Two recent stories about Texas residents affected by the state’s sex offender registration laws signal that they are too restrictive.
At what point do sex offender laws exceed their intended goal of protecting potential victims and begin to infringe on the basic rights of the people on the sex offender registry list?
Let’s look at these two stories, then the law, to consider an answer to this question.
(Possible) Home Evictions and 14-Year-Old Sex Offenders
In the Houston suburb of Meadows Place, one woman called KJ may soon make history as the first homeowner to be evicted for a previous sexual crime offense. Even though she purchased a home in Meadows Place in 2007, its new sex offender exclusion zones may bump her from her residence, which is within the restricted area surrounding a city pool.
In 2011, a woman contacted Meadows Place police. She stated that KJ and her husband had propositioned her for sex when she was hired as their 15-year-old babysitter in 2003. KJ’s husband received 10 years of probation, and KJ received four years of probation and had to register as a sex offender.
When KJ reported to the police station in 2011 to fulfill her legal requirements, they informed her she could not register as a Meadows Place resident due to her home’s proximity to the city pool. She told them that she already lived there – that she had for years – but it didn’t matter.
A legal battle is currently in progress, and the courts will decide whether she can continue to reside in her own home.
In another case, a 14-year-old boy in the Houston area is facing charges of aggravated sexual assault – for having consensual sex with his then 12-year-old girlfriend. Possibly even worse, he may be required to register as a sex offender if convicted.
The age of consent in Texas is 17 as long as the two parties’ ages are within three years of one another. However, there is a separate part of the statute which says that consent does not apply if one of the parties is younger than 14. The boy’s attorney argues that the law would consider the boy a victim for having sex with an 18-year-old, yet it seems to be less sympathetic to two immature parties.
Requirements of Being on the Texas Sex Offender Registry
The Texas sex offender registry statutes make the following requirements:
- Registration is required in any county where an individual intends to reside for more than seven days.
- The information collected includes the offense, age of the victim, a DNA sample, and an up-to-date color photograph.
- Any changes of address or probation terms must be reported within strict guidelines or felony charges may apply.
These sex offender registration laws assign a risk to the community based on an assortment of factors. The sex offender registrant is assigned to one of these categories:
- Low risk for criminal sexual conduct
- Moderate risk for criminal sexual conduct
- High risk for criminal sexual conduct
Information will be stored in a central database and maintained by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, and some information will be made public.
A few exemptions may apply for young adult sex offenders, which is the hope for the 14-year-old above. They can petition the court if their offense was a one-time occurrence, if they are not deemed high risk for further criminal sexual conduct, or if the behavior was consensual. The court may allow an exemption if it is deemed in the best interest of all involved parties.
Still, the question remains: are the laws too restrictive? How could they impact you?