Sex offender laws are meant to protect the public, but some organizations are claiming that sex offender registration rules are more damaging than beneficial. Lawsuits have been filed alleging that certain sex offender laws are unconstitutional. Currently, sex offender registration requirements are in a state of change.
Not Supported by Data
A strong argument against current registration requirements, particularly how long someone has to register, is that repeat offense rates for many sex crimes are much lower than previously thought. As Slate magazine uncovered, multiple studies have found sex crime recidivism to be below 14 percent in the years following an offender’s release from prison. A study performed by the Bureau of Justice Statistics looked at the recidivism rate over three years for 9,691 male sex offenders released in 1994. Slightly more than 5 percent of the offenders were rearrested for a sex crime and only 3.5 percent were convicted of a new sex crime within 3 years of release.
Another aspect of sex crimes that doesn’t support the use of a registry is that more sex crimes are committed by someone a victim knows than a stranger. Also, sex crimes committed by family and friends often go unreported, so those individuals never end up on the registry list.
One of the main purposes of the sex offender registry – to provide potential suspects if a sex crime occurs – isn’t supported by evidence. It is more likely that an attacker is not on the registry than it is for an attacker to be someone on the list committing a second crime.
Too Many People End Up on the List for Too Long
Other arguments against current sex offender registration laws are that too many crimes have become part of the registry and offenders with a low risk of re-offense are kept on the registry too long.
People required to register as sex offenders haven’t necessarily committed a violent sexual crime or a felony. People may have to register for nonviolent and misdemeanor offenses. In some states, including Texas, people convicted of statutory rape, which is often consensual sex among teenagers, are required to register.
Many offenders face lifetime registration despite committing nonviolent offenses and having a low risk of recidivism. Considering the staggering consequences of registration – living restrictions, housing discrimination, work restrictions, employment discrimination, travel restrictions, public contact information, harassment, and more – lifelong registration requirements can inhibit a person’s ability to gain an education, make a decent living, become part of a community, participate in their children’s lives, and move on from the offense.
However, it isn’t always lifetime registration that’s a problem. Even decades on the list can be extremely detrimental, particularly to offenders who were minors when convicted. Many teenagers who are required to register for crimes committed in their youth will be labeled sex offenders into their 20s or longer. Human Rights Watch published an 111-page report in 2013 regarding the harm sex offender registration laws posed for youth offenders. These adolescents may face hardships and discrimination for a nonviolent offense during a time when they should be gaining an education, beginning a career, and possibly getting married and starting a family. The laws can make it impossible for them to create a stable livelihood.
Numerous Texas Towns Reform Registry Laws
The advocacy group Texas Voices for Reason and Justice targeted 46 Texas towns with letters claiming their sex offender registration laws were unconstitutional last year. The group has also taken numerous small towns to court over their laws. Since May of this year, 23 Texas towns have repealed their local sex offender ordinances, many of which involved geographic living restrictions.
Contact a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Attorney for Help
If you’re facing the harsh future of living on the sex offender registry, call attorney Ned Barnett immediately. He will review your case with you and then build you the strongest defense possible under the law to help you avoid consequences of conviction like decades-long or lifetime registration. He has decades of experiencing helping people charged with sex crimes and a track record of good outcomes for his clients.
Contact him today at (713) 222-6767.