Accused of Statutory Rape

If you have been accused of the statutory rape of a minor in Denton County, then you need to hire a professional criminal defense attorney immediately.

Being charged with sexual assault of a child is serious criminal offense in Texas and carries very heavy punishments.

The American criminal justice system states that every person is “innocent until proven guilty.” However, for charges of statutory rape and sexual assault of a child, the opposite often seems to be the case. The legal process for disputing rape is a nightmare for defendants, their families, and their friends.

What is Statutory Rape?

As described in Section 21.011 of the Texas Penal Code, statutory rape is a type of sexual assault which occurs between an adult and a victim under the age of 17 who is not the spouse of the defendant. Sexual assault is defined as inappropriate sexual contact, penetration of the anus, sex organ or mouth of a child or causing the child’s sex organ, anus or mouth to make contact with the sex organ, anus or mouth of another.

Statutory rape differs from child molestation and aggravated sexual assault of a child in that the act would not have been a crime had both parties been above the age of consent.

Statutory rape laws in Texas are gender neutral, thus it does not matter what gender the adult or minor are, and the penalties for being convicted of this second-degree felony sex offense range from 2-20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

What is the Age of Consent in Texas?
In Texas, the legal age at which a person can consent to sexual activity or contact is 17.  Anyone who engages in a sex act with someone age 16 or younger, regardless of whether or not the act is consensual, can be charged with statutory rape.

Romeo and Juliet Laws

Many states have enacted certain provisions, known as “Romeo and Juliet laws,” to reduce or eliminate certain cases of alleged statutory rape. Texas is one such state. Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas provides protection to teens who have a sexual relationship with someone who is technically under the age of consent but where there is a minor age difference.

If all of the following statements are true, an individual in Texas cannot be convicted of statutory rape and will not be required to register as a sex offender for having sex with a minor:

  • The defendant is less than 3 years older than the victim.
  • The victim was at least 14 years old when the sexual relationship began.
  • The defendant was not a registered sex offender at the time of the alleged act.
  • The sexual act was consensual.

Other Defenses for Statutory Rape

If an individual does not qualify for a defense under Texas’ Romeo and Juliet laws, they are in for the fight of their lives. The fact that the relationship was consensual or that the defendant was unaware of the victim’s age is not a valid legal defense in statutory rape cases.

That being stated, there are certain defenses and other defense strategies that an experienced attorney can use to reduce or dismiss your charges. These possible defenses include:

  • Marriage: Because statutory rape charges have a consensual component, an exception is made for married couples.  If an individual under 17 years of age is the spouse of the defendant, then the “age of consent” rule is waived and sexual assault charges cannot be filed.
  • Medical: According to Texas Law, “It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection (a)(2) that the conduct consisted of medical care for the child and did not include any contact between the anus or sexual organ of the child and the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of the actor or a third party.”
  • Evidence: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that statutory rape occurred. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can cause doubt to be cast on the victim’s testimony by investigating all the facts surrounding the alleged incident, questioning evidence and identifying the victim’s ulterior motives, such as looking for a settlement payment or getting revenge.
  • Stress: Using the defense that the defendant committed the criminal act under great duress or other mitigating circumstance is not likely to get statutory rape charges dropped completely; however, it may help reduce the sentence.

What To Do If You’ve Been Charged with Statutory Rape of a Minor?
If you have been charged with a sex assault crime in Texas, it is time to prepare yourself for a long and difficult legal process. Denton sex crime defense lawyers Dominick Marsala and Jenna Magaña have over 10 years of experience successfully helping clients in Denton County, Collin County and other surrounding Texas counties.

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