In Texas, a person can be charged with sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault. The word "aggravated" means to make something worse. Thus, aggravated sexual assault is more serious and carries harsher penalties.
If you have been accused of sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault in Texas, contact Drehner Law today.
So, what does aggravated sexual assault in Texas mean, and what makes it more severe than sexual assault? In this blog, we'll look at the different factors that can elevate the severity of the crime. But first, we'll examine the legal definition of sexual assault under Texas law.
What Is Sexual Assault?
Often referred to as rape, sexual assault generally occurs when a person has non-consensual sex with another individual. Texas Penal Code 22.011 specifically defines it as knowingly or intentionally engaging in sexual conduct with someone else when that person did not give permission.
A person may be accused of committing the crime if they:
- Penetrate someone else's anus or sexual organs (regardless of the means of penetration)
- Penetrate another person's mouth with the alleged offender's sexual organs
- Make a person's sexual organ contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organs of another person
Additionally, if a person does any of the above with a child, regardless of whether they knew how old the minor was, they may be charged with sexual assault even if the child consented to the act.
What Does Aggravated Sexual Assault Mean in Texas?
Aggravated sexual assault, Texas Penal Code § 22.021, means that someone committed sexual assault under certain circumstances.
As with sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault in Texas involves non-consensual sexual conduct with an adult or sexual conduct with a child regardless of whether the actor knew the minor's age at the time of the offense or whether the child consented to the act.
Under Texas Penal Code § 22.021, aggravated sexual assault is an elevated offense because it occurs when:
- The victim suffered serious bodily injury, or the alleged offender attempted to kill the victim;
- The victim feared that they or any other person would be a victim to a trafficking offense or would suffer serious bodily injury, be kidnapped, or be killed;
- The alleged offender threatened to subject the victim or any other person to a trafficking offense or to cause the victim or any other person to suffer serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or death;
- A deadly weapon was used or exhibited;
- The act was committed with an accomplice;
- The alleged offender administered a substance to the victim, making them incapable of resisting;
- The victim was under 14 years of age; or
- The victim was an elderly individual
How Do the Penalties Differ Between Assault and Sexual Assault in Texas?
Most often, sexual assault is a second-degree felony. A conviction results in between 2 and 20 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Still, circumstances exist in which sexual assault can be charged as a first-degree felony. Such instances include when the victim was someone the alleged offender was barred from marrying or engaging in sexual conduct with.
In Texas, aggravated sexual assault (Texas Penal Code § 22.021) is always a first-degree felony. Upon a conviction, the court can impose a prison sentence of 5 to 99 years and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Circumstances exist when the minimum term of imprisonment can increase to 25 years. These include when:
- The victim was under 6 years of age; or
- The offense involved the threat or fear of trafficking, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or death and the victim was under 14 years of age.
Although aggravated sexual assault in Texas is considered a more severe crime than sexual assault, both are serious offenses. A conviction can substantially alter the course of the alleged offender's life. A criminal defense attorney can develop a strategy to seek to avoid or minimize penalties.