Sex Offender Deregistration
Most persons who are convicted of any offense involving a “sex crime” will be required to register as a sex offender in Texas, even those whose offenses involved relatively minor crimes, consensual sex, or no sexual contact at all with any person. Many of these people completed years of court ordered sex offense counseling and reported to professionals who believe they do not pose any substantial risk to re-offend. Unfortunately, many of these people have suffered substantial negative consequences from sex offense registration, including exclusion from employment, restrictions on where they live, harassment, threats and social ostracization. Until recently, sex offender deregistration was not possible for anyone.
Fortunately, Sex Offender Deregistration is now available for some of these people. In 2005, Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 867 which was designed to improve the rules for sex offender registration in many ways. See Article 62.401, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Those changes included a new procedure for certain sex offenders to request early termination of their requirement to register as a Texas sex offender if they are determined not to present a continuing threat to society. This would allow law enforcement authorities and the state to focus their resources on offenders who threaten public safety and would serve the interests of justice for offenders who are not a threat to re-offend.
In 2011, Senate Bill 198 and House Bill 227 were passed and enacted as the “Romeo and Juliet Bill”. See article 62.301, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Like Article 62.401, this statute allows certain offenders to be removed from the Texas sex offender registry. It provides for a more streamlined path to deregistration, but applies only to a much smaller group of offenders.
The process for Early Termination of Sex Offender Registration in Texas requires strict adherence to statutory requirements enacted by the legislature as well as stringent rules adopted by the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment. This four-step process is designed to allow only a limited number of people to deregister.
Steps for Sex Offender Deregistration
- Step One – Determination of Eligibility for Sex Offender DeregistrationTo be eligible for early termination of sex offender registration, one must have no more than one violation requiring sex offender registration and meet several other requirements. Eligibility hinges on the whether the violation was for one of the offenses which the Texas Department of Public Safety has qualified as eligible (see the DPS Tiered Offense Chart) and, sometimes, the facts involved in the particular case and other factors. For further information, see Frequently Asked Questions – “How can I know if I am eligible to deregister as a sex offender in Texas?”
- Step Two – Application to the Council on Sex Offender Treatment for Deregistration EvaluationA written request must be submitted in order for the Council to determine the eligibility for the deregistration evaluation, along with documentation including court documents from the case, criminal background checks, and documentation of successful completion of sex offender treatment. For more information, see the sex offender eligibility checklist published by the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment.
- Step Three – Deregistration Evaluation by Licensed Sex Offender Treatment Provider – Deregistration SpecialistAfter an application for deregistration has been reviewed and the applicant has been found to be fully qualified, the applicant must be evaluated by a licensed sex offender deregistration specialist. The specialist will use approved standards to assess the applicant’s threat to re-offend and prepare a final report.
- Step Four – Petition to the Sentencing Court for Early TerminationAfter the risk assessment has been completed, the applicant for early termination may petition the court in which the underlying case was prosecuted for permission to terminate the duty to register as a sex offender. Though each of the above steps involves rigorous scrutiny under strict standards, this final step may be one of the most difficult since each judge will be allowed wide discretion in granting the application.
Though the process for sex offender deregistration is likely to be a long and difficult one, it will be well worth it for many to apply. Since so much is at stake and review of such applications will be rigorous, it will be extremely important to be represented by counsel who is knowledgeable in this area of law. The Law Office of Scott C. Smith represents individuals who wish to be able to deregister as sex offenders under Texas law. We also assist attorneys throughout the state of Texas who wish to work with co-counsel located in the capital and familiar with the specialized rules and procedures of the Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment and unique issues associated with sex offender deregistration. If you are interested in exploring the sex-offender deregistration procedure, you may contact us at 512-474-6484.