Why Age Deception Is Not a Defense for Sexual Assault in TexasPublished: Nov 02, 2018 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes
It comes as a surprise to most people that age deception is not a defense to charges of sexual assault against a minor in Texas. This means that you can be convicted of this offense, even if you reasonably thought the minor was actually an adult. You can be convicted, even if the minor lies to you about their age. This results in many well-meaning individuals facing charges for a serious crime. However, there is a reason for this rule: adults must be responsible for their actions, especially when their actions affect minors.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a sexual offense in Texas, contact a Houston sexual assault lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767, or reach out through our online form.
Sexual Assault on a Minor Is a Crime of Strict Liability
When a crime involves strict liability, the state of mind or intent of the alleged offender is not an element of the case. This is different than with most crimes, where you can get off the hook if you can show that you did not act knowingly or intentionally. To convict you of sexual assault against a minor, a Texas prosecutor only needs to prove that:
- You had sexual contact with another person
- That person was under the age of 17 at the time the sexual contact occurred
There are many ways to defend against these charges. The first involves rebutting the prosecutor’s allegations: you can present evidence showing that no sexual contact occurred, or that the alleged victim was at least 17-years-old. The second option is proving an affirmative defense, which means admitting that the sexual contact with a minor occurred, but that it was justified. If the minor is between the ages of 14 and 16, and you are not more than three years older than the minor, it is a defense. If the minor is under the age of 14, your age is totally irrelevant and not a defense.
In some states, when a minor sexual assault victim lies about their age, the suspect can use this fact as an affirmative defense. In Texas, the only affirmative defense available against statutory rape charges is to show that you were legally married to the victim at the time of the offense. This defense is not a possibility in most cases.
The issue of age deception is not completely irrelevant in a case involving sexual assault of a minor. If you get convicted, the fact that the victim lied about their age may serve as a mitigating factor that could reduce your sentence. Age deception cannot get you out of a conviction, but the issue can be raised at your sentencing hearing to obtain leniency from the judge.
Adults Must Perform Due Diligence in Determining the Age of their Sexual Partners
The issue of age deception has recently gained visibility in Texas over the sexual assault charges brought against gun-rights activist Cody Wilson. He currently faces accusations of having sex with a 16-year-old girl he met on an online application. The website is only accessible to adults, meaning that the victim gained access to the site by lying about her age. Therefore, Wilson reasonably believed she was an adult when they met and had intercourse.
As with any Texas sexual assault case, age deception is not a possible defense for Wilson. Additionally, it is unlikely that his legal team can successfully use age deception as a mitigating factor because of the following facts:
- The online website specializes in connecting older “sugar daddies” with younger “sugar babies.”
- Wilson paid the victim $500 after their intercourse.
For these reasons, a judge will likely not accept Wilson’s argument that he deserves leniency because of age deception. From the available facts, it appears that Wilson was actively seeking out younger women, and that the victim in question was obviously not an adult. The fact that Wilson paid the victim means that the sexual contact cannot be framed as the culmination of a genuine romantic interest between the two.
Contact a Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer for Help
In Texas, when you have any doubt about the age of your romantic partner, you must make every effort to ensure they are adults. Any failure to do so could result in devastating criminal penalties. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we have a proven track record of helping our clients avoid these penalties, and getting back on their feet after facing charges. If you have been accused of a sex crime, call our office today at (713) 222-6767, or reach out online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Houston sexual assault lawyer.