What is the Age of Consent in Texas?

It’s not uncommon for people 5, 10 or 20 years apart to meet, fall in love and develop a deep relationship based on mutual affection and trust. After all, this has been happening for thousands of years.

If the younger partner is 18 or older, he or she is free to date who they please. On the other hand, when it’s someone under the age of 18 and a legal adult, the romantic relationship can be downright illegal and put the older partner at risk of jail or prison, and mandatory sex offender registration.

In this post, we’re going to discuss the “age of consent” in Texas, which refers to the age in which someone can legally consent to sexual activity. In the United States, the age of consent varies from state to state, but it is usually 16, 17, or 18. In Texas, the age of consent is 17-years-old. This is the minimum age at which someone is old enough under Texas law to voluntarily engage in sexual activity.

If a minor is 16 or younger, he or she is below the age of consent and cannot legally consent to sexual activity. If someone age 18 or older engages in sexual activity with a minor who is 16 or younger, he or she can be prosecuted under Texas’ statutory rape law, indecency with a child.

Indecency with a Child in Texas

You may have heard about “Romeo and Juliet” laws, also known as “close in age exemptions,” which allow minors to engage in sexual activities with others who are close in age. Unlike Colorado for example, Texas does NOT have a Romeo and Juliet law.

Texas’ statutory rape law is black and white: It’s illegal for adults to have consensual sex with minors under the age of 17. So, even if a young man is 18, he cannot legally have sex with a 16-year-old girl under Texas law.

Indecency with a child is covered under Section 21.11(a) of the Texas Penal Code. Under Sec. 21.11(a) it reads, “A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex and regardless of whether the person knows the age of the child at the time of the offense,” the person:

  • Engages in sexual contact with the minor,
  • Causes the minor to engage in sexual contact,
  • With the intent to arouse any person, expose any part of one’s sexual organs in the child’s presence, or
  • Cause the child to expose his or her buttocks or genitals.

Please note that even though the following is a defense in some cases, it does not guarantee that someone close in age will avoid prosecution: It may be a valid defense if the offender is not more than three years older than the child and the offender is of the opposite sex, and the sexual activity was not forced or coerced.

Related: Protective Orders & Firearm Possession in Texas

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