Beware Catfishing Lures
Now that our lives are so closely intertwined with and driven by the internet, it is not surprising that we are facing new kinds of scams, including relationship scams. Catfishing refers to being lured into a relationship that is predicated on a fictional persona adopted by the person doing the catfishing. If you enter into a relationship with someone who bills himself or herself as an adult but is actually underage, you could face a serious charge.
Texas and the Age of Consent
In the State of Texas, a person who is under the age of 17 is not deemed mature enough to make a well-considered decision about sexual consent, which is why the age of consent is set at 17. When an adult has sex with someone who is not yet 17 – even if the sex is consensual and even if the adult is ignorant about the minor’s actual age – it is against the law. Consider the following legal ramifications:
Having sex with someone who is older than 14 but younger than 17 amounts to the crime of indecency with a child, which is a second-degree felony that is punishable by from 2 to 20 years behind bars.
Sex with a minor who has not yet reached the age of 14, on the other hand, is a first-degree felony, which is punishable by five years to life in prison.
The one caveat in this situation comes in the form of a Romeo and Juliet law, which means that the charges can be dropped if the adult in the consensual sexual relationship is no more than three years older than the minor (who is at least 15 years old). This law is intended to protect those teen couples who are close in age and who the law, therefore, has no interest in pursuing.
False Age Claims
It is not uncommon for young teenagers to be overly eager to become adults, and the internet allows them plenty of opportunities for testing the waters. However, the fact is that being ignorant of someone’s age – even if he or she actively led you to your naive belief (in a catfishing lure, for example) is not a valid criminal defense for having sex with someone who is underage in the State of Texas. We are living through a global pandemic, and much of our socializing is taking place online as a matter of course. While you may believe you have met the man or woman of your dreams online, never move forward with a physical relationship if you are not very confident that he or she has at least reached the age of consent.