Sexual assault and other sexually based crimes are highly prosecuted throughout the country. They often are considered some of the worst, and they can carry harsh penalties. However, the situations often are handled differently when the accused is a juvenile.
In Texas, a juvenile is defined under section 51.02 of the Texas Family Code § 51.02 as anyone who is under the age of 17, but is at the minimum 10 years old. The statute also defines a juvenile as someone who is older than 17, but under the age of 18 at the time the sex crime allegedly was committed.
The juvenile justice system in Texas roles differently from the way adults are handled in the system. The goal often is to rehabilitate the young offender, instead of simply punish him or her. However, juveniles nevertheless can charged with some of the most heinous sexual offenses.
A juvenile can be charged with sexual assault under section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code if he or she deliberately or knowingly penetrates a child’s sexual organ, anus or mouth or causes the child’s sexual organ to penetrate another person’s sexual organ.
Additionally, a juvenile can be charged with sexual assault if he or she penetrates the sexual organ of another person, already an adult, without his or her consent. The charge also could apply if the juvenile causes another’s person’s sexual organ to penetrate or contact another person’s mouth or sexual organ without consent.
A juvenile could be charged with aggravated sexual assault if he or she:
• Causes serious bodily injury to the alleged victim or attempts to cause death
• Threatens to cause death or serious bodily injury
• Uses a deadly weapon during the offense
• Administers drugs to the alleged victim during the offense, such as “date rape”
• Sexually assaults a child younger than 14
• Serves as an accomplice to a sexual assault
Juveniles also could be charged with indecency with a child under section 21.11 of the Texas Penal Code. This charge could apply if the juvenile has sexual conduct with a person under the age of 17, exposes his or her anus or genitals knowing a child is present or causes the child to expose his or her genitals.
If a juvenile exposes his or her genitals, he or she could instead be charged with indecent exposure, which often is a lesser charge. For this charge, the alleged juvenile offender also must act recklessly as to whether another person is present who may be alarmed or offended by the alleged offender’s actions.
All of these charges could have a long term effect on a juvenile in Texas. In addition to probation, community service and confinement to the Texas Youth Commission, a juvenile offender would have a criminal record, which could average difficulty applying for jobs, schools and other educational programs.
Additionally, in some instances, a juvenile offender could be required to register as a sex offender. This is one of the most meaningful punishments for the crime because it can affect the person into his or her adult life. It is important juveniles understand the charges they are facing and how they can protect their futures.