Sexual Coercion: Texas Penal Code §21.18

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Sexual Coercion law makes it illegal to obtain money, sexual services or “intimate visual material” (as in naked pictures) by threat or the promise to not commit a crime against someone.

The legislature created the Sexual Coercion crime in 2017. The enactment of this law followed a series of high-profile incidents involving romantic scams where victims were conned into sending naked pictures after being misled or threatened by anonymous strangers on the internet.

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The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 21.18. The law was not updated in 2023. In fact, this law has not been amended since it was enacted in 2017.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Sexual Coercion law under Title 5 “Offenses Against the Person,” Chapter 21 “Sexual Offenses.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Sexual Coercion below.

What is the current Texas law about Sexual Coercion?

The current Texas law defines the offense of Sexual Coercion in Penal Code Section §21.18 as follows:[1]

(b) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally threatens, including by coercion or extortion, to commit an offense under Chapter 43 or Section 20A.02(a)(3), (4), (7), or (8), 21.02, 21.08, 21.11, 21.12, 21.15, 21.16, 21.17, 22.011, or 22.021 to obtain, in return for not committing the threatened offense or in connection with the threatened offense, any of the following benefits:

(1) intimate visual material;

(2) an act involving sexual conduct causing arousal or gratification; or

(3) a monetary benefit or other benefit of value.

(c) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally threatens, including by coercion or extortion, to commit an offense under Chapter 19 or 20 or Section 20A.02(a)(1), (2), (5), or (6) to obtain, in return for not committing the threatened offense or in connection with the threatened offense, either of the following benefits:

(1) intimate visual material; or

(2) an act involving sexual conduct causing arousal or gratification.

“Intimate visual material” is defined in the statute as “the visual material described by Section 21.16(b)(1) or (c).”[2] Section 21.16 of the Penal Code is the Voyeurism offense. And “Sexual conduct” is defined as “having the meaning assigned by Section 43.25[3] which is a broad definition found in the Sexual Performance by a Child offense statute.

This law was created by the 85th Texas Legislature in 2017.[4] and was codified at Section 21.18 in the Texas Penal Code. The law was created among a suite of new laws aimed at helping to eliminate sex trafficking. The Sexual Coercion law took effect September 1, 2017.[5]

How can I be charged with a Sexual Coercion offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Sexual Coercion in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of either 21.18(b) or 21.18(c), as described in the section above, have been met.

What is the statute of limitation for Sexual Coercion in Texas?

Sexual Coercion offenses have a three-year limitations period.[6]

What is the penalty for a Texas Sexual Coercion offense?

The law is penalized as a state jail felony, but it can be enhanced to a third degree felony if the state’s attorney proves that you are a repeat offender of this law.[7]

Can you get probation for Sexual Coercion in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Sexual Coercion, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[8]

Note, however, that judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[9]

Do I have to register as a sex offender in Texas if guilty of Sexual Coercion?

The Sexual Coercion offense does not appear on the list of offenses requiring registration under Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.[10]

However, the legislature can add this offense to the list at any time. If that happens, people convicted of Sexual Coercion would have to register, even if the offense did not appear on the list at the time they accepted a deferred adjudication plea (even if later dismissed), pled guilty or were founty guilty.

What level of crime is Sexual Coercion in Texas?

The Penal Code classifies the punishment for Sexual Coercion as a state jail felony, but the state can seek an enhancement to a third degree felony by proving a prior Sexual Coercion conviction.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.


^1. Texas Penal Code §21.18. This law is current as of the 88th Legislature Regular Session.^2. Penal Code §21.18(a)(1), enacted by HB 2552, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 16, effective September 1, 2017^3. Penal Code §21.18(a)(2), as created by House Bill 2252, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 16, effective September 1, 2017^4. House Bill 2552, 85th Texas Legislature^5. House Bill 2552, 85th Texas Legislature, Sections 25-28^6. See Code of Criminal Procedure 12.01(9)^7. Penal Code §21.18(e), enacted by House Bill 2552, 85th Texas Legislature, Section 16, effective September 1, 2017^8. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^9. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^10. Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.001

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