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“I Thought She Was 17” Is Not a Defense to Texas Statutory Rape Charges

Who hasn’t watched an episode of To Catch a Predator and chuckled at the foolishness of men driving hours to meet up with some teen they met in an online chat room? When Chris Hansen comes out to greet them, they spin some story about coming “to talk” or “offer advice.” Some even deny even talking to a teen online.

But League City sex crimes charges are no laughing matter. And, believe it or not, you can still be prosecuted even if you reasonably believed the victim was an adult. Having any sort of sexual contact with a minor is a “strict liability” crime in Texas, which means your lack of knowledge about the victim’s age is irrelevant. Gear up for some serious penalties if convicted.

Indecency with a Child

Texas is a little different from other states in that it doesn’t use the term “statutory rape.” However, the Lonestar State does criminalize “indecency with a child” at Texas Penal Code Section 21.11. This statute covers sexual contact with a minor. And Texas also establishes the age of consent as 17. Every state sets its own age limit, and they all are between 16 and 18, so Texas is right in the middle.

One common argument defendants raise is that they thought the victim was 17 or older. Sometimes, the teen goes to great lengths to hide his or her true age. Some might even falsify driver’s licenses or other forms of identification to convince their potential partner that they are old enough to consent. Many lie quite easily and could even have a friend who “backs them up” that they are adults.

Texas law is clear, however, that knowing the child’s age is not an element of this crime. Consequently, you are facing either second- or third-degree felony charges depending on whether you had sexual contact or merely flashed the child. A conviction for a second-degree felony can result in up to 20 years in prison—all for a simple mistake.

Is Any Defense Possible?

The statute does provide an affirmative defense if the defendant is close in age, specifically:

  • You are not more than 3 years older than the child of an opposite sex.
  • You did not use any coercion like force or threats.
  • You have no prior sex crimes convictions.

So if an 18 year old has sex with a 16 year old, then they could possibly avoid a conviction for indecency with a child.

Older defendants have limited options. We would need to know other facts before deciding which defense to bring. For example, entrapment is a defense to certain crimes in Texas. Under Texas law, we need to show that law enforcement used persuasion or other means to induce you to commit a crime. This is a pretty high bar, though. Simply giving you the chance to flirt with a child online is not sufficient entrapment.

Made a Mistake? Contact a League City Sex Crimes Attorney

Indecency with a child charges are some of the worst you can face. Fight back now. Call Tad Nelson to schedule a consultation.