In the United States, many people believe that all sex offenders are the same. A boy who’s a few months too old to have a consensual relationship with a teenager is just as bad as a man who rapes a nursing home resident. That’s just one reason the sex offender registration requirement is a very difficult pill to swallow.
Even worse, Texas law treats all sex offender registrants the same. All information is publically available. Neighbors, fellow church members, other parents at your children’s school, potential landlords, and future employers all have unrestricted access to this data. They may legally base adverse decisions, like a refusal to hire you or lease property to you, on your status as a sex offender.
Depending on the facts of the case, the registration requirement could be between a decade and a lifetime. There’s no doubt that registration laws, which first appeared in the mid 1990s, have substantially reduced sexual crimes. There’s also no doubt that no one should suffer eternal punishment for this infraction. So, a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney must strike a balance somewhere.
In Texas, deregistration is the key balancing factor. Nonviolent sexual offenders are generally eligible for deregistration if they meet all the following criteria:
First Time Offender: A generic criminal history does not disqualify the defendant. But any sex crimes conviction, even if it is very old and a misdemeanor, is usually a deal breaker. Deferred adjudication may or may not count as a conviction in this context.
Treatment Program Completion: Not all sex offender treatment programs are created equally. A basic program will probably not convince a judge that the person deserves deregistration. But if the defendant completed an advanced program as well as any required aftercare, and if the defendant has a solid support network, that’s a different story.
No Risk of Reoffense: This is the big one. A highly-reputable psychologist or other professional must state, in writing, that the defendant poses no risk to the community.
As the movant in a motion for removal, the defendant has the burden of proof in all three of these areas.
Most of these motions do not go before a judge. Instead, the prosecutor agrees or the two sides work out a deal.
If the defendant’s probation officer and the Texas Council on Sex Offender Registration both agree with the motion, the prosecutor typically agrees as well. With all this evidence in support of the motion, it’s much easier for a Fort Worth criminal defense attorney to sway a judge. Prosecutors know that to be true.
Out-of-court settlements resolve most court cases, and this area is no exception. These settlements often involve some give and take. For example, the prosecutor may not fight the motion if the defendant agrees to avoid certain organizations and certain areas of town.
Sex offender registration is not necessarily a lifelong “scarlet letter.” For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. Convenient payment plans are available.