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We Know No Means No. But What If There’s No “No”?

Have you ever had a sexual relationship with someone and later regretted it? What if you had a sexual relationship with someone and THEY later regretted it? Have you committed a sex crime?

If you think you may have, you’re not alone. Many people have been caught by surprise with non-consensual sex-related charges. Most cases involve missed cues about the nature of the interaction between two people.  What may feel consensual to one may not feel consensual to other, especially when consent has not been expressly discussed.

If you have non-consensual sex with another person, then you could get charged with a crime. That’s why it is so incredibly important to understand exactly what consent means in Texas. Lots of factors contribute to whether a sexual interaction was “consensual” or not, including alcohol and the person’s age.  So what do you need to know? Keep reading.

If you have been charged with a sex crime, you deserve an experienced attorney in your corner.  Contact Geoffrey Puryear today.

What Does Consent Mean in Texas?

So what does consent mean? And why is it so important? It’s important because in most cases, consent is what determines whether your actions were within the law or a crime.

Texas law defines consent as “assent in fact, whether express or apparent.” But what does that mean?  Breaking it down, consent means giving providing agreement to move forward in a sexual act. As the statute explains, this consent could be said out loud or communicated by the other party’s actions.

We know that “No Means No” and a lack of consent is obvious when the other person said they didn’t want to have sex or attempted to fight back against the sex act.  But it gets less clear when people are not able to distinguish between “apparent” consent and a lack of consent. Importantly, Texas law says that a person’s appearance or your previous sexual history with them does not imply consent in any way to a new sex act.

What If I Was Intoxicated by Drugs or Alcohol? What If The Other Person Was?

It’s important to know how drug and alcohol intoxication can affect your legal responsibility and impact the other person’s ability to consent. Texas law says voluntary intoxication is not a legal defense to any crime, including sex crimes.  However, the law says people are not able to consent to a sexual act if they’ve been given a mind-altering substance or they’re unconscious due to voluntary drug or alcohol intoxication.

If the person is under the influence of date-rape drugs, then they legally cannot consent to sex. Any intercourse that occurs under these drugs is considered sexual assault.

It is well-known that alcohol can affect a person’s judgment and lower inhibitions. While the other person may have engaged in a sex act while intoxicated, that doesn’t mean that they would’ve consented to the act had they been sober. A good way to make sure consent is truly voluntary is to ask them before drinking alcohol.

Statutory Rape?

In addition to being consensual, the sex act must be between 2 adults to be legal. In Texas, the age of consent is 17. That means any type of sexual behavior towards individuals under 17-years-old is a crime regardless of whether they “consented” to the act or not. 

It is also what’s called a “strict-liability” law, which means a person has violated the law regardless of how old the person thought the other person was or how old the other person said they were.

There are a few exceptions to this rule including the Texas’ “Romeo and Juliet” law. This law provides a defense to prosecution  between teenage couples who are close in age. Despite these laws, it’s always a crime when the person is 14-years-old or younger. Individuals who are younger than 17 can also have non-criminal sexual relations when they’re legally married to the other person.

Is Having Intercourse Without Consent a Crime?

Yes; if you have non-consensual sex with anyone, then you can be charged with a crime. Here is an overview of the different types of sex-related crimes in Texas:

Solicitation of a minor

Public lewdness

Indecent exposure

Sexual assault

Aggravated sexual assault

Prostitution

Obscenity

Possession of child pornography

The crime you are charged with and the severity of the offense will hinge on the other party’s age, whether they were intoxicated or incapacitated and the level of force used during the act.

Penalties for Non-Consensual Sex

How serious are non-consensual sex crimes in Texas? The state of Texas is well-known for having some of the harshest penalties for sex offenses. Some sex crime convictions mean up to life in jail. A sexual assault conviction means from two to 20 years in jail.

On top of your jail sentence, you’ll be forced to register as a sexual offender for the rest of your life. This list is public and searchable, and it comes with severe social consequences.

How to Defend Yourself After Getting Charged with a Sex-Related Crime

If you were charged with a sexual-related crime in Texas, then you were likely taken directly to jail. Depending on the circumstances, a judge may or may not allow you to leave jail after you post bail. If your crime was particularly violent or the judge believes you are a danger to the community, then they may also deny you the ability to leave jail until your trial.

For sex to be considered a crime, there must be a lack of consent. The most common defense to a sexual crime is to argue that consent was present. Keep in mind that this defense strategy will only be effective when the other party was an adult who was not intoxicated and is not mentally incapacitated. Here are a few other defense strategies commonly used in sex crime cases:

Mistake of fact (you didn’t commit the crime)

The police violated your rights during the arrest or investigation

Challenging the evidence

It’s best if you speak with an attorney to determine which defense strategy will be most effective in your situation. The specific circumstances of the alleged incident, your arrest and the hard evidence dictate the strategies available to you.

What You Need to Know: Consent Laws in Texas

If you or a loved one were arrested for a sex-related crime in Texas, then it’s time to act now. It’s vital to use your Constitutional right to hire legal representation. An attorney will help you determine the best course of action and how to defend yourself. Reach out to our office now to learn more about how we can help.

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