Improper student/teacher relationship: laws, penalties and defenses in Houston, TX
You have probably seen stories in the news about inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. While local media tends to sensationalize these stories, the issue is common enough that Texas (among others) has specific laws related to this crime. There is a definition of an “inappropriate relationship between a student and a teacher,” as well as what the penalties for those relationships should be.
What this law doesn’t spell out are the social impacts of being convicted of such a crime could be. It is critically important to understand that those impacts exist as well.
If you’ve been charged with an inappropriate student/teacher relationship, make no mistake that your career, reputation and freedom are at stake. Consult with experienced Texas defense lawyer Matt Sharp to prepare your defense.
Definition of Texas Law and possible defenses
Section 21.12 of the Texas Penal Code is where you will find the definition of student-teacher relationship laws Texas. It details out what the exact definition of this crime is as well as what the potential legal penalties are.
|Texas Penal Code § 21.12. Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student
(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:
(1) engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;
(2) holds a position described by Section 21.003(a) or (b), Education Code , regardless of whether the employee holds the appropriate certificate, permit, license, or credential for the position, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:
(A) enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school, other than a school described by Subdivision (1); or
(B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; or
(3) engages in conduct described by Section 33.021 , with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1) the actor was the spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
(2) the actor was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the actor and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the actor’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.
(c) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
(d) The name of a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school and involved in an improper relationship with an educator as provided by Subsection (a) may not be released to the public and is not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code.
Possible defenses for improper teacher/student relationship charges
Texas law states that any school employee who engages in sexual contact with a person enrolled in that school has committed a felony. There are only 2 recognized defenses provided under this section of the law that a person may raise:
- The accused and the alleged victim are legal spouses, or
- The accused is no more than 3 years older than the alleged victim and that the 2 individuals had a relationship that existed before this action was taken. That relationship would also have had to exist before the accused became an employee of the school.
The 2 defenses against this kind of charge are incredibly rare and difficult to prove. A sex crime lawyer will be an excellent resource if you’re fighting such a case. This lawyer will be able to put forth a full-throated defense of their client as provided by the law.
Penalties and punishments for an inappropriate relationship with a student in Texas
Section 12.33 of the Texas Penal Code lays out the potential criminal penalties for someone convicted of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a student. Such crimes are a second-degree felony that is punishable with up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Both of these things may be imposed by a judge at their discretion.
Texas sex crime lawyer Matt Sharp will do his best to put forward a valid defense to lessen the penalty or penalties that you might face.
Additional actions that Texas educators could face
Aside from the criminal penalties, there are other professional actions that can be taken against a convicted educator. The State Board for Educator Certification has the ability to take action against educators convicted of a crime involving a student. This is the governing body that issues and revokes teaching licenses, and they are able to move forward with the revocation or suspension of a teacher’s license based on the conviction of a crime.
The ability of the Board to revoke a teacher’s license doesn’t end with sexual offenses, but also crimes involving moral turpitude and crimes against school property. Any of those offenses could result in penalties from the Board.
When to hire a skilled Texas defense attorney
Matt Sharp works diligently to ensure that his clients receive comprehensive representation, and make sure that the state doesn’t overreach on its powers. He wants to avoid or at least lessen the penalties that his clients face, and he will mount a vigorous defense.
It’s certainly not easy to be in the spotlight for having been accused of such a horrible crime. The way that society views alleged sex offenders is harsh, but at least a sex crime lawyer can attempt to lessen the overall impact on your life. You might be carrying a lot of guilt, anger or confusion over what happened, which is why we want to take the burden off of your shoulders.
Maintaining your career and a public image
Teachers can be falsely accused of some of these crimes, and the accusation alone can threaten to ruin their career and a reputation. Matt Sharp can shield his clients from some of that damage when possible. It’s devastating to see how quickly someone’s entire career and life can be flipped on its head through a simple accusation. That is never a position that someone wants to be in, and action must be taken to immediately turn the situation around wherever possible.
If you’re accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student, or another sex crime, reach out to our team at the Law Offices of Matthew D. Sharp. We will vigorously fight for your rights.