A sex crime is any crime involving any form of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, unlawful sexual behavior, or illegal pornography. Texas is known to be particularly aggressive when it comes to prosecuting sex crimes, especially sex crimes against minors. An example is that Texas requires a person to register as a sex offender if he or she is convicted of the online solicitation of a minor.
A person accused of a sex crime in Texas faces the possibility of a long prison sentence and lifetime registration as a sex offender on the online registry.
How Does Sex Offender Registration Work in Texas?
The Texas Sex Offender Registration Program is designed to register and keep track of sex offenders, as well as provide the public notice as to who is a sex offender. Both adults and juveniles with a "reportable conviction or adjudication" must register as a sex offender. The following are considered examples of a "reportable conviction or adjudication":
- Sexual assault
- Possession of child pornography
- Aggravated kidnapping, if the offender committed the kidnapping with the intent to sexually violate the victim
- Any sexual offense involving a victim younger than 17 years old
- A second conviction for indecent exposure
If required to register, the offender must register with local law enforcement agencies and provide the following information:
- Biographical information (name, date of birth, sex, race, home address etc.)
- A recent color photograph, complete set of fingerprints
- Type of offense convicted of, age of victim, and punishment
- Employment information
- Information on all online aliases used
Most adult sex offenders are required to for life or ten years following discharge from state supervision (incarceration, parole, or community supervision. Juvenile offenders are only required to register until the 10th anniversary of the date they were convicted or the date the juvenile completed his or her sentence, whichever is later.
Failure to register is a felony and is punishable by more than one year in prison. If convicted of the following offenses the offender must register as a sex offender for life and cannot be taken off the registry:
- A "sexually violent offense" committed by someone older than 17 years old.
- Trafficking of persons.
- Prohibited sexual conduct.
- Compelling a minor to become a prostitute.
- Possession or promotion of child pornography.
- Indecent exposure to a child.
- Unlawful restraint, aggravated kidnapping, or kidnapping and the victim was younger than 17 years old.
- Obscenity, and the obscene material visually depicts a child engaging in sexually explicit activities.
Can I Get My Criminal Records Sealed?
Depending on whether or not the offender meets the necessary criteria, the offender may be able to seal his or her criminal record, also known as expungement. Eligibility for expungement varies from state to state, but if the offender only committed a minor sex crime that did not involve violence, many years ago, the offender might be able to get that record expunged. That prevents everyone, other than law enforcement, from seeing the offender's past criminal history.
Additionally, Texas allows certain sex offenders to obtain an exemption from registering on the public registry of sex offenders. Generally any juvenile sex offender may seek a court order exempting them from registration. Adult offenders are actually pretty limited and may only ask the court for an exemption if:
- The offense resulted in a conviction for indecency with a child or sexual assault.
- The victim was at least 15 years old and the offender was not more than 4 years older than the victim at the time.
- The offense involved consensual conduct.
- Another way adult offenders can try to remove themselves from the registry is to get an individual risk assessment and use that to ask the court for an early termination.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you have been charged with a crime it is important to contact a Texas criminal defense lawyer immediately. An experienced defense attorney will represent your best interest in court.
If you have already been convicted and have served your time for a minor sex crime, you should try to obtain a risk assessment and petition the court for early removal from the registry. Additionally, you should go to an expungement lawyer to start the process of sealing your criminal record.