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The Legal Definition of Sexual Assault: A Step-by-Step Guide

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

If someone accuses you of a crime of a sexual nature, the stakes are high. Conviction of a sex crime will permanently affect your professional and personal prospects for the future.

You may believe that so long as there is no violence involved, you are immune from accusations of sexual assault. Unfortunately, the law in Texas covers far more than forcible rape under its definition of assault.

Here are a few things you need to know about the definition of sexual assault in Texas, and what you should do if someone accuses you.

1. Texas’ Definition of Sexual Assault

The definition of sexual assault in the state of Texas falls under Texas Penal Code § 22.011. It includes penetration or any kind of sexual contact with anyone who does not give consent.

A. Penetration

In some states, intercourse or penetration must occur for the police to bring a charge of rape.

Other states do not define rape and use terms like “sexual assault” or “sexual battery” to encompass a range of crimes. Some classify different sexual acts as different levels of felonies or misdemeanors.

In Texas, there does not need to be vaginal penetration for someone to claim sexual assault. The law specifies that someone commits assault if they intentionally or knowingly cause the penetration of the anus, mouth or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent.

The law does not include adult victims who have been sexually groped or otherwise touched or stimulated without permission but were not subject to penetration.

Consent means someone gave permission for you to touch them sexually. However, in Texas, like in many other jurisdictions, there are other ways that the law regards the concept of “consent”.

For example, Texas law considers a child under the age of 17 to be a minor. The law holds that they are unable to give informed consent.

Therefore, even if you are dating a sixteen-year-old who says she is willing to have sex with you, you may still be liable for sexual assault. When someone has sex with a minor who is unable to give consent in the eyes of the law, that is also called statutory rape.

Someone who is drunk or incapacitated is also considered unable to give consent. If you have sex with someone who is so inebriated that they do not remember what happened, or agreeing to have sex with you, you may be charged with sexual assault.

D. Violence is Not Required

Because of this legal definition of assault, there does not need to be force or violence involved for a sexual assault charge. You might have the most loving intimate encounter with your beloved, but if she is under the legal age, it will still be considered assault.

Obviously, forcing someone to have sex with you by hitting them or restraining them is an assault. But under the law of Texas, manipulation or coercion can also contribute to an assault charge.

If you threatened someone that they had to sleep with you or you might hurt them in some way, that would be considered coercive and an assault even if you never hit them or injured them physically.

D. Spousal Rape

For years in some states, a wife could not charge her husband with sexual assault. The law presumed that a husband had the right to have sex with his spouse and that she implicitly consented because they were married.

Now in Texas, a spouse may allege sexual assault or rape by her husband.

2. What Should You Do?

A. Get an Attorney

Being accused of sexual assault is serious and your first order of businesses is to get yourself an attorney. You need someone to represent you who can defend you against these charges.

If you are convicted of sexual assault, it will impact you the rest of your life. You may face incarceration and will have countless difficulties getting a job, buying a home, buying a car, applying for loans, or even joining dating websites and services. It’s a dark cloud that can follow you for a lifetime.

A skilled sexual assault lawyer can help you mitigate the damage to your record and your reputation. They may be able to get the charges dropped or reduced if the facts warrant.

B. Elements of the Defense

Sexual assault defense entails breaking down the components of the crime of sexual assault. First, your accuser must establish that penetration did indeed occur.

If the alleged crime took place months or years ago, and if there is no medical physical evidence of sexual intercourse, it will be hard for them to prove this necessary component of the charge. Sometimes it will be your word against theirs.

Your lawyer may also argue that the sexual activity was consensual. If the accuser is over 17, the facts of the case will be critical.

If you were dating and had had consensual sex prior to this occasion, it will be harder for the prosecution to establish assault. If there were witnesses who saw you two flirting beforehand, or if she sent her friend a text that she couldn’t wait to get you into bed, then it may be harder for her to establish assault.

Of course, even adults in a relationship or engaging in foreplay have the right to say “no”. If your accuser says you did not stop when she asked you to, you may still be liable.

C. Character Testimony and Plea Deals

Your lawyer may also use character testimony to negate the allegations. They may question your accuser about your past relationship. They may even ask you about your other relationships, and any past altercations with the law you may have had.

Often these cases become a “he said/she said” situation. Thus, your lawyer must establish your good reputation and perhaps even question the veracity of your accuser.

If you can present evidence of your clean record, upstanding reputation in the community, and lack of violent tendencies, your lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor to lower the degree of charges to a misdemeanor or even drop them.

Sexual Assault: Understanding the Elements

Understand the elements of a charge of sexual assault is necessary in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. It is important to always get your partner’s consent for any kind of sexual activity.

Recklessness in this kind of behavior can expose you to allegations of assault. You may think it is all a big misunderstanding, but the ramifications may be severe.

If you have been accused of sexual assault or any other related crime, contact a lawyer right away.

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