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Can a Texas City Restrict Where a Convicted Sex Offender May Live?

One of the well-known consequences of a sex crimes conviction in Texas is being forced to register as a sex offender. The Texas Public Sex Offender Registry (SOR) applies to both adults and juveniles convicted of certain crimes. A qualified offender must register with the local law enforcement agency of the city or county where they reside.

State Legislature Expands Local Power Over Individuals on SOR

Beyond the statewide registration requirements, some Texas municipalities go a step further and impose restrictions on where individuals on the SOR may live. Although such restrictions are controversial, they are currently permitted under Texas law. In 2017, the Texas Legislature passed an amendment to the state’s Local Government Code that permits any “general-law municipality” to adopt an ordinance that restricts a person on the SOR “from going in, on, or within a specified distance of a child safety zone in the municipality.”

There are, however, some limits on how far such ordinances may go. A municipality can only restrict sex offenders from living within a 1,000-foot zone surrounding any school, daycare facility, playground, youth center, or other facilities that “regularly holds events primarily for children.” And even within these restricted zones, a person on the SOR may still enter if he or she has a “legitimate purpose,” such as going to work or transporting a child whom they are “legally permitted to be with.” A municipality may also not retroactively punish individuals who were already living inside a 1,000-foot exclusion zone prior to the adoption of an ordinance.

The legislature’s action put to rest, at least for now, a legal debate in the courts as to the propriety of SOR-based residency restrictions. This past July, the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston dismissed as moot a challenge brought against the City of Meadows Place in Fort Bend County, which adopted a 2,000-foot sex offender restriction prior to the 2017 legislation.

A non-profit advocacy group sued the City, alleging the restrictions exceeded its authority. A trial court granted the City’s motion to dismiss in May 2017. Shortly thereafter, the new law took effect, and Meadows Place subsequently amended its ordinance to comply with its terms. More precisely, the City reduced the scope of the exclusionary zone from 2,000 to 1,000 feet. The City also created a procedure allowing individual registered sex offenders to apply for an exemption from the residency restriction, which is also now required by state law.

With these modifications in place, the 14th District said there was no longer a “live controversy” require adjudication, as the original ordinance challenged by the non-profit plaintiff was no longer in force.

Get Help Fighting a Sex Crimes Charge in Galveston or League City Today

Potential residency restrictions are just one way the law punishes individuals convicted of a sex crime or sex offense. This is why it is important to avoid a conviction on such a charge whenever possible. If you need help fighting a sex crimes allegation, contact the qualified Houston criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today at (281) 280-0100.