnessing the act and being offended.
For example, Amanda and David are in a public park one afternoon. They begin kissing on a park bench and Amanda begins performing oral sex in broad daylight where other park visitors can clearly see them. Both Amanda and David have committed public lewdness.
This is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in county jail and a fine of $4000. It is slightly more serious than indecent exposure because it involves an actual act of sexual activity that may offend others, rather than a simple display of nudity. Also, public lewdness often involves two or more people, which is seen as more severe than a crime by a single offender.
- Sexual Assault
Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code lists sexual assault as a crime which involves the sexual penetration of another person’s mouth, genitals or anus without their consent. It also covers any type of sexual contact with a child and any type of sexual contact with a person who has been drugged for the purpose of sexually touching or penetrating them.
Alan is on a date with Janet. Janet gets intoxicated and falls unconscious. Alan has sex with her while she is unconscious. Alan has committed sexual assault because Janet is unconscious. An unconscious person cannot consent to sex under any circumstances.
This crime is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. This is a much more serious crime because it involves a direct physical sexual assault on another person when that person does not desire sexual contact.
- Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child or Young Children
Section 21.02 of the Texas Penal Code describes this crime as an action which involves two or more acts of sexual abuse being committed in a 30-day period or longer by a person 17 years of age or older against a person or persons who is 14 years of age or younger.
This crime is a felony of the first degree. It is punishable by life in prison and a minimum of 25 years in prison, a fine of $10,000 and lifetime registration as a sex offender.
This is one of the most serious sex crimes because it involves repeated physical sexual assaults against children, a protected class of citizens, committed intentionally by adults.