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What Is Indecent Assault and How Is It Different Than Sexual Assault?


The world’s viewpoint on what is or is not socially acceptable is constantly changing. Behavior once considered “the norm” may now result in charges of indecent assault or sexual assault. How do you know when a touch crosses the line from a show of joy or sympathy and becomes an assault? Assault occurs when the contact is unwanted by the recipient and made with the intent of providing sexual gratification. In the United States, an American becomes the victim of sexual assault every two minutes. In Texas, every 2 in 5 women and 1 in 5 men have been a victim of sexual assault. The majority of those assaults take place within the victim’s home and 9 out of every 10 victims knew their attacker. According to the FBI, Texas is the 15th most dangerous state in the country for sexual assault and rape. This makes it essential that everyone become knowledgeable about Texas law regarding indecent and sexual assault.

Indecent Assault vs. Sexual Assault

Both an indecent assault and a sexual assault charge deal with sexual contact made without the other person’s consent. Indecent assault is the lesser offense and deals mainly with groping as a crime.
Sexual assault is a felony offense. This deals with the non-consensual sexual penetration of another person.

Indecent Assault Laws

indecent assault defense
Established in September 2019, the Texas indecent assault laws went into effect as set forth in Texas Penal Code §22.012. The code classifies the offense as touch in the following areas without consent:
  • The anus, breast, or genitals of another person
  • Touches another person with their breast, anus, or any part of their genitals
  • Attempts to expose in public another person’s pubic area, anus, buttocks, genitals, or female areola
  • Causes someone to have contact with the seminal fluid, blood, vaginal fluid, urine, feces, or saliva of any other person
The layman’s definition of this law is groping. This means if you reach out and pinch someone in the rear or grab their breast or penis area you may be found guilty of indecent assault. The violation of this penal code is a Class A misdemeanor. Upon conviction, the offender may be fined up to $4,000 and sent to jail for up to 365 days. Those with a conviction will not be allowed to carry a firearm for five years. A positive about a violation of this penal code is that you do not have to register as a sex offender.


The laws regarding sexual assault are found in the Texas Penal Code §22.011. The criteria for an assault of this nature include a person intentionally causing the penetration of another person’s sexual organs, anus, or mouth without their consent. The law is also applicable when a person causes the sex organs, anus, or mouth of another person to come into contact with the offender or another person without consent. The assault factors are the same if the victim is a minor child or the offender threatens violence against the victim or someone the victim knows. There is no consent if the victim is unconscious or unable physically to resist the assault, or if they are mentally unable to make an informed decision regarding consent. The law also addresses those who hold public service positions, work as mental health providers or in health care, are a coach or tutor, or are a clergyman. The law contains an extensive list of other professions. A conviction under this section of the code is a 2nd-degree felony. You will serve between 2-20 years in prison and incur fines of up to $10,000.


The Texas law for aggravated sexual assault is found in penal code §22.021. A violation of this law occurs if a person knowingly:
  • Uses any means to penetrate the sexual organ or anus of another person without consent.
  • Penetrates another person’s mouth with their sexual organ without consent
  • Causes another person’s sexual organ to come into contact with the mouth, sexual organs, or mouth of themselves or another person
The same type of contact is also prohibited when directed at a minor person. Penalties for sex crimes are generally more severe if the person is a minor, elderly or disabled, or mentally or physically handicapped. The law also addresses and includes bodily injury up to and including the death of a victim during a sexual assault. Acts such as threatening the victim or someone they know with bodily harm, kidnapping, death, or brandishing a weapon during the assault add to the seriousness of this crime. Aggravated sexual assault is a first-degree felony. If you receive a conviction, you will serve between 5-99 years to life in prison. You will receive a fine of up to $10,000. When you are accused of any type of sexual offense, you need a sexual assault attorney on your side. They will be familiar with the legal process, discovery, conducting a criminal trial in this special area of the law.


Prior to September 2019, Texas was one of only six states without a law regarding groping or non-penetration sexual acts. An offender was only guilty of a crime if there was sexual penetration of their victim or the victim was under age 17. Prior to enacting the new law, if you were in a public park and grabbed someone’s breasts, their assault accusations would likely result in a ticket for assault by offensive contact. That charge is a Class C misdemeanor, carries a $500 fine, and there is no risk of arrest or jail time. The Texas legislature realized the necessity of closing this legal sexual assault loophole. The new law increases the severity of the crime to a Class A misdemeanor.


If you are facing a charge of indecent assault, your defense attorney knows the prosecutor must prove your intent was to sexually arouse yourself or another person. They must also prove that the contact was not consensual. Don’t assume they will lose their case because you didn’t experience sexual arousal. You must build a strong defense, as the long-term consequences are severe.


Even after you serve your sentence in jail or prison, you may need to register as a sex offender. This requires you to complete a sex offender registration form, describe your offense and the name of the victim, and submit to having your photograph and fingerprints taken. Your registration requires you to provide information about where you work, your name, date of birth, and other information such as your home address. Depending on the facts of your conviction, registration may be a lifetime requirement. Sex offender laws may restrict the areas where you may live, your access to social media, your ability to own a firearm, enroll in higher education, secure some types of licenses, obtain and maintain employment, and more.


If you have any indication that someone may accuse you of indecent assault or sexual assault, call Gallian Firm. Our attorneys have experience and knowledge in sex crime defense. We begin working on your case immediately. Our goal is to prevent or reduce you from being charged with a sexual criminal offense.  Schedule an appointment to discuss your case. Use our online form or call (214) 432-8860. The sooner we begin working on your case, the more likely it is we may prevent hefty fines, jail time, and sex offender registration requirements.


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