Charges of Indecency with a Child in Texas


Charges of indecency with a child in the State of Texas are serious charges that typically lead to police investigation and can lead to arrest and conviction, which means prison time and being slapped with the label of registered sex offender (in addition to the registry requirement). The social stigma associated with even the accusation of indecency with a child is often profound. If you are facing such a charge, it is time to reach out to an experienced criminal defense lawyer for the professional legal counsel that you need.

The Crime of Indecency with a Child

There are specific statutes in the State of Texas that make specific actions with children who are under the age of 17 subject to arrest on the charge of indecency with a child. The accused can be charged with indecency with a child if the charge involves a child who is not yet 17 years old – whether or not the child is the same or opposite sex of the accused and regardless of whether the accused is aware of the child’s age at the time the offense occurs – if any of the following apply:

  • He or she engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact.

  • He or she exposes any part of his or her genitals or anus (knowing that the child is present) – or causes the child to expose any part of his or her genitals or anus – with the intention of arousing or satisfying the sexual desire of anyone.

In this context, sexual conduct refers to any of the following:

  • Any touching of the child’s breast or anus or any part of the child’s genitals (including touching through clothing)

  • Any touching of the child’s body (including touching through clothing) with the accused’s breast or anus or any part of his or her genitals

The Establishment of Indecent Conduct

In the State of Texas, indecent conduct can be established in one of two ways, which include indecency by contact and indecency by exposure.

Indecency by Contact

If actual sexual contact with the child who is not yet 17 is alleged, the charge will likely be indecency with a child by contact.

Indecency by Exposure

If the alleged crime involves physical exposure without sexual contact (on the part of the accused, another person, or the child in question), the charge will likely be indecency with a child by exposure.

The Child’s Age

The charge of indecency with a child can be levied even if the accused was not aware of the child’s age at the time of the charge-related event. This means that any fabrication on the part of the child (regarding his or her age) will not serve as a valid defense. Similarly, assuming the child is older than he or she actually is (with no overt deception on the part of the child) will have no bearing on the charge.

RELATED READINGS: Defending Yourself against Indecent Exposure Charges

A Felony Subject to Sex Offender Registry

A conviction for indecency with a child is a second-degree felony when the charge is indecency by contact and a third-degree felony when the charge is indecency by exposure. The following penalties apply:

  • A conviction for the charge of indecency by contact brings 2 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

  • A conviction for the charge of indecency by exposure brings 2 to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

A conviction for indecency by exposure requires sex offender registration for ten years after completing one’s sentence or after being discharged from probation. A conviction for indecency by contact, on the other hand, requires sex offender registration for life.

Affirmative Defenses

Texas is exceptionally strict in relation to the protection of children from sexual offenses (including indecency with a child), but there are affirmative defenses on the books (that amount to exceptions to charges of indecency with a child). It is important to point out that affirmative defenses are exacting and must be carefully satisfied in order for the exception to apply.

The Marriage Exception

A primary affirmative defense is if the child in question is the spouse of the accused. This affirmative defense prohibits a person from being charged with indecency with a child if he or she is married to the child (who is not yet 17) in question.

The Close in Age Exception

Another primary affirmative defense that prevents the accused from being charged is if he or she is no more than three years older than the child in question. This is often referred to as the Romeo and Juliet clause or the close in age exception. For this exception to apply, all the following must be true about the accused:

  • He or she must be the opposite sex of the child in question.

  • He or she must not have engaged in threats of force against the child in question.

  • He or she must not be a registered sex offender or be required to register as a sex offender.

  • He or she must not have any reportable conviction or adjudication for a sexual offense against a child.

The Age of Consent in Texas

It is important to address the matter of age of consent as it relates to indecency with a child in Texas, and this is because the age of consent varies somewhat, which can lead to serious confusion. Breaking the matter down can help. In Texas, the age of consent for most sexual activity is 18 years old. For adults who are 18 or 19 years old, however, the age of consent can vary (due to the Romeo and Juliet clause).

Further, in Texas, the age of consent hinges on the kind of sexual activity involved. If the charge addresses activity that is considered sexual conduct, the age of consent is 18 years old, but if the charge falls under indecency with a child, the age of consent is 17 years old. Finally, under the Romeo and Juliet clause, a two-year variance in age is allowed for sexual performance charges, and a three-year variance in age is allowed for indecency charges.

The Statute of Limitations in Texas

In Texas, there is no statute of limitations for the charge of indecency with a child, which means the charge can be brought at any time – regardless of how much time has passed since the alleged crime occurred.

The Sex Offender Registry

Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children Act in 1994 in its efforts to elevate the severity of sex offenses and to identify convicted sex offenders in a public registry. With this Act, the federal sex offender registry was instituted – along with guidelines that allow states to do the same. The registry tracks registrants via a yearly verification of their addresses. The Texas Sex Offender Registration Program requires adults and juveniles who have been convicted of specific sex offenses to register as sex offenders with their local law enforcement agencies (in the counties or cities where they currently live). The information each registrant is required to provide (at a minimum) includes:

  • The registrant’s name and address

  • The crime the registrant was convicted of

  • A color picture of the registrant

This information is kept on record with the law enforcement agency and is made readily available and accessible to the public via the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry website.

How It Works

The requirements for registration on the sex offender registry are exacting, and anyone who has been convicted of a reportable offense must register prior to his or her release to either mandatory supervision, parole, or community supervision (probation). Upon arriving in the municipality in which the registrant plans on living or visiting for more than one week, he or she must register within the first seven days.

If work requires the offender to spend at least 48 hours in a different county or city at least three times in a month, the registrant must also register in that location to remain in compliance with the law. Registrants who are convicted of violent sex crimes are required to remain on the registry for life. Other registrants are typically required to stay on the registry for ten years after all prison time is served and/or after being discharged from parole or probation.

Qualifying Crimes

The crimes that require registration on the sex offender registry include:

  • Indecency with a child (by exposure or contact)

  • Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault

  • Sexual performance by a child

  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child

  • Compelling prostitution by minor

  • Promotion or possession of child pornography

  • Human trafficking

The Consequences

Being on the sex offender registry can have nearly insurmountable social consequences. Because the registry is public, anyone can access the information and use it against a registrant at any time. This means it can affect one’s ability to rent an apartment, get a bank loan, find a job, and much more. Once a registrant finds a place to live, however, it does not necessarily stop neighbors from harassing him or her, and registrants can face ongoing prejudice and harassment from law enforcement. In other words, the negative consequences can evolve into cascading challenges. One of the more difficult consequences of being on the registry is that registrants are posted right alongside the most violent sex offenders – without any distinction being made regarding the details or the relative severity of the crimes in question.


There is a process by which some registrants can potentially have their names removed from the sex offender registry, but the process is difficult, and there is no guarantee. To deregister, the registrant must undergo a process that often requires the completion of years in sex offender counseling. In order for deregistration to be successful, all of the following must apply:

  • The applicant must receive an assessment from a qualified professional regarding his or her limited risk of re-offending.

  • The applicant must not have re-offended since the original charge.

  • The applicant must receive approval from the Texas Council on Sex Offender Registration.

After each of these components is satisfied, it is up to the judge on the case to determine whether or not to grant the deregistration request (which is also called early termination) from the sex offender registry.

It is important to note that all of the following apply (regarding deregistration):

  • Deregistration is only available for certain kinds of sex crimes.

  • Violent crimes typically do not qualify for deregistration.

  • Whether or not deregistration is available depends upon wide-ranging variables that can include the ages of the parties involved in the case and any other relevant circumstances.

  • Deregistration does not alter the registrant’s criminal record.

RELATED READINGS: How Long a Conviction Will Keep You on the Texas Sex Offender Registry

Having a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer on Your Side Can Help

Facing a criminal charge of the magnitude of indecency with a child is intimidating and overwhelming. Crafting a strong legal defense is complicated, and moving forward without the experienced legal guidance of a practiced criminal defense lawyer is ill-advised. Your lawyer will compile all the relevant evidence in your case into a coherent and effective defense (while skillfully negotiating with the prosecution as applicable) in quest of your case’s best possible outcome.

It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing a charge of indecency with a child, it is a serious matter that can lead to a prison sentence, hefty fines, and registering as a sex offender. In other words, the stakes are too high not to bring your strongest defense. Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a savvy criminal defense lawyer who takes great pride in skillfully defending the legal rights of clients like you – in focused pursuit of beneficial case resolutions. Our compassionate legal team is committed to being here for you, so please do not wait to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 to learn more about how we can help you today.


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