By: Mark Diaz
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Who is Required to Register with the Sexual Offender Registry in Texas?
Goals Of Texas Sex Offender Registry
Like many U.S. states, Texas treats sexual assault and related offenses very seriously. Recognizing the extreme consequences and devastating impact for victims, state laws carry implications beyond jail time and fines for convicted sexual offenders. Even after serving a criminal sentence, an individual is required to register with local authorities for certain crimes. The sexual offender registry aims at two goals:
- Imposing harsh requirements to discourage individuals from engaging in violent sex offenses.
- Protecting the public from an offender who might be prone to repeat the crime.
In short, the law requires a person convicted of designated sex crimes to register with the local authorities in which they reside. For many individuals, the requirement to register is a lifetime obligation, meaning, for the remainder of that person’s life, they must register as a sex offender. The consequences of this, as you might imagine, are harsh. Some statistics on the matter will illustrate this point further.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety (or “DPS”) Crime Report for 2020, there were nearly 17,000 reported incidents of sexual assault in 2020. Of those incidents reported for the year, the DPS Crime Report concluded that approximately 42 percent of the sexual assault offenders were aged 29 years or younger. The lifetime registration requirement for someone who falls in that age range could be decades.
Still, the registration for sexual offenders only applies to those convicted of crimes designated by law. An arrest is not a conviction, so it is critical to present all available defenses at every stage of the criminal process. Retaining La Marque sexual assault attorneys is an essential first step, but it is helpful to know who has to register with the sexual offender registry in Texas.
Understanding the Texas Sex Offender Registration Program
The details will vary based upon your case and where you live, but the basic requirements for sex offender registration include:
- Sex offenders must provide their full name, date of birth, sex, race, height, weight, eye color, hair color, social security number, driver’s license number, shoe size, home address or a detailed description of each geographical location at which the person resides or intends to reside, each alias, and any home, work or cell phone number of the person;
- Sex offenders are required to register with local law enforcement where they intend to live upon release from incarceration, discharge from parole, or termination of community supervision. This is the date sex offender registry requirements begin.
- The nature of the offense determines how long you will be required to register. Sex offenders either register for life or for ten years. The more severe the offense, the more likely the person falls under the lifetime registration requirement.
- A registered sex offender who on at least three occasions during any month spends more than 48 consecutive hours in a municipality or county, other than the municipality or county in which the offender is registered, must report that fact to the local law enforcement authority of the municipality or county in which the offender is visiting.
- All information maintained in the registry is public record, accessible by loved ones, people you know, and potential employers. The stigma can be just as adverse as criminal punishment.
It is possible to decrease the applicable time-period for sexual offender registration, or in very limited circumstances, ask the court for an exemption from registering. Generally, an adult offender may ask a court for an exemption only if: (1) the offenses resulted in a conviction or deferred adjudication community supervision for indecency with a child (Section 21.11, Penal Code) or sexual assault (Section 22.011, Penal Code); (2) the victim was at least 15 years of age and the offender was not more than four years older than the victim, at the time of the offense; and (3) the offense involved consensual conduct. Additionally, adult sex offenders may ask a court for an early termination of registration after the offender has received an individual risk assessment and by explaining how the reportable conviction or adjudication’s registration period exceeds the minimum required registration period under the federal law.
Sexual Assault and Related Crimes Trigger the Registration Requirement
To better understand the sex offender registration program, you should be aware of how people end up on the list. An explanation of the specific crimes is important because Texas law on sexual assault encompasses a wide array of conduct:
- Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Continuous Sexual Assault of a Child
- Aggravated Kidnapping
- Online Solicitation of a Minor
- Possession or Promotion of Child Pornography
- Burglary, if the offender intended to commit a sex offense after entering
- Sexual Performance of Child
- Many others
The above sexual offenses trigger the lifetime requirement. Crimes that qualify for the 10-year sexual offender registration are not as serious as the ones listed above, but of course, are still serious in comparison to other non-sex related offenses. Examples include online solicitation of a minor, indecency with a child, etc. Note that some of the crimes that include 10-year registration can turn into a lifetime requirement for a subsequent conviction.
Criminal Penalties for Sexual Assault Conviction: Though it is certainly crucial to appreciate how the sex offender registry works, you should also be aware of the specific criminal penalties attached to the criminal offenses.
Sexual Assault: This offense is what people generally known as rape. Under Texas law, a person can be convicted for intentionally, knowingly committing any one of the acts listed in the statute without the victim’s consent. In general, it is a violation of the law to use genitalia or an object to come into contact with or penetrate the victim’s sexual organs. For purposes of the statute, a child cannot legally provide consent. In Texas, a “child” is any person who has not reached the age of 18 years old.
Sexual assault is a Second-Degree Felony, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years in prison and anywhere up to 20 years in prison, and a possible fine not to exceed $10,000.
Aggravated Sexual Assault: A sex crime could be elevated to an aggravated version in the presence of certain factors. For example, you could face aggravated sexual assault for:
- Causing serious bodily injury to the victim.
- Attempting to induce fatal injuries.
- Using threats to place the victim in fear of death or serious bodily injury.
- Assaulting a victim who is elderly, disabled, or under the age of 14 years old
- Using or brandishing a deadly weapon.
- Employing a date rape drug, such as Rohypnol, with the intent to subdue the victim and make the assault easier to commit.
Aggravated sexual assault is a First-Degree Felony with a mandatory minimum of 5 years of imprisonment and up to 99 years in prison, plus a possible $10,000 fine. In addition, the statute includes special provisions that could enhance sentencing. The mandatory minimum sentence becomes 25 years if the victim was under 6 years old (sometimes referred to as “Super Aggravated Assault of a Child”, or if a deadly weapon was used upon a child under 14 years old. If this becomes the case, the person charged with this type of offense is also ineligible for probation.
Failure to Register: Not complying with the legal requirements of the sex offender registration program is a separate crime and regardless of the criminal conduct, is always a felony charge. Failing to register and failing to verify annually are example of charges for people who do not comply with the strict sex offender registration requirements. The charge and penalties depend upon the underlying registration requirement. The conviction which prompted the sex offender registration requirement will determine the punishment for failing to comply with the rules – meaning, whether it will be classified as a State Jail Felony, a Second-Degree Felony, or a Third-Degree Felony.
Other Collateral Consequences: Upon your release from incarceration, payment of any fines and court costs, and other resolution in a sexual assault case, there are lasting ramifications. These are the legal disabilities and implications that come with having a criminal record, particularly one that includes a conviction for a sexual offense. Aside from the sex offender registration requirement, keep in mind:
- Having a past conviction impacts your future if you are charged with another crime, including a sexual offense. Either the sentencing could be harsher or the charge could be elevated, such as from a misdemeanor to a felony.
- For many sex crimes, you will be severely restricted in terms of employment.
- Even if not directly impacted, you might not qualify for a professional license after a conviction, effectively limiting job and business opportunities.
- You may be unable to vote or own/possess firearms.
Questions to Ask Your La Marque Sexual Assault Lawyer
It can be difficult to know what to look for in an attorney if you have never needed legal help before. Of course, you will want a lawyer who focuses on criminal defense and has extensive experience defending those accused of violating Texas law. However, by asking some additional questions, you are more likely to find the right fit when retaining counsel.
- Roughly, how many sexual assault cases have you handled?
- What types of evidence could be introduced in court against me? What are the available defenses for the type of charge I am facing?
- Should I testify in court for my own defense, in light of Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination?
- Is there a possibility of reducing the charges or resolving them via plea bargain? Am I eligible for probation for the crime I am charged with?
- How can I keep punishment on the low end of the penalty range?
- Do I qualify for an individual risk assessment to reduce the amount of time I need to follow sex offender registration requirements?
Our La Marque Sexual Assault Attorneys Can Provide Additional Details
The sex offender registration program imposes harsh requirements on sex offenders and mandates strict compliance; if possible, it is critical to assess ways to avoid a conviction resulting in such great magnitude. Even if you cannot get sexual assault charges dismissed, there may be other tactics to obtain a favorable outcome.
You do not have to manage your criminal charges alone, nor should you. For more information on fighting sex crimes charges, please contact Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Diaz call (409) 515-6170. We can set up a free initial consultation with a Galveston County sexual assault lawyer who will review your circumstances.
Mark Diaz & Associates is a Criminal Defense Law Firm in Galveston, Texas representing clients throughout Galveston, Chambers and Harris Counties including but not limited to Tiki Island, Jamaica Beach, Texas City, League City, Alvin, Algoa, Santa Fe, Hitchcock, La Marque, Bayou Vista, Bacliff, San Leon, Dickinson, Kemah, Bolivar Peninsula, Clear Lake Shores, and Friendswood.