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Texas could create 'new' crime for people who grope, touch without permission

A bill in the Senate makes groping and assault by contact a jailable offense.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas could have new punishment for a “new” crime.

It’s called indecent assault, and it includes acts like groping and sexual assault by contact, without penetration.

Right now under Texas law, that kind of offense is a Class C misdemeanor. That means it carries the same penalty as a traffic ticket: no jail time, and up to a $500 fine.

Texas is one of only six states in the country without harsher punishment.

But Senator Charles Perry from Lubbock wants to change that with Senate Bill 194. SB 194 would make “indecent assault” a Class A misdemeanor, and that carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine.

"I think it'll send a pretty strong message,” said Sen. Perry. “Victims may think somebody that's in my human race did that to me and got by with it, but maybe they won't get by with it now.’"

One of those victims is Joshua McBride, who testified this week before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee.

KVUE first shared McBride’s story last year, when he described an incident in which he says an Austin dentist sexually assaulted him while he was getting fitted for dentures.

"That's when he just put his hand underneath my pants and my underwear and grabbed my penis,” described McBride.

McBride tried to file a report with the Austin Police Department, only to learn the alleged attack is a Class C misdemeanor, and there was nothing detectives could do to file criminal charges.

"It turns out what the dentist did to me wasn't a felony,” said McBride.

If SB 194 passes, that will change. That is welcoming news for McBride, who has fought to change Texas laws on indecent assault since his incident.

"They said, ‘I promise you that the world will hear us soon,’ so that felt good, it felt good,” said McBride.

The bill will likely make it to the Senate floor for a vote next week, said Sen. Perry’s staffer. Sen. Perry is hopeful it will pass both the House and Senate.

For McBride, that means justice is one step closer for victims moving forward.

"They say never count your chickens. Yeah, I've counted them,” McBride said.