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Sexual Assault vs. Aggravated Sexual Assault

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The crime of sexual assault is a serious offense in the Texas justice system. A conviction for this crime can lead to severe consequences, including years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. In some cases, a sexual assault conviction can be penalized with mandatory registration on a sex offender registry.

As with many criminal offenses, the crime of sexual assault can be penalized to different degrees based on the facts of the case. For example, a conviction for aggravated sexual assault can be punished much more harshly then a sexual assault conviction.

The Crime of Sexual Assault

According to Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code, the crime of sexual assault is defined as engaging in sexual conduct with another person without that person’s consent. This can include scenarios involving:

  • Using threats or violence to force sexual contact
  • Using drugs to incapacitate another person
  • A person who uses their authority to coerce another into sexual conduct

Under the law, consent is one of the most important factors in determining if sexual assault has been committed. For instance, a minor under the age of 17 in Texas cannot legally consent to sexual activity. Even if the minor agrees to engage in sexual conduct, criminal charges may still be applied to the adult in the case.

Additionally, people who are in positions of power or authority over another person may by charged with sexual assault if they engage in sex with a person under their care. Criminal charges can be applied in cases involving a person who is unable to resist or understand sexual activity. In these cases, a person who is physically incapable of refusing sexual conduct or a person who is mentally unable to understand the situation cannot legally give consent.

Aggravated Sexual Assault

Charges of sexual assault may be enhanced to aggravated sexual assault charges if certain actions are committed in the course of the crime. For example, enhanced penalties can be applied to sexual assault cases that involve:

  • Serious injuries to the victim during the course of the crime
  • A victim who was younger than 14 years of age
  • A deadly weapon that was used in the commission of the crime
  • A victim who was elderly or disabled

The criminal penalties for a charge of aggravated sexual assault can be significantly enhanced. Either charge can be punished with incarceration in prison and very high fines.

Legal Penalties

Although the exact type of punishments used in these cases may vary from case to case, sexual assault is usually treated as a second degree felony in Texas. Under the law, a second degree felony can be punished with:

In some cases, the penalties for a sexual assault conviction can be enhanced if the victim was a person whom the defendant was prohibited from marrying. In these cases, the charge could be enhanced to a first degree felony, punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

Aggravated sexual assault can be punished even more severely. For example, an aggravated sexual assault conviction can lead to:

  • Conviction on a first degree felony charge
  • Five to 99 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $10,000
  • Mandatory registration as a sex offender

In aggravated sexual assault cases, if the victim is six years of age or younger, or if the victim is 14 or younger and is severely injured, the defendant may be ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison if convicted.

Legal Defenses

Under Texas law, there are several admissible defenses to sexual assault charges. For example if an adult over 18 engages in sex with a minor under 17 but the two are legally married, the adult may not face aggravated sexual assault charges for engaging in sexual conduct with a minor. However, sexual assault charges may still be applied in cases of non-consensual sex between spouses.

A criminal defense attorney may be able to submit evidence showing that the defendant cannot be physically linked to an alleged sexual assault. If this strategy is successful, the charges may be dropped or reduced.


Have you been charged with a sex crime? If so, it is vital to retain a criminal defense as soon as possible. The Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky can provide the aggressive representation that you need. Contact Mr. Podolsky today at (713) 227-0087.

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