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Consent Laws in Texas: What You Need to Know

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Consent Laws in Texas: What You Need to Know

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Have you ever had a sexual relationship with someone only to later regret it? What if you pushed your boundaries and had sex with someone who didn’t consent? Have you committed a sex crime?

Countless people have felt blindsided by non-consensual sex-related charges. What may have felt consensual at the moment to you could’ve felt like coercion by the other person involved. That’s why it’s crucial for you to understand what consent means in Texas. You also need to be aware of how a person’s age or intoxication level could impact their ability to consent to a sexual act.

If you have non-consensual sex with another person, then you could get charged with a crime. The penalties associated with these types of actions are even more severe in the #MeToo era. Learn everything you need to know about consent laws in Texas and how to defend yourself if you get charged with a sex-crime below.

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What’s Consent Mean in Texas? 

If you’re unsure what consent means, then it’s time to get the facts about it now. Why is consent so important? When you choose to engage in a sexual act with another individual, consent is usually what determines whether your actions were acceptable or a crime.

Texas law defines consent as “assent in fact, whether express or apparent.” In basic terms, consent means giving approval to or agreeing to move forward in a sexual act. As the statute explains, this consent could be expressly stated or made apparent by the other party’s actions.

A lack of consent is clear when the other person said they didn’t want to engage in the act, attempted to fight back against the sex act or turns down the act.

What usually gets people into trouble is not being able to distinguish between “apparent” consent and a lack of consent. Nothing about a person’s appearance, agreement to hang out or previous sexual history implies consent to a new sex act.

Consent Laws: Is Age Really Just a Number?

On top of giving you express or apparent consent, the other person must be a specific age for a sex act 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.

There are a few exceptions to this rule including the state’s “Romeo and Juliet” laws. These laws do allow sexual activity to occur 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.

Drugs and Alcohol: Can Someone Consent While Intoxicated?

Often, sexual activity and intoxication go hand-in-hand. You need to understand how drug and alcohol intoxication can impact a person’s ability to consent, though. According to Texas law, individuals are not able to consent to a sexual act if they’ve been administered a mind-altering substance, they’re unconscious or when they’re black-out drunk.

Alcohol, in particular, is well-known to impact a person’s judgment. While they may have been willing to engage 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 ensure that the other person consents is to ask them before drinking alcohol.

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.

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. If you’re charged with a felony, then you could spend anywhere from 25 years to life in jail. A sexual assault conviction means two to 20 years in jail.

On top of your likely jail sentence, you’ll need to register on the sexual offender’s list for life. This list is public, and it comes with severe social consequences.

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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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