There is no single law that establishes the minimum age of consent for all sexual activity. Instead, specific statutes provide definitions of what constitutes a "child." Generally, the offenses listed in Texas Penal Code prohibit engaging in sexual conduct with anyone under 17 or 18 years old, depending on the statute.
Many of these laws criminalize sexual activities regardless of whether the person knows the child's age at the time of the offense.
There are some exceptions in consensual cases where both parties are close in age. Certain provisions in the Penal Code include affirmative defenses to criminal prosecution. This means that the person cannot be convicted if certain conditions are met. In consensual underage sex cases, these affirmative defenses are often known as "Romeo and Juliet laws."
It is important to read the laws carefully because they are very specific about when they apply. Please see the Affirmative Defense column in the table below for more information.
19-year-old and younger offenders convicted of certain age-based sex offenses may be exempt from having to register as a sex offender. This "Romeo and Juliet" provision is in Section 42.017 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
The offenders must meet the requirements listed in Article 62.301 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure to qualify for the exemption.
Below are links to several age-based sex offenses in the Texas Penal Code that define the terms "child" and "minor." Also included are affirmative defenses for each offense. This is not an exhaustive list:
|Section 22.011||Sexual assault||Defines child" as "a person younger than 17 years of age."||Includes a defense for an actor "not more than three years older than the victim," as long as the victim "was a child of 14 years of age or older," along with several other requirements. See the statute for more details.|
|Section 21.11||Indecency with a child||Defines "child" as "younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex and regardless of whether the person knows the age of the child at the time of the offense."||Provides a defense for an actor "not more than three years older than the victim and of the opposite sex" who "did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim" and "was not required to register for life as a sex offender," along with other exceptions and requirements.|
|Section 33.021||Online solicitation of a minor||Defines "minor" as "an individual who is younger than 17 years of age" or "an individual whom the actor believes to be younger than 17 years of age."||Provides a defense for an actor who "not more than three years older than the minor" if "the minor consented to the conduct."|
|Section 43.25||Sexual performance by a child||Defines "child" as "younger than 18 years of age."||Provides an affirmative defense for a defendant who is "not more than two years older than the child."|
|Section 43.261||Electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting minor||Defines "minor" as "a person younger than 18 years of age."||Provides an affirmative defense for an actor "who is not more than two years older or younger than the actor and with whom the actor had a dating relationship at the time of the offense," among other provisions.|