The Texas Sex Offender Registration Program, defined in Chapter 62 of the Criminal Procedure Code, provides for sex offender registration and public notification to protect against sexual offenders once released from prison or other penalties.
The law requires all adult and juvenile offenders to register with the local law enforcement authority wherever the offender may reside. Generally, it means registration with the city, but if the offender lives outside the city limits, they must register with the county authorities.
Some offenders convicted of less serious offenses must register for a finite period, and others must register for life. It may be possible for an offender to deregister from the registration process based on a particular time period assigned by the court and based on the perception of assessed levels of personal risk.
Who Must Register?
Anybody with a reportable offense, conviction, deferred adjudication, or adjudication on or after September 1, 1970, must register with the program. The offender must have a risk level assigned before they can register. The levels are as follows:
- Low risk – poses a low danger to the community and is unlikely to engage in criminal sexual conduct
- Moderate risk – poses a moderate danger to the community and might continue to engage in criminal sexual conduct
- High risk – poses a serious danger to the community and will continue to engage in criminal sexual conduct
- Civil commitment – a level for a repeat, sexually-violent predator who suffers from a behavioral abnormality, making them likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence
Offenses for which an individual can be required to register include:
- Unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping with an affirmative finding by the judge that the victim or intended victim is younger than 17
- Aggravated kidnapping with the intent to sexually violate or abuse the victim
- Trafficking of persons committed on or after September 1, 2011
- Continuous trafficking of persons is based on conduct constituting an offense under the laws governing trafficking after September 1, 2011
- Continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children
- The second violation of indecent exposure if the violation doesn’t result in deferred adjudication
- Bestiality, indecency with a child, sexual assault, and prohibited sexual conduct
- Compelling prostitution, sexual performance by a child, or possession or promotion of child pornography
- Conviction of sexual offenses under the laws of another state, foreign country, federal law, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice for a similar offense
This is not an exhaustive list. For more examples of offenses, read PD/POP-3.6.4 from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Parole Division.
What Does Registration Involve?
To register as a sexual offender, the individual must provide the local law enforcement authority with their name, address, the offenses for which they were convicted or adjudicated, and a color photo for identification purposes.
Sexually violent offenders and others convicted of the offenses listed in the Parole Division document linked above are bound by lifetime registration. The offenders must also periodically report to the local law enforcement authorities to verify the accuracy of their information. How frequently they are required to verify depends on the following criteria:
- Report annually if the individual has a single reportable offense or deferred adjudication
- Report not less than once a year for those under civil commitment as sexually violent predators unless residing in a civil commitment center
- Report every 30 calendar days from the first registration date or date removed from a civil commitment center if residing in the community
- Register annually for ten years post-discharge if the offender only has a juvenile adjudication, regardless of the number of juvenile adjudications
If there are specific changes in their information, the offender must report them promptly upon occurrence—failure to comply with registration subjects the offender to felony prosecution.
The Texas Department of Public Safety maintains a statewide sex offender registration database containing all the information provided to local law enforcement by the offender during required registration.
The state law explicitly makes most of this information freely available to the public.
Local law enforcement maintains a registry of all sex offenders registered within their authority, also available to the public. State law also allows local law enforcement to publish some offenders in a newspaper, circular, or other periodicals that serve the community where the offender lives.
If a high-risk offender or civilly committed sexually violent predator moves into a neighborhood, the Public Safety department will notify every member of the community by mailing residents and businesses a postcard with the information about the predator, including those convicted of specific crimes such as continuous sexual abuse of a young child or children.
Limitations and Restrictions on Sexual Offenders
Depending on the requirement to register as provided by the court or by the orders of community supervision (probation), there are several types of restrictions that can be placed on someone who must register as a sex offender.
The conditions last until the individual can deregister or for the duration of the sentence, possibly longer.
Texas law forbids any sex offender from living in or visiting a residence within 500 feet of a child safety zone if they are on probation, parole, or under mandatory supervision. The safety zone includes schools, daycare facilities, youth centers, sports fields, parks, playgrounds, and more.
Once supervision is complete, this restriction may no longer apply. Some municipal ordinances may have stricter rules.
Community Involvement Restrictions
Individuals under court supervision are not allowed involvement with any child or children at or below the age of 17, including civic, cultural, or athletic programs. The safety zone may apply to family events, including child relative soccer games or dance recitals.
The offender may not be able to join a bowling league if children are typically within the same facility or bowling alley. They may not be able to play pickup games in the local park.
Conviction of a sexual offense can bar the offender from a variety of professions or licenses. Offenders are unlikely to be hired or licensed for positions with schools, daycare facilities, medical facilities, law firms, or sports facilities.
An offender might find it difficult to be hired in a business serving the public where the owner is uncomfortable with employing such a person. These businesses include stores and restaurants.
Even if Texas law doesn’t prohibit an offender from working in a specific profession, the professional licensing body may prohibit the licensure of an offender. The Texas bar exam and law licensing authority may not allow an offender to sit for the bar or obtain a license to practice law in Texas.
Even the need to travel through a restricted zone can limit the professional opportunities of sex offenders. Another restricted employment opportunity is bus driving, providing or offering passenger taxicab or limousine transport service, or providing or offering any service in another person’s residence unless the provision of such services is supervised. Also, sex offenders may not operate amusement rides.
Offenders may be subject to internet usage restrictions or restrictions on minor contact. An offender may lose their voting rights or the right to own a firearm. Individuals might be required to apply in person for a driver’s license and may be required to renew it in person annually until the duty to register expires.
In some instances, the restrictions create criminal liability for the offender. If they break the rules, they could have their probation revoked and be sent back to prison to finish the sentence. Or they may be charged with a completely new crime.
Sex offenders find their lives restricted in many ways by Texas law. The law is for the safety of the public. If you or a loved one has been convicted of a sexual offense, be sure you understand your rights and any restrictions placed on your living or professional situation.
Contact the Law Office of Brett Podolsky for aggressive criminal defense and expert guidance for sexual offenders in the Houston area.