With the heightened awareness regarding sexual harassment, inappropriate comments, and unwelcome touching that people, mainly women, face on a daily or weekly basis while going about their daily lives, I wanted to share what Texas’ criminal laws are concerning sexual harassment. In short Texas doesn’t have any specific law that address sexual harassment, instead a person charged with behavior such as grabbing a woman’s butt, repeatedly making sexual comments to her, or requesting sexual services will likely be charged under one of three statues (as long as no genitals touch the other person) which have surprisingly minimal penalties.
The first potential charge is assault. If someone walks about to me and grabs by butt, boob, crouch any of those areas with the intent of making contact with one of those areas it is only a class c misdemeanor (see section 22.01(a)(3)(c) Texas Penal Code). The absolute worst punishment a person can receive for a class C misdemeanor is a $500 fine. There is absolutely no chance that a person will receive jail time for committing the above offense.
The second potential charge for inappropriate sexual advances is harassment. If a person, with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another person makes a comment, request or suggestion that is obscene he commits the offense of harassment. Obscene is defined as a patently offensive description of or a solicitation to commit an ultimate sex act, including sexual intercourse, masturbation, and oral sex (see section 42.07(a)(1)(3) & 42.07(c)). If a person commits this offense it is a class b misdemeanor which can be punished by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2000 fine.
The last potential charge is official oppression. This can only be charged if the person committing the inappropriate behavior is a public servant. The statute states that if a public servant while acting in accordance with his office or employment subjects another to sexual harassment, it is a class a misdemeanor (see section 39.03(a), (c), & (d) of the Texas Penal Code). In this section the term “sexual harassment” means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, submission to which is made a term or condition of a person's exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, either explicitly or implicitly. So technically even under this statute a person who is a public official can commit sexual harassment and not face serious consequences as long as they don’t make their advances contingent upon some other privilege. A class a misdemeanor has a rang of punishment of zero to one year in jail and up to a $4000 fine.
Ironically if you turn around and punch someone in the face for intentionally grabbing your butt you can be charged with a class a misdemeanor of assault, while they will only be charged with a class c.
If you have been charged with any of the above crimes, especially if you have been charged for a crime in the course of defending yourself from a sexual crime being committed against you. Call the Christiansen Law Firm for a free consultation.