Marital Rape Laws and Penalties

Today, when sexual assault occurs between spouses, it is considered illegal. Marital rape is a crime. This post addresses Texas marital rape laws and penalties.

Affirmative consent is required where matters of sexual activity are concerned. The parties engaged in intercourse (or any other type of sexual act) must agree to participate. All must possess the capacity to consent.

Because the law hasn’t always required consent of spouses, husbands or wives didn’t always have legal recourse when his or her spouse forced sexual activity. Texas law had an exception for marital rape until 1994.

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Texas Marital Rape Law

Texas law doesn’t include a discrete statute regarding marital rape. A spouse may be charged with any type of sexual offense. It’s considered a spousal rape charge if the alleged victim is a husband or wife.

In other words, Texas law doesn’t distinguish between the sexual assault of a non-spouse and sexual assault of a husband or wife.

The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault reports that Texas’ sexual assault laws are gender-neutral. In other words, sexual assault may occur between heterosexual partners, same-sex partners, or two strangers.

Common charges considered in alleged marital rape cases may include:

  1. Simple sexual assault. Under Texas Penal Code 22.011, the accused may be charged with marital rape if the prosecutor has evidence that he or she knowingly and intentionally caused 1) penetration of the spouse’s anus or sexual organ…without his or her consent, 2) penetration of the spouse’s mouth with the sexual organ…without his or her consent, 3) the spouse’s sexual organ was penetrated or came into contact with the other party’s mouth, sexual organ, or mouth.
  2. Aggravated sexual assault. Under Texas Penal Code 22.021, the accused may be charged with aggravated sexual assault if he or she 1) caused serious bodily injury, or attempted to cause his or her death (or the death of another party), 2) placed the spouse in fear of death, kidnapping, or bodily injury, 3) used one or more deadly weapons, 4) threatened to kill, injur, or kidnap the spouse, 5) used one or more date rape drugs to commit sexual assault on the spouse, or 6) the accused’s spouse is older than 65 years old, younger than 14 years old, or disabled.

Unfortunately, you may have learned the hard way that your husband or wife can level a marital rape allegation against you. Your husband or wife may have accused you of sexual assault. Consult an experienced Houston sex crimes attorney right away to protect your legal rights.

Marital Rape Statute of Limitations in Texas

Texas prosecutors have a limited time period in which to file charges against the alleged marital rapist. The statute of limitations in a Texas sex crime depends on the alleged victim’s age and the specific crime involved.

A 10-year statute of limitations exists for most sexual assault offenses. The prosecutor must decide to file charges against the defendant from the date of the alleged marital rape. In other words, this means the spouse has 10 years in which to bring his or her accusation of marital rape to the prosecutor.

Importantly, prosecuting an alleged marital rape case many years after it occurred may be very challenging to argue in court. For instance, if the spouse didn’t accuse his or her husband or wife of criminal assault at the time it occurred, it’s unlikely that a police report, DNA evidence, or subsequent investigation occurred.

Engaging an experienced Texas sex crimes attorney provides the accused with the strongest chances of exonerating himself or herself in court.

Marital Rape Penalties

There’s no specific punishment or specific offense for marital rape under Texas law. The accused is charged with either simple or aggravated sexual assault.

There’s no additional statutory punishment when sexual assault is affected by one spouse on the other.

If the defendant is convicted of sexual assault, he or she faces a second-degree felony charge punishable by two to 20 years in a Texas prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

In contrast, the individual accused of aggravated sexual assault faces a first-degree felony charge in Texas. If convicted, he or she faces a minimum five-year to maximum 99-year prison sentence plus significant fines.

In some cases, the defendant may be required to register as a sex offender in Texas.

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Defending Against Marital Rape Accusations

An experienced marital rape lawyer knows how to defend against a spouse rape accusation in Texas. Defenses against a sexual assault charge may include:

  1. Proof that the accused spouse had consent. A husband or wife might have reasonably believed that his or her spouse consented to sexual contact based on prior sexual activity, actions, or words.
  2. Demonstrates inconsistencies. An experienced marital rape lawyer thoroughly cross-examines witnesses, e.g. the accusing spouse, to show inconsistencies in his or her story.
  3. Shows the accuser’s false motivations. Marital rape allegations may arise in a divorce. A spouse may attempt to improve his or her divorce outcome. In this kind of scenario, an experienced marital rape lawyer works to bring the spouse’s true motives to the surface.
  4. Challenges the medical evidence. A sexual assault case may rely on collected DNA evidence. Because it’s completely usual for crime investigators to find a spouse’s DNA on his or her spouse, or near him or her, DNA isn’t strong evidence that marital rape occurred.
  5. Argues lack of sufficient evidence. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed sexual assault. An experienced Texas sex crimes attorney may seek to demonstrate to the judge and jury that there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove the accused committed the crime.

It’s important to note that the fact that the accused was married to the alleged spouse victim at the time the offense occurred isn’t necessarily a defense.

If the accused believes he or she had consent, or if the accused believed his or her divorcing partner is using marital rape accusations to obtain child custody, property, or spousal support in a divorce proceeding, these facts may support his or her case.

Intimate Partner Violence

Marital sexual assault is a crime in Texas but it’s important to note that it’s often legally difficult to prosecute alleged sexual crimes against a spouse.

That’s because it’s normal for two marital partners to express physical intimacy. If the partners live together and are sexually active with each other, it may be a challenge for prosecutors to argue consent or lack thereof.

Intimate partner violence occurs when a sex crime takes place within a relationship such as marriage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), marital rape is a factor in about 33 percent of all domestic violence cases. CDC also reports that one in nine men has experienced intimate partner violence.

Contact a Houston Marital Rape Lawyer

If a current or ex-spouse has accused you of marital rape, you certainly feel frightened and betrayed. If you’re divorced or separated, you share friends, family, and memories.

If you’re still married, you may be shocked at the spouse’s marital rape allegations.

Regardless of your relationship status or situation with the accuser, it’s essential to engage a tenacious, experienced Texas sex crimes lawyer now.

Matt Sharp will work to have the marital rape charges against you dismissed or dropped. When the prosecutor wants to move forward with the marital rape case, he will aggressively fight for your legal rights at trial.

Realize that an accusation of marital rape is a serious matter. If you or someone you know has questions about how to defend against an accusation of marital rape, call The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-999-4634 to request an initial case evaluation.