Learn Sexual Assault Law in Texas: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

According to RAINN (the Rape and Incest National Network), an American is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds. Over the last decade, rates of rape and sexual assault have been rising at an annual rate of 2.9%. Sexual violence is a worldwide crisis that affects people of all genders, ages, and socioeconomic statuses. Continue reading to learn the answers to common questions about sexual assault law in Texas.

How is Sexual Assault Defined in Texas?

Under Texas law, sexual assault is defined as the act of knowingly or intentionally penetrating another individual’s mouth, anus, or sexual organs without that person’s consent.

The full law, found in Texas Penal Code Section 22.011(a) Subsection (a)(1) of the Sexual Assault Law, which deals specifically with adult victims, states:

“A person commits an offense if:

  • the person intentionally or knowingly:
  • causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;
  • causes the penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that person’s consent; or
  • causes the sexual organ of another person, without that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;”

What Counts As Consent in Texas?

Defining consent in a sexual context is another complicated issue that legal experts hold varying opinions on. However, the Penal Code is very clear about who can and cannot consent to sex.

The following groups of people cannot consent to sex:

  • anyone under the age of 17, unless their sexual partner is less than three years older than them. However, if state lines are crossed for sexual activity to occur, federal law applies, raising the age of consent to 18.
  • anyone who is unconscious for any reason, including voluntary intoxication.
  • anyone under the authority of a person in a position of power if the person in power uses their status to illicit consent. For example, a person who has been arrested cannot consent to sex with a police officer they are in the care of, and an eighteen-year-old high school student cannot consent to sex with one of their teachers.

The Penal Code also goes in depth about what does not count as consent in Texas. The core principle to understand is that any violence, force, or reasonable threats of violence or force, as well as any form of coercion or taking advantage of a position of power to force someone’s consent means that that consent does not legally count.

What Are the Penalties of Sexual Assault in Texas?

As is the case across the United States, Texas takes sexual assault convicitons very seriously. Sexual assault is charged in Texas as a second-degree felony. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, sentencing can include:

  • Upto $10,000 in fines
  • 2-20 years in prison
  • Being required to register as a sexual offender for the remainder of the perpetrator’s life

The circumstances may also require the offender to pay restitution to the victim.

What Is the Difference Between Sexual Assault and Aggravated Sexual Assault in Texas?

Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony, which can result in:

  • Up to a lifetime prison sentence
  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Being required to register as a sexual offender for the remainder of the perpetrator’s life

Additional penalties apply when the victim is under the age of six years old.

Related: What is Sexual Assault Criminal Defense in Texas?

Sexual assault elevates to the level of aggravated sexual assault when an offender intentionally or knowingly causes harm or threatens harm to someone else through a sexual attack and without that person’s consent and with an aggravating factor involved.

Aggravating factors include:

  • The victim being under 14 years of age (this caries a minimum prison sentence of 25 years if convicted in Texas)
  • Commiting a sexual assault with another perpetrator
  • Threatening violence or making the victim fear death
  • Using illegal substances to carry out the sexual assault.

How Likely Are False Sexual Assault Allegations?

Despite media frenzies in cases of false sexual assault allegations that make them seem like a prevalent issue that men should fear, false accusations of sexual assault and related crimes are rare. While legal experts disagree on how common they actually are due to various factors such as pressure on victims to drop allegations and allegations being proven false on minor technicalities about the actions that took place (rather than whether they took place or not), many experts estimate that only approximately 2% of sexual assault allegations are false.

Compare this to the fact that nearly a quarter of American men have been the victims of sexual violence in their lifetimes, and even then, sexual assault statistics are vastly underreported. Men are more than ten times as likely to be a victim of sexual assault than to be falsely accused of it. While this isn’t to say it never happens, false sexual assault allegations are not statistically something that men should live their lives in fear of.

Often, assumptions about false allegations stem from a misunderstanding of what sexual assault actually is. However, ignorance is usually not an excuse when it comes to committing a crime.

If you have been falsely accused of rape or sexual assault, it is important to seek legal counsel immediately.

Sources: https://news.kisspr.com/2020/05/25/can-priests-accused-of-child-molestation-be-prosecuted_13359.html


Interesting Related Article: “Defending Sexual Assault Charges: Here’s How a Criminal Lawyer can Help