Sexual assault of a spouse is illegal under Texas law. In Texas, “marital rape” is considered sexual assault and may be charged as aggravated sexual assault if there were aggravating factors present when the assault took place.
In some cases, people mistakenly believe that it is impossible to sexually assault a spouse because the couple is married. However, this is an outdated concept and no longer the law in any state in the country. In a handful of states, the law carves out narrow exceptions for sexual assault that takes place in a marriage and an individual may be charged with a less serious offense. However, this is not the law in Texas.
Sexual Assault in a Marriage Under Texas Law
The Texas Penal Code does not include a distinct or separate charge for so-called “marital rape” or sexual assault that happens between two spouses. When one spouse commits a sexual assault upon the other, this is charged as sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault under Texas law.
In addition, the sexual assault law in Texas is gender-neutral, which means a sexual assault between spouses can include an assault by a husband upon a wife, a wife upon a husband, or same-sex spouses.
Sexual assault between two spouses in Texas can be charged in a number of ways depending on the circumstances of the case.
- Sexual assault – Under Texas law, a person can be charged with sexual assault, which can include the sexual assault of a spouse, if they knowingly or intentionally cause the penetration of the other person’s mouth, anus, or sexual organs without that person’s consent. An individual can also commit sexual assault of another, including a spouse if they cause their sexual organs to come in contact with the other person’s mouth, anus, or sexual organs without that person’s consent.
- Aggravated sexual assault – Under Texas law, sexual assault, including the sexual assault of a spouse, can be charged as aggravated sexual assault when an individual commits a sexual assault in the presence of aggravating factors. These aggravating factors can include carrying out a sexual assault that involves kidnapping, causing serious injury to the other person during the assault, using a deadly weapon to carry out the assault, a sexual assault where the victim is over the age of 65, using a date rape drug during the sexual assault, or making the other person fear for their lives during the sexual assault.
The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault of a Spouse in Texas
When someone is charged with the sexual assault of a spouse in Texas, prosecutors have a limited amount of time to file charges against the alleged perpetrator. This time period is called a statute of limitations. The time limit for filing charges depends on the specifics of the alleged crime, as well as the victim’s age.
In most cases involving sexual assault, including sexual assault within a marriage, the statute of limitations is 10 years. This 10-year period begins to run from the date the sexual assault took place.
When an alleged victim waits a long time to make an accusation, this can make it tough for prosecutors to assemble a case. This is because certain types of evidence, including DNA evidence, degrade quickly. When years have passed since an alleged sexual assault took place, it may be extremely difficult or even impossible for the prosecution to prove the assault happened.
Penalties for Sexual Assault Involving a Spouse in Texas
Because Texas law does not distinguish between marital rape and other types of sexual assault, the penalties for sexual assault and sexual assault involving a spouse are the same.
Someone who is accused of sexual assault, including the sexual assault of a spouse, under Texas law can be charged with a second-degree felony, which carries penalties that include up to $10,000 in fines and between two and 20 years in prison. In addition, someone convicted of sexual assault, including the sexual assault of a spouse, may be required to register as a sex offender.
An individual who is accused of aggravated sexual assault, including the aggravated sexual assault of a spouse, under Texas law, can be charged with a first-degree felony, which carries penalties that include up to $10,000 in fines and between five years and life in prison. An individual convicted of aggravated sexual assault, including the aggravated sexual assault of a spouse, may also be required to register as a sex offender.
Defenses Against Accusations of Sexual Assault of a Spouse
If you have been accused of sexually assaulting your spouse, you may be wondering how you can defend yourself. These are serious allegations that can have enormous negative effects on your personal and professional life.
This is why it is important to speak with a Texas criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in sex assault cases. A knowledgeable Texas sexual assault defense lawyer will review your case and help you determine the best defenses available, which may include:
- Presence of consent – Sexual assault, including the sexual assault of a spouse, is by definition a sexual act that does not involve consent. If you can show that the spouse consented to the sexual act, you may be able to get the charges against you dismissed.
- Insufficient evidence – Prosecutors must prove the defendant committed a sexual assault beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard, and the prosecution must bring evidence to prove its case. If the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence, this may result in your case being dismissed.
- False accusations – Unfortunately, false accusations of sexual assault do happen. In the context of a marriage, there can be many reasons why a spouse may claim the other spouse assaulted them. For example, the accuser may be attempting to gain leverage in a divorce or child custody case. This is why it’s important for individuals accused of sexual assault to thoroughly discuss their defense options with an experienced Texas sexual assault defense attorney.
If you have been accused of the sexual assault of a spouse in Texas, don’t hesitate to talk to a Texas criminal defense lawyer about your case.
Defense Lawyers Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
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