“Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Friday to increase the penalties for groping in Texas, patching what some lawmakers say is a gap in the state’s current laws on sexual assault.
Groping was the lowest-level criminal offense in the state penal code, punishable by a $500 fine at most. Experts on sexual assault laws say Texas — which puts groping an adult under the category of “assault by offensive contact” — was one of six states with such a light penalty.
Two Texas lawmakers, one a Republican and one a Democrat, authored the legislation to raise the maximum penalty for groping to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
“Our laws are meant to protect and provide justice for all Texas,” said state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, who sponsored the bill in the House. “When there are gaps in the law, it’s those real people who fall through them. That’s why I’m so proud to close one of those gaps and finally punish groping appropriately in this state.”
Senate Bill 194 by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, elevates groping from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor by creating the crime of “indecent assault,” which applies to any touching of the breast, buttocks or genitals done with the intent to arouse or gratify the offender.”
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