You’re probably familiar with the term “statutory rape.” Though state laws vary, statutory rape laws address the issue of adults (individuals age 18 and older) engaging in sexual activity and sexual intercourse with minors – people under the age of 18.
Each state has what is called an age of consent, which refers to the age which someone can legally consent to sexual activity. Across the United States, the age of consent is either 16, 17, or 18. Here in Texas, the age of consent is 17-years-of-age.
What the ‘Age of Consent’ Means
Texas’ statutory rape law is covered under Section 21.11 of the Texas Penal Code, indecency with a child. Under Sec. 21.11 it states that someone commits an offense if they do any of the following with a child under the age of 17:
- Engage in sexual contact,
- Causing the child to engage in sexual contact,
- With the intention of sexually gratifying any person, exposes their anus or genitals in the child’s presence, or
- Causes the child to expose any part of their anus or genitals.
“But what about a Romeo and Juliet law, does Texas have a close in age exemption?” This is a very good question and it comes up a lot. Not all states have a “Romeo and Juliet” law, which is for adults who engage in sexual activity with minors who are close in age, but Texas does have such a law.
Under Texas’ indecency with a child statute, it is an affirmative defense (this refers to facts which may mitigate an offense or violation of law) if the offender is of the opposite sex and not more than three years olderthan the minor and the sexual activity was consensual. Meaning, the older partner did not use threats, force, or duress against the child to get him or her to engage in sexual activity.
Indecency with a child is a felonyof the second or third degree depending on the facts of the case. As a second-degree felony, it is punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison and by up to a $10,000 fine. As a third-degree felony, it is punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and by up to a $10,000 fine.