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Texas Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

Laws prohibiting certain types of consensual sexual activity typically originate at the state level. Only two states, including Texas, have laws that specifically prohibit homosexual acts. But even though the Texas ban on same sex sodomy remains on the books, the U.S. Supreme Court found it unconstitutional in 2003 (and therefore unenforceable). Laws regulating consensual sexual activity also refer to offenses such as public lewdness, indecent exposure, and intentional HIV exposure.

The following table lists the main provisions of Texas prohibited consensual sexual activity laws, while additional background information follows. See FindLaw's Sex Crimes section for more information.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to Same sex (law found unconstitutional and thus unenforceable)
Penalty for Sodomy Pen. 21.06 Homosexual conduct: Class C misdemeanor; Note: found unconstitutional by Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and thus unenforceable.
HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders Crim. Proc. §21.31 Upon indictment for felony sex offense or upon request of victim of alleged sex offense, court may order HIV testing of offender
Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts Pen. 21.07 Public lewdness: Class A misdemeanor
Pen. 21.08 Indecent exposure: Class B misdemeanor
Pen. 42.01 Disorderly conduct: Class C misdemeanor
Penalties and Sentences
  • Class C misdemeanor: Fine of up to $500.
  • Class B misdemeanor: Up to 180 days in jail, fine of up to $2,000.
  • Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail, fine of up to $4,000.
Sex Offender Registry Texas Public Sex Offender Registry

History of Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity

One of the most famous cases to come out of Texas is Lawrence v. Texas. In that case, two men were convicted for having sex in a private home, under the Texas anti-sodomy law. The case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, where it was struck down. Because the decision made by the Supreme Court, all anti-sodomy laws in the United States are considered unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, many are still on the books.

Texas Sodomy Laws

Texas has not repealed the law that was struck down by the Lawrence v. Texas case. That law prohibits consensual sexual activity between individuals of the same sex. It is, however, unenforceable.

HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing

Victims of alleged sexual offenses have the right to compel their alleged assailant to be tested for HIV/AIDS.

Public Lewdness

Texas prohibits public lewdness, which is punishable as a class A misdemeanor. The law defines public lewdness as engaging in sexual intercourse, oral or anal intercourse, sexual contact, or sexual contact with an animal, in public.

Indecent Exposure

Texas law also prohibits indecent exposure. This is a class B misdemeanor. The law defines indecent exposure as exposing his anus or genitals to another person with the intent to arouse or gratify sexual desire in any person, in a setting that may be offensive to someone. This may be considered "consensual" behavior because the actor consents to the behavior, even though the offended person does not.

Statutory Rape

Statutory rape generally describes the situation in which a consenting adult and a consenting minor engage in sexual relations. Although the contact is consensual, Texas law prohibits sexual contact between someone younger than 17 years of age, and someone who is more than three years older than the minor, because a minor is legally unable to provide consent.

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Texas Criminal Case

If you have been charged with a sex crime -- even if it was completely consensual -- you could face jail time and a lifetime on a sex offender registry, depending on the severity of the charge. It is in your best interest to seek out professional legal help if you face any of these charges. Get some peace of mind today from an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney.

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