11468 views | 11 | Last updated on Mar 05, 2020 Criminal Law Minors
The Texas Penal Code does not include a statutory definition of “child” or “minor” that applies throughout the entire Penal Code (see Section 1.07 of the Code). Instead, specific statutes within the code provide definitions. For example, the laws on sexual assault and indecency with a child define a “child” as a person under the age of 17. These and other laws criminalize certain sexual activities regardless of whether the person knows the age of the child at the time of the offense. See:
However, a few other statutes that address minors and sexual activity set the minimum age at 18 years:
“Romeo and Juliet” laws generally refer to provisions in law that provide an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution in consensual cases where both actors are similar in age. There is no single “Romeo and Juliet” law, but several sections of the Penal Code contain these kinds of provisions. It is important to read these laws carefully because they are very specific about when they apply. For example:
A “Romeo and Juliet” provision is also found in Section 42.017 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which offers protection from having to register as a sex offender for a person convicted of an offense under Texas Penal Code Section 21.11 or 22.011. Please note that the age requirements found in this statute are different than those in Section 21.11 or 22.011:
(1) at the time of the offense, the defendant was not more than four years older than the victim or intended victim and the victim or intended victim was at least 15 years of age; and
(2) the conviction is based solely on the ages of the defendant and the victim or intended victim at the time of the offense.
Additionally, a person who was convicted of an offense under Texas Penal Code Section 21.11 or 22.011 and required to register as a sex offender before September 1, 2011, may be able to petition the court for an order exempting them from registration if they are eligible under Article 62.301 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.