Houston Sex Offender Registration Attorney

Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys Serving Southeast Texas from Offices in Houston, League City and Galveston

What You Need to Know About Sex Offender Registration Requirements in Texas

Many people convicted of sex offenses and sex crimes in Texas are required to register as sex offenders after serving any term of imprisonment. Registration is mandatory in any Texas municipality where the defendant “resides or intends to reside for more than 7 days.” This means that a qualifying sexual offender must register with local authorities no later than the seventh day after their arrival, or the first date when local law enforcement permits registration, whichever date is later.

Facing any sex crimes charge can be absolutely terrifying. If convicted of a sex offense in Texas, you could face severe consequences, including automatic registration on the public sex offender list. At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Houston sex crimes defense lawyers have the skills and experience needed to protect your legal rights. Here, we explain what you need to know about sex offender registration in Texas.

Texas Sex Offender Registration: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Mandatory sex offender registration is one of the harshest penalties that the criminal justice system in Texas has to offer. If you are forced to register as a sex offender in Houston, there will be severe, long-lasting consequences for you and your family. Basic information about Texas’ sex offender registration program and the most common answers people look for are listed below. If the answers you’re looking for are not here, please contact us directly; we will help you.

What Crimes Can Land Me On the Sex Offender Registry in Texas?

There are over 20 sex-related offenses that require an offender to register as a sex offender in the state of Texas. A person may be required to register as a sex offender as part of their community supervision or as a condition of their parole. A person that was convicted of a sex-related offense outside of Texas may also be required to register if their offense was similar to those that the state of Texas requires for registration. Texas has a long list of crimes for which convictions, adjudications, or deferred adjudications will trigger the registration requirement. 

Like most states, Texas maintains an extensive system for the registration and notification of sex offenders. Actually, this is not only applicable to sex crimes such as rape and sexual abuse. Texas law requires registration for persons convicted of a wide variety of felonies, including prostitution, kidnapping, and burglary. If you have been convicted of an eligible felony, it is, therefore, important to understand how to register as a sex offender in order to avoid additional criminal penalties.

Reportable Convictions

Chapter 62 of the Texas Penal Code authorizes the state’s sex offender registry. By law, a person with a “reportable conviction” must normally register as a condition of probation. Reportable convictions include, but are not limited to, the following offenses:

In addition to the Texas-based offenses listed above, a person is also required to register as a sex offender if they have a reportable conviction from another jurisdiction–including under federal or military law–and subsequently decide to reside, work, or attend school in Texas.

Following most criminal convictions in Texas, a person can start to rebuild their life after serving their sentence. Unfortunately, with sex crimes, it is not that simple. All states, including Texas, require persons convicted of certain offenses to register as “sex offenders” with local law enforcement. Depending on the nature of the sex offense, a person may have to maintain an updated registration for the rest of his or her life, even if they are never charged with another crime.

If you are facing a criminal charge that could land you on the Texas sex offender registry, you need to take the matter seriously. An experienced Houston criminal defense attorney can ensure that police, prosecutors, and judges do not run roughshod over your rights in their zeal to show how tough they can be on accused sex offenders. The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates have successfully represented many people in the Houston, Galveston, and League City area who have been accused of sex crimes. We understand the gravity of the situation and will fight for you at trial.

A Sex Crimes Conviction Can Follow You for Life

Sex offenders must register with the local chief of police or sheriff where they live or work. The initial registration typically must be completed within seven days of the offender’s arrival. Thereafter, if the offender moves, he or she must update their registration with the appropriate local authority.

Most of the information provided to the sex offender registry is available to the public. This can make it next-to-impossible for a person to ever escape the consequences of a sex crimes conviction. Once again, this emphasizes the importance of preventing such a conviction in the first place. At the Law Office of Tad Nelson & Associates, we can help. If you have been accused of a sex crime or any other serious felony, call us today at (281) 280-0100  to schedule a consultation.

Who Must Register?

A person must register as a sex offender if they have a “reportable conviction or adjudication” for a sex crime or other eligible offense. This includes not only people convicted in Texas but also anyone convicted of a sex offense in another state or federal court (including a military court-martial) who currently lives or works in Texas. In many cases, an individual will be expressly required to register as a sex offender as a condition of parole or release to mandatory or community supervision.

When Does a Sex Offender Have to Register?

If a sex offender plans to reside within a given municipality or county for more than seven days, registration is required by either the seventh day following the person’s arrival or the first day that local law enforcement permits registration, whichever is later.

Where Does a Sex Offender Register?

Although the sex offender registry is a statewide program, the actual registration takes place at the local level. A sex offender living in a Texas city or municipality must register with the local chief of police. Similarly, a sex offender who lives outside of a municipality must register with the county sheriff.

What Information Is Required for Registration?

Convicted offenders must register with law enforcement and provide detailed personal information, including everything from their eye color to their shoe size. Below is a list of information registered sex offenders must provide:

  • Criminal history;
  • Basic biographical and physical data, including name, date of birth, sex, height, weight, and eye and hair color;
  • The terms of their probation/parole;
  • Government identification data, including Social Security number and driver’s license number;
  • Geographic data, including not only the registrant’s home address but also the location of any workplace;
  • Biometric data, including a current digital photograph and a complete set of fingerprints; and
  • Legal data, including a description of the sex offense or other eligible crime the person was convicted of, together with their discharge status (i.e., are they on parole, community supervision, et cetera) and information related to the age of any victims.
  • Current employment status; and
  • Any professional licenses they hold or are planning to seek.

Finally, registered sex offenders are also required to notify local law enforcement in other counties or state if they are going to be there for a significant amount of time (how much time may vary from state to state). It is also important to note that whatever information you must provide will typically be available to the public. In fact, the only data that will not be publicly available will be your Social Security, driver’s license, and telephone number.

The above list is not exhaustive, and Texas law enforcement officials may require additional information not specifically contained in the sex offender registration law.

How Long Does Sex Offender Registration Last?

The length of time that an offender has to stay registered on the sex offender list depends on the offense as well as other factors. Some offenders face a lifetime registration requirement, but others only have a 10-year registration requirement. Examples of crimes that may have a 10-year registration or a lifetime registration requirement are discussed in more detail below. 

Lifetime Registration

Those who are convicted of certain sex offenses will be required to stay on the state’s sex offender registry for the rest of their lives. These crimes include:

  • Kidnapping;
  • Aggravated kidnapping;
  • Human trafficking;
  • Sexual abuse of a minor
  • Sexual assault;
  • Prohibited sexual conduct;
  • Compelling the prostitution of a minor; and
  • The possession or promotion of child pornography. 

Even those who are convicted of these kinds of offenses could eventually seek early termination of their sex offender registration by filing an official motion with the court and undergoing an individual risk assessment, at which point a judge will decide to deny or approve the request. Individuals who were convicted of these offenses as minors often have a better chance of receiving an early termination. 

Ten-Year Registration

If the case was based on an adjudication of delinquent conduct, then the offender’s requirement to register ends on the date 10 years after the date of disposition. If the registration was based on deferred adjudication or conviction, the registration duty ends 10 years after the person is released from prison or released from community supervision.

Not all individuals who are convicted of a sex crime will have to stay on the sex offender registry for life. Some sex crimes, for instance, with a ten-year registration requirement, are:

  • Indecent exposure;
  • Indecency with a child;
  • Online solicitation of a minor; and
  • Prostitution. 

It’s important to note that even when the ten-year mark has expired, a person should not just stop registering immediately. Instead, they will still need to file a motion with the court before officially seeking termination. 

Does Sex Offender Registration Mean I Can’t See My Own Children?

As was just discussed, if you are convicted of a sex offense or sex crime in Texas, you can be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life. But there are cases where a person may be treated as a registered sex offender following a conviction for non-sexual offenses. And such status can not only affect where you may live and work–but it can also affect your relationship with your own children.

Court Agrees to Review Modified Sentence for Constitutional Violations

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently agreed to consider a case where a woman who pleaded guilty to a non-sexual offense was subsequently forbidden from having any contact with her biological children as a condition. This case began in 2014 when Texas prosecutors charged the defendant with two counts of indecency with a child, which refers to engaging in sexual contact with a person under the age of 17.

In exchange for pleading guilty to the non-sexual offense of “injury to a child,” the defendant was sentenced to 10 years probation. She also agreed to “undergo sex offender evaluation and treatment and be bound by sex offender community supervision conditions.” At the time, the judge said the defendant could “not have contact with anyone seventeen years old or younger except for her biological children.”

But in 2016, the judge modified the terms of the defendant’s probation to prohibit all contact with children, including her own. This decision came one day after a therapist treating the defendant told her and her husband that she “should not have access to any minor child” based on her refusal to accept responsibility for her earlier actions. The judge modified his order without holding a hearing or affording the defendant a chance to respond.

The Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals upheld the trial judge’s modification in an August 2017 opinion. Although the defendant was not convicted of a sex crime, the appeals court said “evidence relating to the sexual nature of the offenses” justified treating her as a sex offender. And given “that the State has a compelling interest in protecting children, including [defendant’s] children, from sexual exploitation,” the modified probation terms did not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights as a parent.

It is this last point that the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to review. In her petition to the Court, the defendant noted there was no evidence she ever engaged in any illegal or inappropriate contact with her own children. Indeed, her children were not the victims of the original offense. So the state, therefore, has no “compelling interest” in prohibiting all contact between the defendant and her children. The Court of Criminal Appeals will make a final determination on this issue later this year.

How Does Civil Commitment Work for Texas Sex Offenders?

When it comes to sex crimes, a defendant may face additional confinement even after completing their prison sentence. Texas law authorizes prosecutors to seek “civil commitment” of individuals believed to be “sexually violent predators.” Civil commitment requires a separate jury trial. If prosecutors can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant meets the statutory definition of a sexually violent predator, the judge will issue a commitment order, which takes effect once the defendant is released from prison.

Unlike a criminal sentence, a civil commitment can last indefinitely. The law states a defendant must remain in “treatment and supervision” until such time as his or her “behavioral abnormality has changed to the extent that the person is no longer likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence.”

Court: Defendant’s “Pedophilic Disorder” Supports Jury’s Commitment Verdict

Here is an illustration of how civil commitment law works in practice. In this case, a defendant was serving a prison term for three sexual assault convictions where the victims were children. The defendant pleaded guilty to all three charges. In brief, he admitted to sexually abusing his two stepdaughters, and the daughter of a girlfriend, over a period of several years.

Prosecutors sought a civil commitment order. The jury received evidence regarding the defendant’s prior convictions, as well as evidence regarding several other allegations of child sexual abuse where the defendant was never formally charged with a crime. Of critical note, the jury also heard from psychologists who testified as expert witnesses. The state’s primary expert told the jury the defendant suffered from “pedophilic disorder nonexclusive-type attracted of females,” which meant the defendant “was attracted to children as well as same-age peers.” The expert further diagnosed the defendant with “antisocial personality disorder,” which “allows sex offenders to victimize people without remorse.”

A psychologist retained by the defense agreed he suffered from the pedophilic disorder, but added that “she did not believe that condition alone makes him likely to re-offend.” Indeed, the defense psychologist said that based on her examinations, the defendant “did not meet the statutory definition that applies to classifying a person as a sexually violent predator,” as there was only a “low to moderate” risk he would commit another sexual offense if released from prison.

The jury ultimately believed the state’s experts and declared the defendant a sexually violent predator. The Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict. The appeals court noted the defendant did not contest two critical points: That he was a “repeat violent sexual offender” and that his own doctor confirmed he suffered from the pedophilic disorder. There was also evidence that the defendant was not responding to sex offender treatment while in prison. For instance, he continues to deny committing the crimes for which he pleaded guilty. All of this supported a “rational jury” verdict in favor of civil commitment.

Does a Jury Have To Be Unanimous When Convicting a Committing a Convicted Sex Offender?

A sex crime conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. Indeed, even after you have served a criminal prison sentence for a sex offense, a Texas judge may subsequently order your “civil commitment” if prosecutors can show you are a “repeat sexually violent offender.” And even if the court does not strictly follow the necessary process before ordering a civil commitment, that may still not be enough to ensure your freedom.

Houston Appeals Court Declines to Overturn Commitment Order Due to “Harmless” Error

A recent civil commitment decision from the Texas 14th District Court of Appeals here in Houston offers a case in point. In this proceeding, a Texas court convicted a defendant in the sexual assault of a child. Previously, an Oregon court found the same defendant guilty of “sexual abuse in the third degree” under that state’s law.

Texas prosecutors subsequently sought the civil commitment of the defendant after he completed his criminal sentence. Under Texas law, civil commitment required proof that the defendant’s Oregon conviction was for a “substantially similar” offense to the one he committed in Texas. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals agreed the defendant’s convictions met this requirement.

In a separate issue, the defendant also pointed out the trial judge improperly instructed the jury that found him to be a “sexually violent predator.” In Texas, you have the right to a separate jury trial in a civil commitment proceeding. As with a criminal trial, the jury must unanimously find the subject of the civil commitment proceeding is a “sexually violent predator.” However, the Texas Supreme Court recently confirmed that only 10 votes (out of 12) are necessary to “reach a verdict declining to find that a person is a sexually violent predator.”

In this particular case, the defendant said the judge never told the jury about this rule. The 14th District agreed this was a mistake. That said, the appellate court found the error legally “harmless.” Given the jury did unanimously conclude the defendant was a sexually violent predator, the court reasoned the missing instruction “probably caused the rendition of an improper judgment.”

What Are the Penalties for Failing to Register?

Failure to register as a sex offender is a felony in Texas. The degree and severity of the punishment will depend on the exact nature of the person’s reporting requirements. But it is never advisable to delay or avoid registration.

This is only a brief overview of the Texas sex offender registration system. If you have been charged with, or convicted of, an offense that might require you to register as a sex offender, it is important you seek assistance from a Houston sex offender registration lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates if you need to speak with a Houston sex attorney today.

Man Sentenced to 30 Years After Failing to Register in Wife’s Hometown

The consequences for failing to register–even if the offender had good reason–can be severe. Take this recent decision from the Texas 11th District Court of Appeals, Honea v. State. The defendant, in this case, has been required to register as a sex offender since 2011.

In 2018, the defendant lived with his mother in Breckenridge, Texas. He used this and later another Breckenridge address on his required annual registration with the local authorities. But in April of that year, a Department of Public Safety agent learned that the defendant actually lived in Cisco, Texas, about 28 miles away.

The agent visited the defendant at his registered address in Breckenridge. The defendant said he would like to live in Cisco, as his wife had a home there, but a city ordinance prevented him from doing so. He acknowledged, however, that he spent two days a week in Cisco at his wife’s place. Later, the defendant told police that during March and April 2018 he “was in Cisco 70% of the time and admitted that he should not have been there.”

The state eventually obtained an indictment against the defendant for failing to register as a sex offender in Cisco. Specifically, the indictment alleged the defendant had resided in Cisco “for more than 7 days,” triggering his duty to file a new registration in that municipality. A jury subsequently found the defendant guilty and the court sentenced him to 30 years in prison.

On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against him. The 11th District rejected this and other arguments and upheld the defendant’s conviction and sentence. The Court of Appeals noted that the state had to prove the defendant resided in Cisco for more than 7 days without registering. The definition of “reside” is not specified in the law. It does not necessarily mean a person’s legal residence. Nor is a person limited to having only one residence.

In this case, the defendant “resided” in Cisco by spending time at a home owned by his wife. The evidence introduced at trial showed the defendant frequently spent the night at his wife’s house and even helped her sell the property. Other witnesses testified that the defendant was at the Cisco residence “all the time.” Taken as a whole, the Court of Appeals said the jury was entitled to infer the defendant did, in fact, reside in Cisco for more than 7 days.

Can I Be Charged with a Felony If I Fail to Update My Sex Offender Registration?

Many convictions for sex offenses and sex crimes in Texas carry with it a requirement to register as a sex offender. In many cases, this means the offender must annually update law enforcement about their address, employment, and even vehicle registration, for the rest of their life. And failure to register as required carries significant legal penalties independent of the original sex crimes conviction.

Indeed, it may surprise you to learn that failure to comply with registration requirements is a felony under Texas law. For offenders who must register annually, a failure to comply is actually a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Houston Court Upholds 5-Year Prison Term for Offender Who Failed to Comply With Registration, Parole Requirements

Here is a recent example of just how severe the penalties can get for registered sex offenders. In this case, Wallace v. State, the defendant was convicted of sexual assault 18 years ago. He was required to register annually as a sex offender as part of his sentence. In 2017, Wallace failed to fully comply with the registration requirements–specifically, he did not inform local law enforcement of his plans to move to a new address at least seven days in advance. The defendant then pleaded guilty to the third-degree felony for failure to register.

The judge actually placed the defendant on 10 years of community supervision (probation) for this offense. But five months later, prosecutors moved to revoke probation, alleging the defendant violated two conditions of his release. Once again, the defendant pleaded guilty to these allegations. This time, the judge sentenced the defendant to five years in jail on the original failure to register conviction.

The Texas First District Court of Appeals here in Houston rejected the defendant’s appeal of the trial court’s judgment. First, the defendant argued the judge “erroneously sentenced him for a third-degree felony because the charged offense was punishable as a state jail felony.” In fact, the First District said the defendant “misunderstands the basis of his conviction.” The defendant’s specific offense–failing to verify his registration once a year for life–is a third-degree felony.

Second, the defendant said the original indictment charging him with the felony “failed to allege when his duty to register expires and thus failed to allege facts sufficient to determine the level of the offense charged. The First District rejected this argument as well. It noted the indictment did not need to specifically allege the defendant “was subject to lifetime registration.”

Contact Our Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Today

At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, our Houston sex crimes lawyers have extensive experience handling issues involving sex offender registration. If you need legal advice, please contact our team today to set up your fully private consultation. From our offices in Galveston, Houston, and League City, we serve communities throughout Southeast Texas, including in Harris County, Chambers County, Liberty County, and Galveston County.