Texas Sex Crime Statutes
There is an entire chapter of offenses dedicated to sex crimes in Texas, and the crime of sexual assault is defined as follows:
A person is guilty of sexual assault if he or she intentionally or knowingly:
- Causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent;
- Causes the penetration of the mouth of another person by the sexual organ of the actor, without that person’s consent;
- Causes the sexual organ of another person, without having that person’s consent, to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
- Causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
- Causes the penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
- Causes the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
- Causes the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor; or
- Causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the actor.
A child is a person younger than 17 years of age.
The statute states that there is no consent if:
- The actor compels the other person to submit or participate by the use of force or violence;
- The actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against the other person, and the other person believes that the actor has the present ability to execute the threat;
- The other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unconscious or physically unable to resist;
- The actor knows that as a result of mental disease or defect the other person is at the time of the sexual assault incapable either or appraising the nature of the act or of resisting it;
- The other person has not consented and the actor knows the other person is unaware that the sexual assault is occurring;
- The actor has intentionally impaired the other person’s power to appraise or control the other person’s conduct by administering any substance without the other person’s knowledge;
- The actor compels the other person to submit or participate by threatening to use force or violence against any person, and the other person believes that the actor has the ability to execute the threat;
- The actor is a public servant who coerces the other person to submit or participate;
- The actor is a mental health services provider or a health care services provider who causes the other person, who is a patient or former patient of the actor, to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the actor; or
- The actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser.
The language above taken from the Texas statutes represents a number of different circumstances from which a charge of sexual assault can result.
Aggravated Sexual Assault
The statutory language of what constitutes sexual assault in Texas applies to the aggravated sexual assault statute, which requires additional special factors.
For instance, the additional factors that could result in a charge of aggravated sexual assault include where the person:
- Causes serious bodily injury or attempts to cause the death of the victim or another person;
- Places the victim in fear that death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping will be imminently inflicted on any person;
- Threatens to cause the death, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping of any person;
- Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon;
- Administers or provides rohypnol, gamma hydroxybutyrate, or ketamine to the victim of the offense with the intent of facilitating the commission of the offense;
- The victim is younger than 14 years of age; or
- The victim is 65 years of age or older, or is disabled.
The Difference In Penalties
The most important difference between aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault is the severity of the penalties. If someone is convicted of aggravated sexual assault, he or she can be sentenced anywhere between 5 – 99 years, or life in prison. Additionally, a person could face a minimum of 25 years in prison if the victim is younger than six years old or younger than 14 and is subjected to actual violence or if the sexual assault is defined by law as continuous.
A person convicted of sexual assault could face a prison sentence of 2 – 20 years.
Both of these offenses carry a requirement to register as a sex offender if a person is convicted.
What is Aggravated Assault in Texas?
Aggravated assault in Texas consists of:
- intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another person, or
- using or exhibiting a deadly weapon in the course of committing any assault crime, including threatening another with bodily injury or engaging in conduct that the victim likely will find offensive. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.02.)
What is Deadly Conduct in Texas?
The offense of Deadly Conduct in Texas consists of:
- recklessly engaging in any conduct that places another at imminent risk of suffering a serious bodily injury, or
- knowingly discharging a firearm at a person(s), house, building or vehicle with reckless disregard for whether the house, building or vehicle is occupied. (Tex. Penal Code Ann. §22.05.)
Some forms of road rage could constitute deadly misconduct. If a driver tries to cut off another driver or maneuvers his vehicle to potentially run another vehicle off the road, especially on a highway or other roadway with a high speed limit, he places the other driver in danger of serious bodily injury because his actions could cause a motor vehicle accident or collision.
For a complete discussion of the offenses of aggravated assault and deadly conduct involving a deadly weapon – particularly firearms – see Aggravated Assault and Deadly Conduct with a Deadly Weapon in Texas.
Serious Bodily Injury
Serious bodily injury involves significant harm such as a broken bone, disfigurement, loss of a limb, or an injury requiring surgery and/or hospitalization. A minor cut, scrape or bruise is a not serious bodily injury.
A reckless act is one that is committed, not necessarily with intent to harm another, but without regard for the outcome. Pushing someone out of the way in a crowd so that you can get through, without intending to injure the person, is reckless because it is likely that the person could fall and suffer an injury. The road rage conduct described above also is reckless because the driver is engaging in dangerous actions despite the high risk of injury to the other driver or the driver’s passengers.
Level of Offense
An aggravated assault can be a first or second degree felony and deadly misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor or a third degree felony.
An aggravated assault is a second degree felony except in the following circumstances in which it is a first degree felony:
- the offender uses a deadly weapon in committing the assault and causes serious bodily injury to the victim and the victim is a family or household member, or someone the offender is or has dated or had an intimate relationship with, qualifying the offense as a domestic assault
- the aggravated assault is committed by a public servant, such as a state worker or city counselor acting in his official capacity
- the victim is a person the offender knows to be a public servant engaged in the performance of his duties or the assault is committed in retaliation for the public servant performing his duties
- the aggravated assault is committed in retaliation against a witness, informant or a person who reported a crime
- the victim is a person the offender knows to be a security officer engaged in performing his duties, or
- the offender shoots a firearm from a motor vehicle at a house, building or motor vehicle with reckless disregard for whether the house, building or motor vehicle is occupied and causes serious bodily injury to the victim.
For more information on domestic assault, see Domestic Violence Laws in Texas.
The offense of deadly misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor if it involves only conduct that puts another in danger. The offense is a third degree misdemeanor if it involves discharging a firearm.
Penalties for Aggravated Assault and Deadly Misconduct
A person convicted of aggravated assault in Texas faces the following possible penalties:
- Second degree felony – from 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000
- First degree felony – from 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000
A person convicted of deadly misconduct in Texas faces the following possible penalties:
- Class A misdemeanor – up to one year in jail or a fine up to $4000, or both
- Third degree felony – from two to ten years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
A person convicted of aggravated assault or deadly misconduct in Texas can be required to pay restitution, which involves reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling or repair or replacement of damaged property.
Deferred Adjudication and Community Supervision
Texas law provides certain alternatives to a jail or prison sentence for a person charged with or convicted of aggravated assault or deadly misconduct.
If a defendant pleads guilty to a misdemeanor deadly misconduct charge, the court may grant a deferred adjudication. The court postpones sentencing for a period of time on the condition that the defendant successfully complies with probation and certain other requirements, such as no new arrests or criminal offenses during the conditional period, paying restitution, or doing volunteer work in the community.
If the defendant satisfies all the court’s requirements, the court will discharge the defendant and dismiss the case. The arrest, deferral and dismissal will be part of the defendant’s criminal record. If the defendant fails to satisfy the court’s requirements, the court will impose a sentence and enter a conviction. This alternative is most typically granted to first offenders. Deferred adjudication may be available to a person charged with aggravated assault or felony deadly misconduct but such a light sentence for such a serious crime would be highly unusual.
If a defendant is convicted or pleads guilty, the court also can grant community supervision (probation) as an alternative to a jail or prison sentence for up to two years for a misdemeanor and up to ten years for a felony. The court can require the defendant to serve some time in jail or prison before beginning community supervision – 30 days for a misdemeanor and 180 days for a felony. The defendant must successfully complete probation and any other conditions the court imposes or the court can require him to complete the sentence in jail or prison.
A person on community supervision must meet with a probation officer, pay probation costs, and comply with conditions such as treatment, maintaining employment, curfews, drug tests, and avoiding any further criminal activity or arrests.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for aggravated assault or deadly misconduct becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A conviction for a violent crime – even a misdemeanor – can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. A convicted felon loses the right to vote and carry firearms and can lose certain professional licenses.
An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.