Groping, touching not considered sexual assault in Texas

Each week it seems more and more men in positions of power are being accused of sexual harassment or even assault.

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) - Each week it seems more and more men in positions of power are being accused of sexual harassment or even assault.

With sexual assault being at the forefront of national conversation right now 3News looked into what the sexual assault laws are in Texas, and you may be surprised at what we found.

In Texas, if anyone is touched or groped inappropriately without consent, it is not considered sexual assault. As it stands now, it is punishable in the same way as if somebody hit another person in the arm; but that's something many would like to see changed.

There is no national definition for sexual assault. Each state has different laws, but in Texas there's not a whole lot that falls under sexual assault.

"This obviously hasn't been a priority as of yet, but things change," Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said it bothers him that inappropriately groping or touching someone does not fall under sexual assault in the state of Texas.

"You would think that if anybody gropes somebody in a sexual or provocative way that it would be a little bit more than a Class C misdemeanor," Gonzalez said. "Because that's only punishable by what? If it's a Class C misdemeanor, a fine. A $500 fine. That's it."

For it to be considered sexual assault in Texas, there has to be penetration by a body part or object, and once that happens, it becomes a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

"That is a huge difference between a Class C misdemeanor, where I grope somebody, to a second-degree," Gonzalez said.

It is something the Texas legislature is aware of. During this past legislative session, a bill was proposed to change an "offensive touching" crime to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine; but it wasn't passed, and the Texas Council on Family Violence said the State is behind on updating these laws.

Gonzalez said as things stand now, he does not even have jurisdiction over Class C misdemeanors, but would see those cases if that bill had passed.

Many other states like California consider inappropriate touching or groping a sexual battery offense, which can be a Class A misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by six months to four years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

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