Texas Sex Offender Registry List Is Huge But Not Every Listed Sex Offender Is an Adult Who Committed a Sex Crime
Last week, the Austin American Statesman published some pretty important facts about the State of Texas’ Sex Offender Registry. The Austin newspaper’s investigation needs to have lots of state-wide scrutiny because what is being revealed by the Statesman is critical information for every Texan.
The Statesman’s full investigative piece was published online on July 14, 2016: “Program to corral ballooning sex offender registry failing.”
Please read it if you get the chance.
What’s so important here? Thing like the following revelations in a piece written by Statesman reporter Eric Dexheimer:
1. TWELVE NAMES ARE ADDED TO THE TEXAS SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY EVERY SINGLE DAY. That’s a heck of a lot of sex crimes, isn’t it?
2. ONLY 58 INDIVIDUALS HAVE SUCCESSFULLY BEEN ABLE TO GET THEIR NAMES REMOVED FROM THE TEXAS’ SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY. Not all people need to be, or deserve to be, on the Sex Offender’s Registry and there’s a procedure to help them get free from that list. Wonder why it’s not working?
Not Everyone On the Texas Sex Offenders Registry Is an Adult Who Had Sex With a Child
Let’s face it — if your name is published on the Texas Sex Offenders’ Registry, then you’re a social pariah. You’re shunned, you’re considered a pervert, you’re vilified. It’s a horrific existence to live your life with the label of “Sex Offender” on your forehead.
You know about the stigma. Most assume that the people named on the list did some very bad things, and even worse, they cannot be trusted to keep themselves from repeating those actions in the future — so they are publicly monitored by both law enforcement and the public.
It’s considered important to the safety of the general public that these particular individuals are recognized in both past offense and current location so that potential victims are kept safe from harm (theoretically). That’s why the Sex Offender Registry was created and why it exists today.
Thing is, it’s not a cookie-cutter system. Not everyone on these Sex Offender Registries have the same inclinations — nor have they committed the same crimes. Juveniles listed on the Sex Offender Registries are a particular concern.
Juveniles: Should Kids Be Stuck on the Registry for Life?
It’s understood that teenagers may commit actions that are considered criminal acts under the state’s criminal laws, but it’s also well known that a lot of these kids don’t comprehend that what they are doing is wrong and illegal. These are KIDS.
Even more vital than their youth and ignorance is the fact that it’s been shown that juveniles that do violate the law and commit a sex crime are rarely repeat offenders. And repeat offenders are the reason for the Sex Offenders’ List.
Consider the story of 12-year-old Josh Gravens, reported by the Austin American Statesman in an article published on June 23, 2015, entitled, “Labyrinth of sex offender registry rules have high cost.”
Still, Texas is one of the states that not only targets juveniles for public shame upon conviction of a sex crime, these kids are required to be named on the Sex Offenders’ List. And there goes the rest of their life until and unless they can get their name removed from it.
See, “States Slowly Scale Back Juvenile Sex Offender Registries: Research Shows A Child Convicted Of A Sex Crime, Or An “Adjudicated Delinquent” In Juvenile Court, Is Not Likely To Commit Another Sex Offense,” published in the Huffington Post on November 19, 2015.
Parental Kidnapping: Mother Who Took Her Son to Mexico After Losing Custody Fight
Maybe you remember the case of young mother Suzanne Kearns. She fought to have her name removed from the Texas Sex Offender Registry all the way to the highest criminal court in Texas, our Court of Criminal Appeals.
She lost. Read their opinion here: Dewalt v. State, 426 S.W.3d 100 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014).
Thing is, Suzanne Kearns didn’t do anything near committing any kind of sexual act or behavior. She was in a bitter custody fight with her ex-husband over their little 5 year old boy. When she lost the custody case, she grabbed her child and ran for Mexico.
This was back in 2002. She hid with the boy down south of the border for a few years, and then was arrested for aggravated kidnapping. She was returned to Texas, convicted of aggravated kidnapping, and sentenced to serve 5 years in prison.
And the court also ordered that Suzanne Kearns’ name be placed on the Texas Sex Offenders’ List even though sex was never a component in her case, and she is not any danger to any Texas community for sexual deviancy.
The Court of Criminal Appeals decision? They didn’t rule on the substance of Kearns’ arguments — that she didn’t belong on the Registry — but instead, they kicked her appeal out the door because of a procedural snafu.
Federal and State Laws Control Registration on Sex Offender Registry
Today, both federal and state laws mandate that certain people are included on sex offender registries. Federal law includes:
This federal statute was passed back in 1994, and it requires every state to create a Sex Offenders’ Registry and to track convicted sex offenders for ten years, checking their place of residence each year. If the conviction was for a violent sex crime, then their residence must be confirmed every three months for the rest of their lives.
2. Megan’s Law
This federal law was passed two years after the Jacob Wetterling Act. In sum, it requires all states to make their Sex Offender Registries open to the public.
Here in Texas, the registry is controlled by Texas Code Criminal Procedure Chapter 62, entitled “Sex Offender Registration Program.”
This statute includes Article 62.001(5)(E) which requires someone to be listed on the Texas Sex Offender Registry Act if they are found guilty of Aggravated Kidnapping under the Texas Penal Code, as well as various other NON-SEXUALLY RELATED ACTS.
Under this provision, if someone is convicted or otherwise adjudicated (even deferred adjudication) of the following crimes, even if some of these are not sexually-based offenses, then their name goes on the Sex Offenders Registry List (this is how Suzanne Kearns’ name ended up there):
(C) a violation of Section 20.04(a)(4) (Aggravated kidnapping), Penal Code, if the actor committed the offense or engaged in the conduct with intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually;
(D) a violation of Section 30.02 (Burglary), Penal Code, if the offense or conduct is punishable under Subsection (d) of that section and the actor committed the offense or engaged in the conduct with intent to commit a felony listed in Paragraph (A) or (C);
(E) a violation of Section 20.02 (Unlawful restraint), 20.03 (Kidnapping), or 20.04 (Aggravated kidnapping), Penal Code, if, as applicable:
(i) the judgment in the case contains an affirmative finding under Article 42.015; or
(ii) the order in the hearing or the papers in the case contain an affirmative finding that the victim or intended victim was younger than 17 years of age;
(F) the second violation of Section 21.08 (Indecent exposure), Penal Code, but not if the second violation results in a deferred adjudication;
(G) an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation, as defined by Chapter 15, Penal Code, to commit an offense or engage in conduct listed in Paragraph (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), or (K);
(H) a violation of the laws of another state, federal law, the laws of a foreign country, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice for or based on the violation of an offense containing elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense listed under Paragraph (A), (B), (B-1), (C), (D), (E), (G), (J), or (K), but not if the violation results in a deferred adjudication;
(K) a violation of Section 20A.02(a)(3), (4), (7), or (8) (Trafficking of persons), Penal Code.
Too Many Names on the Texas Sex Offenders’ Registry
So, today we’ve got a dozen names being placed on the Sex Offender Registry each day in this state. According to the Statesman’s expose, this costs lots and lots of money for law enforcement to monitor and track. And because of the wide-sweep of the current laws, lots of people that most would assume would NOT be considered a sex offender are stigmatized because they are forced to be included on these lists with those who admittedly ARE.
You Can Get Your Name Off the Texas Sex Offenders’ Registry
It is possible to have your name removed from the Sex Offenders Registry. There are laws in place to accomplish this goal. However, as the Statesman’s reporting confirms, it’s easier said than done these days — which means that some folk may be better off getting an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help them fight for this rather than trying to do it themselves, even if that is an option that seems easier (and cheaper).
Comments are welcomed here and I will respond to you -- but please, no requests for personal legal advice here and nothing that's promoting your business or product. Comments are moderated and these will not be published.