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Texas Sex Offenses and Why They are Different?

Sex offenses in Texas have serious repercussions thanks to the Jessica Lunsford Act passed in 2007. Alleged offenders often face negative social stigmas before conviction and all through their lives. Apart from receiving harsh treatment at the court, convicted offenders stand the risk of paying huge fines and serving long jail sentences. In line with Section 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, offenders are required to register as sex offenders once their jail sentence is complete. This results in several social restrictions and lifelong collateral consequences of sex conviction.

What is Texas Sex Crime?

According to the Texas Penal Code, all forms of sexual assaults, sex without consent, and sex involving minors are classified as sex crimes. These can include prostitution, rape, child pornography, indecent exposure, student-teacher sexual relationships, etc.

Penalties for sexual crimes in Texas are severe, but these often depend on the evidence presented by the prosecuting attorney. For instance, TPC Section 22.011f describes sexual assault as a second-degree felony. Hence, an offender can receive a jail sentence between two to twenty years and a $10,000 fine. Aggravated sexual violence can result in five to 99 years of jail time.

Possession of child pornography, adult sexting with a minor, and teacher-student sex are also classified as a second-degree felony. Crimes such as bestiality, invasive visual recording, unlawful disclosure of visual intimacy, and voyeurism are classified as state jail felonies. As such, offenders can serve between 180 days and two years of jail time.

Other sexual crimes like homosexuality, public indecency, and indecent exposure are misdemeanors with jail sentences not exceeding one year.

What are the Different Types of Sex Offenses?

As contained in the Texas Penal Code, the types of sex offenses recognized in the state are as follows:

Aggravated sexual assault: This involves sexual assault that leads to severe body injuries or death. All forms of sex without consent and sex involving minors that resulted in violence and death are classified as aggravated sexual crimes. According to PC §22.021, this crime is classified as a first-degree felony; subject to severe penalties if the age gap is over six years.

Sex with a minor: This crime occurs when an adult engages in sexual intercourse with another who is less than 17 years old. Offenders are charged with a second-degree felony but this may be reduced if the age gap between the defendant and victim is less than three years.

Teacher/student intercourse: PC §21.12 protects students from sexual advances and romantic relationships with their teachers. This sexual crime occurs when an educator engages in a sexual relationship with a student. It is classified as a second-degree felony. However, the charges may be reduced if the teacher-student age gap is not over three years.

Invasive video recording: This occurs when someone invades or intends to invade the privacy of another individual through public release of intimate videos or images.

Public indecency or Bestiality: Bestiality and all other obscene sexual activities (public sex) are forms of sexual assault. Bestiality occurs when an individual has sexual intercourse with an animal. Bestiality is a state jail felony. However, it becomes a second-degree felony when the act occur in front of a child or leads to the death of the animal

Voyeurism: This is a form of sexual crime without consent. In this case, an individual peeps or observes another for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification without the victim's consent. Voyeurism is a class C misdemeanor, but the offenders may get stiffer penalties if the age gap is more than 14 years.

Sex Offender Levels of Classification in Texas

The State of Texas has four sex offender tiers. Each tier is based on the level of threat posed by the sex offender.

Tier 1: Low-risk offenders

Texas sex offenders under this classification pose little threat to the public. The level of concern that they might commit any sexual criminal act or misconduct is considerably low. Crimes that usually result in a Tier 1 grouping include improper exposure (such as public urination) or acts of prostitution performed with a consenting adult.

Tier 2: Moderate risk offenders

In this level, the sex offender has been convicted for multiple sexual misconducts in the past. The registry also classifies offenders whose sex crimes involve minors or aggravated assaults under tier 2.

Tier 3: High-risk offender

These groups of sex offenders are deemed to pose a severe threat to the public. Level 3 sex offenders have an increased chance of repeat offenses. Common sex crimes in this group include violent sexual misconduct, human trafficking, kidnapping, or engaging in sexual acts with a child of 12 years or younger.

Tier 4: "civil commitment" population

This tier is for individuals who have been medically diagnosed with a behavioural abnormality that potentially predisposes them to sexual acts.

How Do I Find A Sex Offender Near Me in Texas?

Thanks to the sex offenders' registration program, finding a convicted criminal is easily done online. Here are the four major ways to access sex offenders' files:

The Texas State Sex Offender Registry

TxDPS (Texas Department of Public Safety) created this site to make information about registered sex offenders easily accessible to state residents. The details about offenders are based on records put together by the TxDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice), local criminal justice offices, or Texas Juvenile Justice Department.

National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW)

This site compiles each state's registry into a single database, permitting individuals to access sex offender information throughout the USA. It also incorporates informative pages to help understand the changes that should be made when living close to a registered offender. Interested persons can access the NSOPW database by name, location, or other information.

Local law enforcement agencies

In Texas, every local law enforcement agent builds and manages its sex offender registry. The registry holds records of all sex offenders registered within the county's jurisdiction. These reports are usually accessible on the sheriff's official webpage.

Third-party sites

Third-party sites like CourtRecords.us provide access to sex offender records in Texas.

Texas Sex Offender Registry

The Department of Public Safety manages the Texas sex offender registry. Details on the record include the offender's location, name, color photo, and the crime that led to the individual's conviction.

Below are a few methods for searching for sex offender records on the registry:

  • Enter the first and last name of the offender, then extra details such as sex, race, and birth date, can be included. Interested persons can also add the county location of the sex offender.
  • On the webpage, individuals can tap on "address search". From there, requesters can enter their location, and it will produce a list of Texas sex offenders who live close.
  • Individuals can likewise access sex offender information through Texas zip codes, counties, or the school the offender attended.
  • The registry also offers the option of downloading the whole Texas Public Sex Offender Registry. However, this option has specific requirements.
  • Online social networking operators can obtain registration information that can help distinguish offenders online.

To enable more secure and accurate access to sex offender information, the TxDPS implemented the Texas Secure Sex Offender Registry. Through the portal, interested parties can verify, check, and update sex offender registration details more efficiently.

To access the registry, the individual will need to fill an application after going through the User Agreement. A login I.D. will be given to that individual with which the Secure Web Site can be accessed. Each user's I.D. is distinctive; every individual is also responsible for all received information and transactions recorded on their I.D.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What are the Sex Offender Restrictions in Texas?

Living and travel restrictions

Registered sex offenders in Texas have to notify law enforcement agencies whenever they are about to move to another location for work or school. Travel restrictions for sex offenders with minors are more severe. For instance, these offenders are prohibited from living no further than 500 ft. of a child safety zone.

Community Involvement Limitations

Sex offenders (especially with minors) cannot participate in school programs or activities which are close to schools or parks. This may include being left out of family events or any related programs that involve the offender's child.

Career and employment restrictions

Some laws restrict offenders from working in a particular profession. Also, other restrictions may come from the licensing board of organizations and companies. Child sex offenders may not be able to work around schools, medical centers, and law firms. Most private businesses that serve the public may find it challenging to accept sex offenders.

Internet restrictions

Generally, sex offenders are restricted from the internet, which includes creating any social media account. Offenders who had a minor victim may not be allowed to use a computer.

Voting restrictions

Felony sex offenders are not eligible to vote until their jail sentence, parole, and probation period is completed.

Firearms restrictions

Felony sex offenders are not allowed to own a firearm. However, they are allowed to own a firearm in their residence five years after their jail sentence is complete.

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