Texas Penal Code 21.12 – Improper Relationship Between Educator and Student
WHAT IS IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS?
The law against improper relationships between educators and students criminalizes consensual sexual relationships between school employees and students who are 17 years of age or older. A school employee who engages in sexual conduct with a student who is younger than 17 may be charged with sexual assault of a child.
WHAT IS THE IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 21.12. IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT.
(a) An employee of a public or private primary or secondary school commits an offense if the employee:
(1) engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school at which the employee works;
(2) holds a position described by Section 21.003(a) or (b), Education Code, regardless of whether the employee holds the appropriate certificate, permit, license, or credential for the position, and engages in sexual contact, sexual intercourse, or deviate sexual intercourse with a person the employee knows is:
(A) enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school, other than a school described by Subdivision (1); or
(B) a student participant in an educational activity that is sponsored by a school district or a public or private primary or secondary school, if students enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school are the primary participants in the activity; or
(3) engages in conduct described by Section 33.021, with a person described by Subdivision (1), or a person the employee knows is a person described by Subdivision (2)(A) or (B), regardless of the age of that person.
(b) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
(b-1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that:
(1) the actor was the spouse of the enrolled person at the time of the offense; or
(2) the actor was not more than three years older than the enrolled person and, at the time of the offense, the actor and the enrolled person were in a relationship that began before the actor’s employment at a public or private primary or secondary school.
(c) If conduct constituting an offense under this section also constitutes an offense under another section of this code, the actor may be prosecuted under either section or both sections.
(d) The name of a person who is enrolled in a public or private primary or secondary school and involved in an improper relationship with an educator as provided by Subsection (a) may not be released to the public and is not public information under Chapter 552, Government Code.
(d-1) Except as otherwise provided by this subsection, a public or private primary or secondary school, or a person or entity that operates a public or private primary or secondary school, may not release externally to the general public the name of an employee of the school who is accused of committing an offense under this section until the employee is indicted for the offense. The school, or the person or entity that operates the school, may release the name of the accused employee regardless of whether the employee has been indicted for the offense as necessary for the school to:
(1) report the accusation:
(A) to the Texas Education Agency, another state agency, or local law enforcement or as otherwise required by law; or
(B) to the school’s members or community in accordance with the school’s policies or procedures or with the religious law observed by the school; or
(2) conduct an investigation of the accusation.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS?
An improper relationship between an educator and a student is a second degree felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for an improper relationship between an educator and a student, a second degree felony, is between two and 20 years in prison, and up to a $10,000 fine.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS?
As an alternative to prison, a person charged with improper relationship between educator and student may be placed on probation after a conviction for up to ten years. To avoid a conviction, a person may plead guilty or nolo contendere (“no contest”) to a judge in exchange for placement on deferred adjudication for up to ten years.
- Does improper relationship between educator and student require registration as a sex offender? No. It is not a reportable conviction or adjudication, so a conviction or placement on deferred adjudication for improper relationship between educator and student does not require the person to register as a sex offender.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS?
The justification defenses are generally not available in prosecutions for sexual offenses. The statute authorizes specific defenses for an accused if the student was: (1) the spouse of the school employee; or (2) less than three years younger than the school employee.
- What if the teacher-student sexual relationship was consensual? The statute forbids consensual relationships between school employees and adult students. If the student was a minor or did not consent to the sexual encounter, the school employee may also be charged with sexual assault, or aggravated sexual assault of a child.
- What does it mean to work for the school, or be a school employee? The law only prohibits these types of relationships between students and those who work at the school in which the student is enrolled. Working at other schools in the same district is not enough.
In State v. Sutton, a school district police officer had a sexual relationship with a high school student, but he was not assigned to her high school. He was convicted, but the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed. The statute outlaws sexual conduct with a student enrolled at the school where the employee works. State v. Sutton, 499 S.W.3d 434 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016).
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for an improper relationship between an educator and a student is three years.
IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT IN TEXAS
Prohibiting improper relationships between educators and students is to protect and preserve the educational environment conducive to learning in schools. This law aims to protect students from having to refuse sexual advances by school employees, where the dangers of coercion are high, and the lines of consent are blurred.
Lawmakers recognized that seventeen-year-olds must navigate the decisions involved in sexual relationships everywhere outside of school, and should not have to factor that into their schooling, especially with their teachers and coaches.
TEXAS IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT COURT CASES
The case law regarding improper relationships between educators and students in Texas shows that private, consensual sexual relationships between adults are ordinarily not subject to government regulation, but the State has a greater interest to justify this government intrusion.
While consenting adults have the right to engage in private sexual relationships, it does not extend to those who “might be injured or coerced,” or “where consent might not be easily refused.”
- In Toledo v. State, a soccer coach was convicted of having an improper relationship with a 17-year-old student. The victim later revealed she kept doing “sexual things with him” because she felt that was the only way she would get to keep playing, and get help with college recruitment. The appellate court upheld his conviction, holding that this was the type of situation the statute was intended to protect against. Toledo v. State, 519 S.W.3d 273 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2017, pet. ref’d).
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WE FIGHT FOR DISMISSAL
WE FIGHT FOR DISMISSAL
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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