Sex crimes are generally considered to be among the most egregious offenses in the criminal justice system. In many cases, individuals convicted of a sex crime in Texas are required to register as a sex offender. It’s normal to have questions about the sex offender registry. If you’re facing sex crime charges in Texas, it’s also normal to wonder if you have a chance of proving your innocence. Familiarizing yourself with the rules regarding the sex offender registry is an important step as you decide what to do in your case. Here are some of the most common questions about the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry, which was created in 1991.
Who Is Required to Register as a Sex Offender in Texas?
There are several circumstances under which an individual may have to register as a sex offender under Texas law. The law requires an individual to register if he or she has a “reportable conviction or adjudication.” A person may also be required to register with the system if registration is a condition of his or her parole or community supervision. Some people may also have to register if they are an “extrajudicial registrant.”
Failing to comply with the rules for the sex offender registry is a felony, which is why it’s critically important for people to comply with the law. When in doubt, don’t assume you know the rules. Instead, always check with local police or law enforcement to make sure you are in compliance.
What If I Was Convicted of a Sex Crime in Another State?
Individuals who are required to register as a sex offender in another state may also have to register as a sex offender in Texas if they live in Texas, work in Texas, or attend school in Texas. If the conviction or adjudication from the other state stems from a sex crime whose elements are substantially similar to a sex crime under Texas law, the person will most likely be required to register in the Texas Public Sex Offender Registry. The same is true for sex crimes under federal law and military law.
Where Does a Sex Offender Register?
In Texas, a sex offender must register with the local law enforcement agency — typically the police department — in the community in which he or she lives. For people who don’t live in a municipality, or for people who live in a community that doesn’t have a municipal police department, the individual must typically register with the local sheriff’s department.
If a sex offender moves residences, he or she must report their change of address to the appropriate law enforcement authority. There are also special rules for sex offenders who regularly stay in other cities and areas. For example, a sex offender who must travel to another part of the state for work or personal reasons may have to report his or her visits to the local law enforcement agency in that area. The law provides that a sex offender who spends more than 48 hours in a town or county at least three times within a month must notify that town’s or county’s law enforcement authority.
Does a Sex Offender Have to Register for Life?
Sex offender registration isn’t always for a lifetime, however, in many cases, a sex offender must register for life. In some circumstances, and for some sex crimes, the sex offender must register for 10 years.
Because the list of sex crimes requiring lifetime sex offender registration is long, it’s important for individuals accused of sex crimes to work with an experienced sexual criminal defense lawyer. Even the accusation of a sex crime can damage a person’s reputation. Once convicted, overturning a conviction on appeal can be extremely challenging.
Are There Restrictions on Where a Registered Sex Offender Can Live?
Unlike some states, registered sex offenders in Texas who are not on probation or parole aren’t subject to any residency restrictions. However, other residents can search a public database to find out where sex offenders live in their community. In some cases, the state may decide a sex offender is a high-risk case and that residents have a right to know when a particular sex offender has moved into their community. In these cases, the Department of Public Safety may notify residents through the mail that the sex offender has moved to the area.
Additionally, Texas has created “child safety zones,” which stop sex offenders from participating in certain kinds of community programs designed for children age 17 and younger. Sex offenders may also be prohibited from participating in community programs that take place near a playground, school, or park if the area is designated as a child safety zone. While this doesn’t restrict a sex offender’s residence, it does place restrictions on a sex offender’s participation in “any program that regularly provides athletic, civic, or cultural activities” involving children age 17 or below.