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Statutory Rape: Get the Facts

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Sex crimes come in a range of different categories, and few are considered as serious as those involving minors or mentally-challenged victims. While statutory rape is one of the more serious sex crimes, not every instance of sex with a minor qualifies under the heading. In every case, it depends on the circumstances of the case, the age of both victim and defendant and whether or not force was used.

What Is Statutory Rape?

Sex with ChildrenThe definition of statutory rape is having sex with a person who is legally considered incapable of consenting to the activity. This most commonly applies to sex with a person under the legal age of consent, which in Texas is 18 years old. To qualify, the activity must involve penetration, even if it’s only to a very small degree. If other sexual activity took place but there was no penetration, the defendant will face other charges.

Some examples of sexual behaviors that would qualify as statutory rape are:

  • Sex with a minor
  • Sex with a mentally incapacitated person

Statutory rape is divided into categories that are similar to those of general sexual assault, including:

  • Aggravated Statutory Rape – This refers to penetrative sex between a victim under the age of 14 years, regardless of the age of the defendant
  • Sexual Assault – In the context of statutory rape this means penetrative sex between a victim aged 17 years or younger and a defendant who is three years or more older
  • Indecency with a Child – This applies to non-penetrative sexual activity between a victim 17 years or younger and a defendant who is three years or more older than the victim

Exceptions to the Rule

There are some situations that are exceptions to the rule, which occur when sexual activity takes place between a minor and a defendant that is not considered to be a crime:

  • The first of these is when the parties are married. For example, if a 13-year-old girl is married to a 20-year-old man, they are legally allowed to have penetrative sex.
  • The second exception involves teenagers who are three years or less apart in age. If two teens aged 13 and 15 have consensual sex, for example, it’s called a “Romeo and Juliet” case and is not considered statutory rape or sexual assault. If the sex wasn’t consensual, however, and one of the teens was forced or coerced to perform the activity, then it qualifies as a sex crime.

Defenses against Statutory Rape

Some of the defense arguments considered in cases where statutory rape charges have been filed include:

  • That the defendant did not commit the crime (someone else did)
  • That the crime did not take place (the victim is lying)
  • That consensual sexual activity occurred and the defendant was unaware of the age of the victim

All three options have their pros and cons, but the third is very difficult to prove and is not an acceptable defense in Texas.

Punishment for Statutory Rape

Punishment for statutory rape depends on the charges laid and the conviction obtained against the defendant. Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony and carries a sentence of between five and 99 years in prison, as well as fines and community service options.

By contrast, sexual assault and indecency with a child are both second-degree felonies, which carry a prison sentence of two to 20 years depending on circumstances and evidence, as well as fines and community service options.

Get an Attorney

It requires an effective argument to mount a successful defense against these charges, as well as experience and knowledge of the state’s justice system. Regardless of whether the defendant is guilty or not, the lawyer has a duty to work for the best possible outcome of the case to preserve the defendant’s dignity and reputation.

If you’re accused of statutory rape or any other sex crime, your first step needs to be the appointment of a lawyer. Defending yourself or a loved one against a charge of statutory rape is not something you should attempt without a qualified sex crimes attorney in Texas.

*Image courtesy of k.ivoutin

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