Texas -- Age of Consent
EMAIL RECEIVED: I am writing to you suggesting that you apply a small note
letting Texans know that the age of consent is 17 if you are within three years
of the age of that person. I am 31 and was confused at first because you have the age as
17 with no other information suggesting that there is a clause in that law. I do
appreciate your web site and found some of the ages ammusing, but almost got caught with
my pants down over the 17 year age, thank you for your time
EDITOR: We do NOT agree with your interpretation. We have re-verified the law
(http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/pe/pe002100.html#pe005.21.11) and it clearly
states that it is a defense to having sexual intercourse with a person UNDER 17 if the
accused is within three years of age.
We stand behind our entry that the age of sexual consent in Texas is 17.
Also added 03-2002:
I live in Austin, Texas and I am doing research on a case for a friend. I have found very
valuable information on your site and appreciate all the work which has gone into its
content. I was, however, unable to find any information on "Parental Consent".
Is there any provision in the law as it applies to the legal age of consent?
Simply put; can a parent or guardian give permission to an adult male, to date their child
(in this case a 16 year old daughter) and engage in consensual sexual relations with her?
EDITOR: No one can give permission to break the law. The historical
significance to this is the use of the marriage license. When you apply for a
marriage license you give the state the right to the "fruits of the marriage"
... in other words, applying for a license gave the state the power to set what was right
and wrong for your child. The point is - the relationship is against the law and a
parent can't "consent" away the legal implications.
Also see http://www.utexas.edu/student/lss/ayl_archive/StatutoryRape.htm
State Sodomy Law Ruled Constitutional by Appeals Court.
March 16, 2001 KRISTEN HAYS,
HOUSTON (AP) _ A Texas appeals court upheld the state's sodomy law Thursday in the case of
two men charged
with having sex in a private home. The nine-member 14th Court of Appeals voted
7-2 to overturn a June ruling by three members of the same panel that said the law was
unconstitutional because it forbids sex between same-sex partners, yet allows the same
acts between heterosexuals.
The sodomy law, which has been on the books for more than a century, was challenged after
John Geddes Lawrence
and Tyron Garner were arrested on Sept. 17, 1998 and charged with engaging in homosexual
conduct. Harris County sheriff's deputies had entered Lawrence's apartment after receiving
a false report of an armed intruder inside but found the men having sex. Under the
sodomy law, homosexual oral and anal sex is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of
up to $500.
Lawrence and Garner pleaded no contest in a justice of the peace court and later in a
Harris County Criminal
Court-at-Law so they could start the legal challenge. Prosecutor Bill Delmore said
he was pleased with the ruling. Ruth E. Harlow, legal director of the Lambda Legal
Defense and Education Fund, who argued the case on behalf of
the two men, said they would appeal. ``The court's ruling failed to enforce the
constitution's promise of equality,'' she said.
She said the ruling also allows the government to overstep its bounds by ``bashing down
the bedroom door'' to
criminalize consensual sex between same-sex partners. ``It guts the right to
privacy,'' she said.
Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Kansas are the only states that outlaw sodomy between
same-sex partners. Texas
has had a sodomy law since 1860 but decriminalized it for opposite-sex partners in 1974.
Twelve other states prohibit sodomy between same- and opposite-sex partners.
Harlow said similar laws in Georgia, Tennessee and Montana have recently been thrown out.
The texas law against homosexual conduct was invalidated by the court of appeals, the
article is below:
Texas Court Rules Against State's Ban on Gay Sex, June 8, 2000
HOUSTON: A Texas appeals court on Thursday declared the state's ban on homosexual
conduct a violation of the Texas constitution and overturned the conviction of two Houston
men arrested in their own bedroom in September 1998.
John Lawrence and Tyrone Garner, who spent a night in jail after their arrest, were each
fined $200 under the Texas sodomy law which prohibits oral and anal sex between same-sex
But the 14th Court of Appeals quashed their convictions, ruling that the law discriminated
against homosexuals because heterosexual couples were free to engage in the same
The Harris County District Attorney's office said it would probably ask for a review of
the case by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest court in criminal
In a 2-to-1 majority opinion, the 14th Court of Appeals said the sodomy law was at odds
with the 1972 equal rights amendment to the Texas constitution, which guarantees equality
under the law, regardless of sex, race, color, creed or national origin.
"The simple fact is, the same behavior is criminal for some but not for others, based
solely on the sex of the individuals who engage in the behavior," Justice John
"In other words, the sex of the individual is the sole determinant of the criminality
of the conduct." Justice Harvey Hudson issued a dissenting opinion in which he
said he did not believe the equal rights amendment was intended to decriminalize
The state has the responsibility to preserve public morals and homosexual conduct
"represents a gross deviation from historic perceptions of morality,"
Sodomy laws, outlawing anal and oral sex, were once in force across all 50 U.S. states but
have been repealed or struck down by courts in a growing number of states starting in the
1960s. Today 12 states have sodomy laws that apply to both heterosexual and
homosexual couples -- Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan,
Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.
In addition to Texas three states have sodomy laws that apply only to homosexual couples
-- Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Suzanne Goldberg, an attorney with Lambda
Legal Defense, a homosexual rights organization which has supported Lawrence and Garner,
described Thursday's ruling as a "tremendous victory" in line with a national
trend to abolish
"archaic" sodomy laws. "The decision means that Texas can no longer treat
its lesbian and gay citizens like criminals because of their consensual sexual
intimacy," Goldberg told Reuters.
Texas has had a sodomy law since 1860 but amended it in 1974 so that it applied only to
same-sex partners. Prosecutions had been rare in recent years. In a brief
submitted to the 14th Court of Appeals last year, seeking to uphold the conviction against
the two Houston men, state attorneys said the sodomy law was intended to discourage
"immoral conduct" and promote "family
values." Harris County Assistant District Attorney Bill Delmore said the
state would probably apply for a review of the case by the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals. "We probably owe it to everybody to take that step, just so that we
can get a
definitive ruling and resolve the issue once and for all," he told Reuters.
Penal Code Sec. 21.11. Indecency With a Child.
(a) A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years
and not his spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, he:
(1) engages in sexual contact with the child; or
(2) exposes his anus or any part of his genitals,
knowing the child is present, with intent to arouse or gratify
the sexual desire of any person.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that
(1) was not more than three years older than the victim
and of the opposite sex; and
(2) did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim
at the time of the offense.
(c) An offense under Subsection (a)(1) is a felony of the second degree
and an offense under Subsection (a)(2) is a felony of the third degree.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1981,
67th Leg., p. 472, ch. 202, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1981; Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 1028, Sec. 1,
eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.
Sec. 21.06. Homosexual Conduct.
(a) A person commits an offense if he engages in deviate sexual
intercourse with another individual of the same sex.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1993,
73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.
Indecency with a Child (Section 21.11)
(EDITOR: This could easily be the "child molestation" statute).
A person commits indecency with a child if, with a child younger than 17 years and not his spouse,
whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, he
engages in sexual contact with the child; or
exposes his anus or any part of his genitals, knowing the child is present, with intent to arouse
or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
Indecency with a child is a felony of the second degree, unless the actor was not more than three
years older than the victim was, of the opposite sex from the victim, and did not use force or a threat
of force against the victim during the offense. In that case, the offense is a felony of the third degree.
§ 21.01. Definitions
In this chapter:
(1) "Deviate sexual intercourse" means:
(A) any contact between any part of the genitals of one person and
the mouth or anus of another person; or
(B) the penetration of the genitals or the anus of another person
with an object.
(2) "Sexual contact" means any touching of the anus, breast, or any
part of the genitals of another person with intent to
arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.
(3) "Sexual intercourse" means any penetration of the female sex
organ by the male sex organ.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended
by Acts 1979, 66th Leg., p. 373, ch. 168, § 1, eff. Aug. 27, 1979;
Acts 1981, 67th Leg., p. 203, ch. 96, § 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1981; Acts 1993,
73rd Leg., ch. 900, § 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994.
Sexual Assault (Section 22.011)
(EDITOR NOTE: This would be Texas' "Statutory Rape" law)
A person commits sexual assault against a child when the person
penetrates the anus or female sexual organ of a child by any means.
penetrates the mouth of a child with the actor's sexual organ.
causes the child's sexual organ 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.
causes the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person, including the
Sexual assault is a felony of the second degree. The offense becomes aggravated assault when the
child is younger than 14 years of age, in which case it is a felony of the first degree.
A person who has committed any of the acts outlined above has positive grounds for a defense if that
person is less than three years older than the victim, the victim is over 14 years of age, and no force
was threatened or employed against the victim.
Enticing a Child (Section 25.04)
A person commits an offense if, with the intent to interfere with the lawful custody of a child younger
than 18 years, he knowingly entices, persuades, and takes the child from the custody of the parent or
guardian or person acting as a parent or guardian. This offense is a Class B misdemeanor.
Sale, Distribution, or Display of Harmful Material to Minor (Section 43.24)
"Harmful material" in this law refers to material that primarily appeals to a minor's prurient interest in
sex, nudity, or excretion; is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community about
what is suitable for minors; or utterly without redeeming social value for minors.
A person commits an offense if he knows the material is harmful and does any of the following things:
1.Knowing the person is a minor, he sells, distributes, exhibits, or possesses harmful material for
sale, distribution or exhibition to a minor.
2.He displays harmful material and is reckless about whether a minor is present who will be
offended or alarmed by the display.
3.He hires, employs, or uses a minor to do or accomplish or assist in doing the acts described in
items 1 and 2.
This offense is a Class A misdemeanor except in the instance of enlisting a minor to distribute,
display, or sell harmful materials, in which case the offense is a felony of the third degree.
Statutes of Limitations on Child Sexual Abuse (Article 12.01)
Felony indictments against child sexual abuse offenders may be presented for up to ten years from
the victim's eighteenth birthday if the offender is three or more years older than the victim and has
molested or exposed himself to the victim in an attempt to arouse sexual interest (offense defined in
If the offender is less than three years older than the victim, is of the opposite sex, and did not use
coercion, the statute of limitations is ten years from the date of the offense (Section 21.11[a]).
(e) Sexual Conduct of Child as Defense. This rule does not
limit the right of the accused to produce evidence of
promiscuous sexual conduct of a child 14 years old or
older as a defense to sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault,
indecency with a child or an attempt to commit any of the
foregoing crimes. If such evidence is admitted, the court
shall instruct the jury as to the purpose of the evidence
and as to its limited use.
Under Texas law, before 1993, no one could be convicted of a
sexual offense based solely on an alleged victim’s testimony unless
they told a third party within six months of the alleged incident.
However, an exception was made for alleged victims under 14. The
law was changed in 1993 to extend the exception to any alleged
victim under 18.
Excellent Sources of Sex Abuse Laws and Documents:
Is a 14-year old who gives birth emancipated (an adult) under Texas law?
No. 18 years or older, or married, or one who has disabilities removed by court for
purposes. See Family Code §101.003 and Civ. Prac. Code §129.001.
Question What do Texas laws say regarding statutory rape?
(From the University of Texas)
For whatever reason, the offense traditionally known as "statutory rape" is not
prosecuted very often when the child victim is older than 14 years of age and the sex is
consensual. However, the laws prohibiting any form of sex with children under the age of
17 are still on the books, and it is within a prosecutor's discretion as to whether or not
or she wishes to pursue such charges against an individual. A cynical person might
argue that such decisions are usually politically motivated.
Section 22.011 (a) (2) of the Texas Penal Code provides that a person who has sexual
relations with a child younger than 17 years of age is guilty of Sexual Assault. Under
section of the Penal Code, "sexual relations" may include conventional sexual
intercourse, oral sex, anal sex and/or oral-anal sex.
The most important thing to note about this criminal statute is that it does not actually
require any assault to take place. Thus, an adult who has consensual sex with a child
under 17 years of age is guilty of Sexual Assault, even if the child was the one who
initiated the sexual encounter. In addition, it is not a defense to prosecution that the
mistakenly believed that the child was 17 years of age or older.
This statute does not apply if the adult and child engaging in sexual conduct are legally
married. Also, if an adult who has sexual relations with a child can show that the child
was 14 years of age or older at the time of the encounter, and that the adult is no more
than three years older than the child, he or she cannot be convicted under this statute.
Generally, an offense under this statute is a felony of the second degree, punishable by
two to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. If, however, the child
is under the age of 14, the offense is enhanced to a felony of the first degree,
by imprisonment for life or for a term of not more than 99 years or less than five years,
and a fine not to exceed $50,000.00.
Permanent archive to prevent loss.
Interesting comments on Stat Rape from JessieMag
including a survey, with results
indicating that her readers want "consent" to mean just that
-- no law violations.
Texas parental notification law will help curb statutory rape
by Christopher Maska, J.D. and Joe Pojman, Ph.D.
In June 1999, Governor George W. Bush signed the Parental Notification Act, the
most significant pro-life legislation passed in Texas in the 27 years since Roe
v. Wade and a major restoration of parents' rights. Unfortunately, the majority of
justices of the Texas Supreme Court has greatly weakened the law by requiring judges in
Texas to potentially grant waivers to virtually any girl who seeks to bypass the
notification requirement. Nevertheless there remains strong reason to believe the new law
will significantly decrease the abortion and pregnancy rates in Texas for minors.
Every parent in Texas who cares about the health of his or her child, indeed anyone who
wishes to protect young girls from
sexual predators and greedy abortionists, owes a great debt of gratitude to the courageous
authors of the Parental Notification
Act, Senator Florence Shapiro (Plano) and Rep. Dianne White Delisi (Temple), and the other
legislators who supported this bill as well as Lt. Governor Rick Perry and Governor George
The Parental Notification Act addresses a serious teen pregnancy and abortion problem in
Texas. In 1998 over 26,000 girls 17
years old and younger become pregnant in Texas. National studies show that almost
two-thirds of these pregnancies are
fathered by adult men at least 20 years old. These are best described as sexual predators.
Of these pregnancies, about 4,800
tragically ended in abortions. In none of these abortions was the physician required to
obtain the consent or even notify a parent
or guardian of the minor, some of whom were girls 13 years old and younger.
One woman from McAllen, a victim of statutory rape who testified in support of the bill,
described how at age 16 she was
seduced by a high school teacher. When she became pregnant, the teacher persuaded her to
have and paid for a secret
abortion, only to continue the abusive relationship for another year.
A woman from Houston testified about an abortion facility that performed an abortion on
her 15-year-old daughter, also a
victim of statutory rape, without her consent. The physician botched the abortion and left
her daughter physically and
While the bill will have enormous positive effects in coming years, what it does is really
very modest. The Parental Notification
Act simply requires an abortion doctor to notify one parent of a girl at least 48 hours
before performing an abortion. He can
notify in person or by mail.
Passage of the bill was like David slaying Goliath. The powerful abortion lobby, including
Planned Parenthood, Texas Family
Planning Association, Texas Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, and others in
part funded by fees from
abortions marched in lock step in bitter opposition to the bill during deliberations.
Sadly, they were joined by the Texas
Medical Association, which seemed more interested in protecting the bottom feeders of the
medical profession, i.e., the
abortionists, than young girls in Texas. Proponents of the bill included a coalition of
the major pro-life, pro-family grass roots
organizations in Texas, whose ranks are staffed mostly with volunteers.
GARTL was a key player throughout the session and beyond. We were able to provide on the
spot legal analysis that was
crucial during negotiations. GARTL ran paid radio bulletins in key legislative districts,
which generated much positive comment.
Parental Notification was the theme of our 1999 Rally for Life and Family. Our mostly
volunteer lobby team was able to
quickly and effectively reach legislators in the Capitol. GARTL volunteers made certain
that we significantly outnumbered our
opponents at every committee hearing.
The Legislature included a "judicial bypass" in the Parental Notification Act, a
provision whereby a girl can petition a court to
issue an order for her to have a secret abortion. One reason for the bypass provision is
to allow a girl to avoid involving her
parents in rare cases when she the victim of abuse at home. For such cases, the
Legislature intends the judge to report the
suspected abuse to the proper authorities. Another reason involved preventing
constitutional challenges. While almost 40 states
have parental involvement laws, the U.S. Supreme Court has not upheld any that did not
have this judicial bypass provision.
Without the bypass provision, that Court would almost certainly strike Texas' law down as
In the months since the law went into effect on January 1, numerous cases have gone
through the courts, including six that have
gone up to the Texas Supreme Court. Unfortunately, the Court has issues rulings that turn
the bypass provision into a loophole,
so that a girl can easily claim she meets the requirements for waiver of the notification
rule. (For example, the Court has held
that a trial judge cannot even ask a girl why she is getting an abortion.) This is very
unfortunate, because the Legislature never
intended the bypass to be a loophole. In response, GARTL filed on behalf of itself
friend-of-the-court briefs in all fourteen state
appellate courts and two briefs in the Texas Supreme Court. We filed a third brief in the
Texas Supreme Court on behalf of the
Senator Shapiro and Representative Delisi, joined by eight senators and 46 representatives
over 1/4 of the Legislature stating
that the bypass should only be granted in extreme cases. This is in stark contrast to the
unfortunate interpretation given by a
six-member majority of the Court made up of Justices Baker, Enoch, Gonzales, Hankinson,
O'Neill, and Phillips. Notably, a
pro-life minority of the three remaining justices made up of Abbott, Hecht, and Owen
sharply dissented and supported the
legislators' intent. While a majority of the court has affirmed a low standard, it is
noteworthy that in the cases after this last brief
has been filed, the Supreme Court upheld decisions to deny judicial bypasses.
Even with the bypass being exploited as a loophole, there is very good news. The new law
will likely decrease the abortion and
pregnancy rates for minors by 20% to 25%, based on the effects of similar laws in other
states such as Minnesota. That would
mean about a drop of about 6,000 pregnancies and 1,000 abortions for minors every year, an
enormous pro-life victory by any
Update 06-2001: We received this by email:
Texas law prohibits sexual acts with anyone who is below the age of 18 years, not 17. The
law that you have listed on your website is Penal Code 21.11. Under penal code 43.25,
someone who engages in sexual acts with an individual under the age of 18 is subject to
prosecution. Please note that the wording of the law is somewhat confusing, as penal
code chapter 43 is titled Public Indencency. Section 25 does, though, make sexual contact
with anyone below the age of 18 a state felony crime in the second degree. This chapter is
interpreted as such, though it may be at first confusing. Carefully reading the language
of the chapter, though, does make it clear. This is THE LAW which is used to
prosecute individuals who engage in such sexual acts. Texas laws are confusing,
ambiguous, and sometimes conflicting, but the fact that penal code 43.25 exists does make
anyone who engages in sexual acts with someone below the age of 18 subject to prosecution.
I had noticed that your site lists the age of 17, and I was prompted to research the age
of consent in my home state. I was referred to this chapter of the penal code by a friend
who is a law-enforcement agent.
[EDITOR: We don't agree with your interpretation. 43:25 is related to SEXUAL
PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD ... as in video, audio or photographing sexual acts ... it has
nothing to do with sexual consent for sexual activities in private between persons without
cameras or recorders. You can read 43.25 at
http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/statutes/statutes.html - then click search, then type
"public indecency", then click on "#2 Penal Code Chapter 43" and you
will see the appropriate statutes. We stand behind our statement that the age of
consent in Texas is 17.]
Former Judge charged with child sex abuse.
(March 14, 1998)
07-2000 New Source: U.S. statutory rape laws is published on the Web by the National
Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The booklet, which
requires Adobe Acrobat to read, is located at: