If you have kids between ages 14-22, then you need to pay very close attention because they are the most at risk of becoming an accidental victim or perpetrator of statutory rape.
That’s right, accidental. Even though they may not know the age of consent, or intend to break any laws, not knowing someone’s actual age is not a defense (even if the other person lied about it).
A Child Cannot Have Sex
A “Child” is defined as a person that is under 17 years of age.
Therefore, a child cannot consent to sex and a person (including other another child) commits “Sexual Assault of a Child” by engaging in any sexual contact with a person that is under 17 years of age.
Instead of elaborating on what is/isn’t sexual contact, the statute is fairly explanatory. However, the most important thing to note is that there does not have to be a lack of consent when it comes to children. An offense can occur even if the child is willing.
Defenses to Prosecution
Because of the language of the Statutes, there isn’t much wiggle room and there aren’t any exceptions that would limit any offense as long as certain factors are met. Fortunately though, there are a few Affirmative Defenses to prosecution that are available when it comes to age of consent.
If the child had entered into a formal marriage at the time of the offense, then that may be exerted as an affirmative defense to prosecution for the child’s spouse.
That is ONLY for the child’s spouse and hypothetically, if the child were to commit adultery, then that person would not be able to use this defense.
Romeo & Juliet Defense
Luckily, our legislature has recognized that kids will be kids and has carved out a defense so that hormone-charged teenagers aren’t locked away for years and forced to register as sex offenders because they let their hormones make their decisions.
If the child is at least 14 years of age, and the partners is not more than 3 years older, then they may be able to exert this affirmative defense. Take note though, the last says “not more than 3 years” and doesn’t say “not more than 3 years and 1 week.”
But, age of consent isn’t the only consideration for Romeo & Juliet. The actor cannot have been registered as a sex offender, or have had a conviction for sexual assault at the time of the offense. Also, the child may not have been someone that the actor would have been prohibited from marrying under the Texas Bigamy Laws.
Save It For Marriage
Even though we preach to our children the importance of saving it for marriage, we recognize that they are children and are prone to have lapses in judgment. This article is a difficult subject for parents to bring up with their children, but we would much rather prepare them for the legal consequences of their actions instead of trying to defend them after the fact.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal Defense & Family Law Divisions
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479