Group Seeking Reform Of Texas Sex Offender Registration Requirements
Sex offender registration requirements have come under fire across the country as groups in opposition to sex offender registries question their effectiveness in protecting the public and children from the most dangerous offenders.
In Texas one group is working hard to raise attention to the problem of having an over-inclusive registry that lumps together those with the highest risk of re offending with those who pose little to no risk. Some state lawmakers who helped strengthen and expand the scope of Texas' sex offender registration requirements also are questioning the wisdom of the state's current registry laws.
Texas Registration Requirements
Texas law requires those who have been convicted of certain sex offenses and other crimes to register as a sex offender upon release from state supervision. Some of these offenses include:
- Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault
- Indecency with a child
- Possession or promotion of child pornography
- On-line solicitation of a child
- Indecent exposure
- Kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping and unlawful restraint
The majority of offenders who have committed one of these crimes are required to register for life. Other offenders are required to register for a maximum of 10 years from the date of their release or discharge. Juvenile offenders also may be required to register, but this decision is left to the judge's discretion.
The Texas registration laws require offenders to provide extensive information about themselves, including:
- Biographical information, like name, address, date of birth, weight, eye color, hair color, shoe size
- Identifying information, like Social Security number, driver's license number, full set of fingerprints and a recent color photograph
- Information about their crime, including date of conviction, age of the victim, sentence and conditions of release
- Licenses held, including professional, business and other occupational licenses
- Work and school information, including the name and address of employers and location of any educational institution they may be attending
Most of the information that convicted sex offenders are required to provide is made available to the public in the Sex Offender Database. This database is accessible on-line from the Texas Department of Public Safety's Web site. Only certain information, like the offender's social security and driver's license numbers and any information that could identify the victim, are kept confidential.
Additionally, local law enforcement may contact schools, print notices in the local newspaper or send out postcard notifications to alert members of the community of the presence of certain high-risk offenders in their neighborhoods.
Opposition to Sex Offender Registries
Some groups in opposition to sex offender registries believe the registration laws need to be repealed altogether and replaced with tougher punishments for the most violent of sex crimes. Others believe the registries themselves are a good idea, but want to see greater limits placed on whom is required to register.
The organization Texas Voice is in the latter group. The group is headed by Martin Ezell, who was convicted of statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old when he was 32. Ezell is now married to the woman he was convicted of raping and has three children with her. Regardless, he still is required to register as a sex offender.
Through his group, Ezell wants to see other low-level, non-violent offenders like himself removed from the Texas sex offender database. He believes including these types of low risk offenders with high risk, violent offenders decreases the effectiveness of the registry. For example, by requiring the state to expend resources on prosecuting, incarcerating and monitoring low-level offenders, it is diverting these limited resources from efforts to prosecute, incarcerate and monitor those most likely to commit another sex crime.
Some state lawmakers have begun supporting this position, including Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) and Ray Allen, the former Texas House Corrections Chair. Both of these men have expressed concerns about the over-inclusiveness of the registry and its ability to adequately protect children and the public at large from the most dangerous sexual predators.
Others in the state, however, are not sympathetic to those sharing a similar plight with Ezell. In general, it is difficult to drum up public support for any measures that propose to scale back the state's sex offender registration requirements - even though the public perception of a convicted sex offender generally does not include those like Ezell.
Those who have been charged with a sex offense or another crime requiring registration as a sex offender should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The penalties for these crimes do not stop once you have completed your jail sentence. Sex offender registration may last for the rest of your lifetime. For more information, contact a knowledgeable defense attorney today.