Being accused of sexual harassment can be a nerve-wracking experience, but can you be charged with a crime for sexually harassing someone in Texas?
If you are worried about possible criminal charges for sexually harassing another person, do not hesitate to contact a Temple criminal defense lawyer to protect your reputation, interests, and freedom.
Can You Be Charged with a Crime for Sexually Harassing Someone in Texas?
Texas Penal Code does not have a specific section for sexual harassment. Generally, sexual harassment violates civil laws rather than criminal statutes. However, although sexual harassment is not considered a criminal offense in Texas, you could still be charged with a crime if the offense involves any of the following:
Criminal harassment (Texas Penal Code § 42.07)
Assault (Texas Penal Code § 22.01)
Sexual assault (Texas Penal Code § 22.011)
If sexual harassment is charged as any of the above-mentioned crimes, you may face serious penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and mandatory registration as a sex offender.
Can I Face Criminal Penalties for Sexual Harassment?
If you have been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, your case will most likely be heard in a civil court. However, you may still face criminal penalties for harassing your co-worker, supervisor, customer, or another person at work.
A victim of sexual harassment at work has two options:
Filing a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission; or
Filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If the Texas Workforce Commission or EEOC launches an investigation into a sexual harassment claim filed against you, it is critical to contact an attorney right away. A skilled lawyer will protect your rights and fight for your interests to make sure that you avoid criminal penalties.
Can Someone File a Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Me?
It is not uncommon for employees to become victims of sexual harassment at work. When a worker experiences unwelcome sexual advances from a colleague, supervisor, or employer, they can file a civil sexual harassment claim against the alleged wrongdoer.
As mentioned earlier, a wronged employee can file a sexual harassment claim with the Texas Workforce Commission or federal EEOC. When this happens, the agency that receives the complaint will investigate the claim.
Under Texas employment law, the following types of conduct are considered sexual harassment and are prohibited at work:
Making unwanted sexual advances
Requesting sexual favors
Inappropriate touching or physical contact
Sending harassing or inappropriate text messages, images, or emails
Making harassing phone calls
In most cases, there must be proof of a pattern of offensive conduct to punish the wrongdoer for sexual harassment.
When Sexual Harassment is a Crime in Texas
As mentioned earlier, sexual harassment could be charged as a crime in Texas even though the state law does not explicitly address the crime of “sexual harassment.”
Sexual harassment can be charged as another criminal offense if the circumstances surrounding the wrongful conduct meet the definition of another crime.
Some of the most common criminal charges that may be associated with sexual harassment are:
Criminal harassment. You can be charged with criminal harassment if you make sexual advances or initiate communications, including phone calls, text messages, and other electronic communications. However, to be convicted of harassment under Texas Penal Code, the prosecution must prove that you had the intent to annoy, abuse, harass, or embarrass the victim.
Assault. If you are accused of sexual harassment, you may be prosecuted for assaulting the victim. Under Texas law, you can be convicted of assault if you intentionally or knowingly make physical contact with another person when you know that the person will see the contact as provocative or offensive.
Sexual assault. The most serious criminal offense associated with sexual harassment is sexual assault. However, to charge the harasser with sexual assault, the prosecution must prove that the defendant penetrated the victim’s genitals, anus, or mouth without their consent.
What Are the Penalties for Sexual Harassment in Texas?
Being charged with any of the above-mentioned crimes for sexually harassing someone in Texas carries serious consequences that could haunt you for the rest of your life.
Harassment is charged as a Class B misdemeanor. You can face up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.
Assault is charged as a Class C misdemeanor if you cause no bodily injury or pain to the victim. In that case, you will be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500. If you cause bodily injury or pain, assault is charged as a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and no more than $4,000 in fines.
Sexual assault is a second-degree felony. You can face up to 20 years in prison for a sexual assault conviction in Texas in addition to a fine of up to $10,000.
Depending on the exact criminal charge and the circumstances of the offense, you may face the following consequences:
Registering in the sex offender registry
A ban on gun possession
Changes to immigration status
Difficulty finding a job
Difficulty finding housing
Paying restitution to the victim
Paying court costs and legal fees
Being ordered to comply with a restraining order
You could avoid these and many other negative consequences of a criminal conviction in Texas by hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer.
Schedule a Consultation with a Temple Criminal Defense Lawyer
You should take sexual harassment allegations very seriously, even though sexual harassment is not technically a crime in Texas. As we have explained earlier, you could still be charged with a crime for sexually harassing another person.
Thus, if someone accused you of sexual harassment, it is advisable to consult with a Temple criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to explore possible defense strategies in your case. At The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard, we are committed to protecting your reputation and fighting for your rights in and out of court. Call 254-501-4040 to schedule a consultation.