Age of Consent in Texas and Exceptions | Age of Consent Map

What is the age of consent?

The age of consent is the age at which a person may legally consent to sexual activity. It’s important to understand that age varies from state to state and under federal law. Many people look up the age of consent for a particular state, forgetting that age of consent rules also apply at the federal level.

Some exceptions apply to the age of consent.

Similarly, you’ll often run into sources that give a partial answer. Surprisingly, certain affirmative defenses in Texas where the age of consent is an issue, like the Romeo-Juliet statutes or provisions, differ based on the nature of the alleged offense.

Why do we have age of consent laws?

At their core, age of consent laws are designed to protect minors from sexual exploitation. These laws acknowledge that young people may not possess the necessary maturity, experience, or understanding to make an informed decision about engaging in sexual activity. There is, however, a growing problem that the law does not account for – minors who misrepresent their age or even lie about it. Age of consent laws do not provide exceptions for either of these situations.

Texas Age of Consent Calculator (for sexual assault, indecency, and online solicitation)

Age of Consent Calculator

The Romeo and Juliet Law in Texas is based on the Alleged Offense

Most people (even many lawyers) incorrectly assume the Romeo and Juliet law in Texas is always a three-year provision. The Romeo and Juliet law in Texas varies based on the alleged offense.

  1. Sexual assault of a Child – 3-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 22.011
  2. Indecency with a Child – 3-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 21.11
  3. Online solicitation – 3-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 33.021
  4. Sexual Performance by a Child – 2-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 43.25
  5. Electronic Transmission of Certain Visual Materials – 2-year Romeo-Juliet provision – See PC 43.261
  6. Continuous Sexual Assault – 5-year Romeo-Juliet provision- See PC 21.02

What is the age of consent?

The age of consent is the age at which a person may legally consent to sexual activity. It’s important to understand that age varies from state to state and under federal law. Many people look up the age of consent for a particular state, forgetting that age of consent rules also apply at the federal level.

Some exceptions apply to the age of consent.

Similarly, you’ll often run into sources that give a partial answer. Surprisingly, certain affirmative defenses in Texas where the age of consent is an issue, like the Romeo-Juliet statutes or provisions, differ based on the nature of the alleged offense.

United States Age of Consent Map (Interactive)

Any sex allegation involving a child can bring your life to a screeching halt. The accusation – which may be nothing more than a statement – could lead to the loss of freedom, parental rights, housing, and employment.

A conviction for this type of offense can result in a prison sentence that is decades long and a lifetime of registration as a sex offender. That’s why it’s extremely important to understand state and federal age of consent laws. If you have been accused of a child sex crime, you must talk to an experienced attorney who is skilled in handling these types of cases as soon as possible.

What is the Age of Consent in Texas?

Age of Consent in Texas is 17In Texas, the age of consent is 17, which means if an adult engages in any form of sexual activity with a child under 17, it is considered statutory rape – even if the younger individual agreed to the sexual activity or lied about their age.

Interestingly, if you were to search the Penal Code for “legal age of consent” in Texas, you would not find it. Instead, you must examine the laws prohibiting sexual activity with a minor.

For example, Penal Code Section 22.011, which defines sexual assault of a child, defines a child as anyone under the age of 17. Similarly, Penal Code 21.11 prohibits sexual conduct with a child younger than the age of 17.

Therefore, under Texas law, with some exceptions, it is illegal to have sex with a person under the age of 17. This is sometimes called the statutory rape statute because an individual who is under the age of 17 is legally incapable of giving consent.

In Texas, once a person has turned 17, the law presumes they are able to give consent.

There are some exceptions, however. In Texas, there is something referred to as the “Romeo-Juliet” law, which may protect young adults or teenagers within three years of age who are both over the age of 14 and willingly have sexual relations. In these cases, a sex crime charge could be reduced or even dismissed. Keep in mind, however, children under 14 can never legally consent to sexual conduct.

The age of consent commonly comes up in allegations involving the following offenses:

Sexual Assault of a Child

Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child

Indecency by Exposure and Indecency by Contact

Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child

Online Solicitation of a Minor

As we will explain in detail below, something that is not widely understood, even by attorneys, is the Romeo-Juliet statute depends on the offense charged.

What is the Age of Consent across the United States?

the age of consent

The age of consent varies by state and ranges from 16 to 18. The chart below consolidates published ages of consent for the various states. It is not meant to be legal advice and is provided for illustrational purposes only. If you have a question about the age of consent in a particular state, you are encouraged to talk to a criminal defense attorney in that state.

StateAge of Consent
New Hampshire16
New Jersey16
New Mexico17
New York17
North Carolina16
North Dakota18
Rhode Island16
South Carolina16
South Dakota16
West Virginia16

Please watch the informative video by Board Certified Criminal Defense Attorney Letty Martinez to learn more about how the Romeo-Juliet law acts as a defense to statutory rape.

What is Statutory Rape in Texas?

So you’re thinking, “What about the Romeo-Juliet Law?”

The chart below outlines the ages where it is lawful to have sex and ages where the Romeo-Juliet Law may apply under Texas law.

Age of ChildAge of ActorSexual Conduct Legal Under Texas LawLegal Under Federal Law
13AnyNo. Romeo-Juliet does not apply to a sexual conduct with a child under 14.No.
1415Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1416Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1417Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1516Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1517Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1518Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1617Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1618Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo
1619Affirmative Defense: Romeo-JulietNo

Learn more about the Romeo and Juliet Law here.

What is the Age of Consent Under Federal Law?

Under federal law, the age of consent is 18. In fact, federal law defines a minor as a person under age 18. Therefore, it is illegal to cross state lines for the purpose of having sexual encounters with an individual under the age of 18. For example, a Texas resident may not travel to another state where the age of consent is lower for the purposes of having sex with someone under the age of 18. Doing so will subject that person to prosecution under federal law.

Under 18 USC 2251, it is a federal offense to induce, coerce, persuade, or entice a child under the age of 18 to engage in any sexual activity while affecting interstate commerce or crossing state lines. Similarly, it is illegal to produce, distribute, receive or possess sexually explicit images of a child under the age of 18. The age of consent in individual states is irrelevant.

It’s important to understand that the federal government has jurisdiction over an alleged crime when some act took place over state lines. This can be actual travel, or as often alleged in cases of child pornography, by the use of computers or the internet.

False Accusations

Having sexual relations with an underage child is a very serious allegation. Unfortunately, the seriousness of these offenses and the significant collateral consequences have led to a disproportionate number of false accusations being made over the years. For example, an accusation will almost always lead to a loss of employment, parental rights, and housing. This happens for a number of reasons. First, in order to affect an arrest, the police merely have to develop probable cause. This is a very low level of proof and is a far cry from the proof required to convict a person of an offense. Second, as soon as an arrest is affected for this type of offense, any employer will likely terminate that person’s employment. Texas is an “at-will” state, meaning employers can terminate employees for any reason or no reason at all. Third, once an allegation is made, CPS will conduct an independent investigation. CPS may implement child safety plans that limit access between the accused and his or her own children. Fourth, once a case is filed, the accused will be subject to significant bond conditions, including not having any contact with individuals under the age of 17 (including the defendant’s own children), wearing a GPS monitor at all times, and staying at least 1,000 feet away from any school, child safety zone or area where children congregate. It’s important to point out that physical findings are unnecessary to allege sexual misconduct. A mere allegation alone is sufficient to result in an arrest and subject a person to all the consequences described.

Clearly, even a false accusation can devastate a person’s life. Unfortunately, false accusations occur far too often for a variety of reasons. One of the most common occurrences is during a divorce or when there is a child-custody issue. One parent may coach the child to make a false accusation so that it terminates the other parent’s access to the child and significantly reduces the chances that parent will be awarded custody. Another common reason is the child was caught engaging in inappropriate behavior and are deflecting attention to someone else. For example, a child who was caught being sexually active with his or her peers may make a false accusation against a parent when confronted with the activity. It’s also not uncommon for children who have been previously abused to make a false allegation. They may use the allegation as a way to hurt an adult with whom they are upset.

Why Varghese Summersett?

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All of the partners at Varghese Summersett are former state and/or federal prosecutors. Our attorneys have worked both at the state and federal level. More importantly, our attorneys have prosecuted and defended these types of cases successfully. We have obtained dismissals, reductions, and no-bills on the most serious of sexual allegations. Letty Martinez was the Chief of the Crimes Against Children Unit and other attorneys at the firm served in this unit during their careers as prosecutors. Our firm has access to investigators, detectives, and resources specifically pertaining to the types of cases outlined in this article. The decades of experience we bring to the table means several things.

  • First, prosecutors take us seriously. They know that we will be prepared in even the most complex of cases.
  • Second, not only do we know the State’s playbook when it comes to handling these types of cases, our attorneys helped write the playbook. We know how they will prepare their case.
  • We are proactive. We know what can be done to maximize the chances of dismissal, reduction or no-bill.
  • Finally, we know a case’s strengths and weaknesses and will give you an honest straightforward evaluation of the case so that you can utilize the information to decide if you want to put our extensive experience to work for a pre-trial resolution or in a jury trial.

Our attorneys have a track record of obtaining exceptional results in the most serious types of cases, including aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault of a minor, indecency fondling, and online solicitation. Our attorneys include former chiefs of prosecuting agencies who helped write the playbook on the prosecution of these offenses. Put experienced criminal defense attorneys at your side. The allegations alone can result in CPS investigations and the loss of livelihood, while a plea or finding of guilt can result in prison time and sex offender registration. Find out how unsubstantiated allegations without physical findings can result in serious consequences without the right defense. Learn why a proactive defense is the best defense.

Contact Us

Call for a complimentary strategy session. During this call we will:

  • Discuss the facts of your case;
  • Discuss the legal issues involved, including the direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
  • Discuss the defenses that apply to your plan and in general terms discuss our approach to your case.

Call: (817) 203-2220

You can also contact us online.

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About the Author Board Certified Lawyer Benson Varghese

About the Author

Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has successfully handled thousands of state and federal cases, ranging from misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases to capital offenses, showcasing his commitment to preserving justice and upholding the rights of his clients. His firm covers criminal defense, personal injury, and family law matters. Benson is also a legal tech entrepreneur. Benson is a go-to authority in the legal community, known for his ability to explain complex legal concepts with clarity and precision. His writings offer a wealth of in-depth legal insights, reflecting his extensive experience and his passion for the law. Not only is Benson an accomplished litigator, but he is also a dedicated advocate for his clients, consistently striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. His authorship provides readers with valuable legal advice and an understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. CriminalPersonal InjuryFamily Law Contact
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