Call for a FREE consultation at (713) 222-6767

Legal Blog

Can You Be Convicted of a Sex Crime if You Didn’t Know Their Age?

Published: Sep 11, 2020 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

People lie about their age all the time. For older adults, it may be satisfying to pass as younger. For adolescents, the opposite might be true. Some teenagers naturally look older than their age, while others dress and groom themselves to look over 18.

However, what may be cool or exciting to a young person can be devastating to you. If you become romantically or sexually involved with someone much younger than you thought, you could find yourself facing criminal charges.

If you are questioned or arrested for a sex crime, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away. It could be the difference in avoiding charges, having the case dismissed, or avoiding a sex crime conviction.

To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767.

Is Not Knowing a Person’s Age a Valid Sex Crimes Defense?

If you’re accused of a sex crime because you were unaware of someone’s true age, it can be tempting to try and explain the situation. But keep in mind, your mistake regarding their age is unlikely to be a valid defense in a Harris County courtroom, and saying too much could make the situation worse.

However, there are ways to defend against sex crimes by working with an experienced Houston sex crimes defense attorney.

Defending Against Statutory Rape

One of the most common charges to arise from a sexual encounter with a younger individual is statutory rape. In Texas, this is actually called sexual assault of a person younger than 17 (and older than 14).

Based on Texas Penal Code Section 22.011, you can be found guilty of statutory rape if you are older than 16 and intentionally and knowingly have sex with someone younger than 17.

The only exception to this is if you are both within a three-year age difference. If you are over 16 but your sexual partner was not more than three years younger than you, then you will not be charged. This ensures adolescents that are close in age are not punished for consensual sex.

But, what if you did not know the other person was under 17 and you are more than three years older?

It is not uncommon to believe a 15 or 16-year-old is older than they appear. The other person might have lied or even showed you a fake ID. Unfortunately, this mistake of fact is not a valid legal defense.

Defending Against Child Pornography

Another offense you could be charged with if you did not know the other party’s true age is child pornography.

Under Texas Penal Code Section 43.26, possessing or promoting child pornography involves knowingly or intentionally possessing, or knowingly and intentionally accessing with the intent to view material that depicts a child younger than 18 engaging in sexual conduct. This includes any film, video, photo, negative, or slide.

This also includes pictures and videos on your phone sent through text message or an app.

If you are over 16 and have taken, received, or viewed photos of an adolescent under the age of 18, you could be charged with child porn. An affirmative defense is that you were not more than two years older than the minor at the time.

You can also argue that you were unaware of the other party’s age and that you lacked the intent to view or possess child pornography. In this situation, you may be able to successfully argue a mistake of fact regarding the adolescent’s age, particularly if the adolescent lied and claimed to be older.

A Houston Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you have been charged with a sex crime in Houston because of an encounter with someone you thought was over 18, contact an experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer with The Law Offices of Ned Barnett immediately.

As a former prosecutor with considerable experience defending people in Harris County, TX in sex crime cases, attorney Barnett can assess your case, review the evidence, and advise you on how to best deal with the situation.

There are many ways to defend against these charges. Whether or not a mistake of age defense is available, we will fight to have the charges dropped or at least reduced in order to avoid your having to register as a sex offender if convicted.

Call (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free consultation.