The Texas legislature this week passed a bill criminalizing groping, sending the bill to Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) desk.
The Texas Senate on Friday agreed to changes unanimously approved by the state House earlier in the week, the Dallas News reported. The bill was previously passed by the state Senate in March.
The bipartisan bill creates the Class A misdemeanor of “indecent assault” for suspects accused of touching someone’s breasts or genitals without their consent and “with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.”
It also targets individuals who engage in "certain types of touching or other conduct involving exposure or cause another to contact the blood, other body fluids, or feces of any person."
Those convicted would face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
Groping is currently classified as a Class C misdemeanor in Texas and carries similar penalties to a traffic ticket.
"I think it would be shocking to people, this level of groping conduct that is right now a non-arrestable class C offense," state Rep. Joe Moody (D) said, according to local NBC affiliate KXAN News.
"With the way this bill is now, it is a class A misdemeanor, same as an assault, and so we are going to arrest people for this type of conduct."
Moody said the change is "the right way to penalize for this type of conduct."
"When we're talking about criminal justice reform it doesn't just mean limiting the encounters with law enforcement, it means right-sizing penalties and right now this was a serious gap in the law," Moody continued.
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