The registration of sex offenders is a tool for improved public protection. It is an internationally accepted policy. The United States was among the pioneers of sex offender registration and developed the template that is followed by many other countries. Although this initiative is widely accepted, the issues of viability and efficacy of sex offender registries are still a matter of disputes (Harrison & Rainey, 2013).
Recently, there appear more legal and ethical challenges because the process of registration becomes more sophisticated and more onerous. Moreover, these registries can be accessed by the public. This research discloses some issues of sex offender registry, including specific regulations of the state of Texas, procedural guidelines related to the implementation of the registration, punishments for noncompliance with the registration requirements, Constitutional challenges, and some other significant aspects of the problem.
Harrison, K., & Rainey, B. (Eds.). (2013). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of legal and ethical aspects of sex offender treatment and management. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
This research applies the method of literature review. The study of ten sources including books, reviews, stale laws, and case studies, allows evaluating the issue of sex offender registry in the United States in general and in the state of Texas in particular. The review discloses seven topics important for the concept of sex offender registry.
Each state in the US has its peculiarities of legislation. Consequently, the sex offender registry laws in Texas have their specific features. The necessity of registration as a convicted sex offender is determined by the current law (“Which Texas crimes require registration as a sex offender?” n.d.). At present, the current Texas law states that any person convicted of a sex offense or an equal crime after the first of September, 1970, must be registered or prosecuted.
The crimes that demand registration is: “indecency with a child; sexual assault; aggravated sexual assault; prohibited sexual contact; compelling prostitution; sexual performance by a child; possession or promotion of child pornography; aggravated kidnapping if the crime was committed with intent to abuse the victim sexually; burglary if the burglary was coupled with sexual assault of aggravated kidnapping; unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping; a second conviction for indecent exposure” (“Which Texas crimes require registration as a sex offender?” n.d., para. 4).
A person subject to registration must provide the necessary relevant information including the current address. Moreover, people subject to registration in the sex offender registry, are prohibited to work as bus drivers or offer other transportation services and provide residence service if it is not supervised.
The procedural guidelines of the sex offender registry in Texas are regulated by Sex Offender Registration Program included in chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (“Texas code of criminal procedure,” 2016). A common practice in Texas is that if “a person subject to registration who is civilly committed as a sexually violent predator” is released from prison or moves to Texas for residence, this person should be informed on the necessity of registration with a written notice within seven days (“Texas code of criminal procedure,” 2016).
There is a demand that a person who stays for more than seven days in any location within the state must register or confirm registration. The registrant provides the necessary personal information (such as full name, date of birth, number of social security, etc.); residential address and contact details; a recent photograph in color; details of the conviction, the victim, and the punishment; information on release and supervision; details about the planned employment or education; any type of online identifiers applied by a registered person; and other details that can be necessary for the department that provides registration (“Texas code of criminal procedure,” 2016). The process of registration is free for offenders.
After the registration, the information about sex offenders is accumulated in the state registry. For Texas, it can be accessed online at the webpage of the Texas Department of Public Safety (2017). As for the neighborhood Killeen where I reside, the data on sex offenders can be found on the page of Bell county (“Killeen, tx registered sex offenders,” 2017).
Killeen, TX registered sex offenders. (2017). Web.
Texas Department of Public Safety. (2017). Sex offender registry. Web.
A failure to comply with the registration demands within the identified period is considered an offense. There are three types of offense according to the Texas Code of criminal procedure (2016). First of all, a state jail felony is applied for those whose duty to register terminates under points (b) or (c) of Article 62.101 (“Texas code of criminal procedure,” 2016). Secondly, a felony of the third degree is used for the individuals whose register duty terminates under point (a) of Article 62.101 or who are obliged to confirm registration once a year. Finally, the third punishment presupposes a felony of the second degree in case the individuals whose register duty terminates under point (a) of Article 62.101 and is obliged to confirm registration every three months.
The laws regarding sex offenders and their registration have a major goal to “protect the community from certain sex offenders who are at risk of repeating their offenses” (Wright, 2015, p. 50). At present, there exists a tendency to treat some of the sex offender laws as Constitutional challenges. This issue is often connected with the sex offender registry as the demand that violates the right for the protection of personal data and private life.
As for Texas, Clarke (2015) informs that The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals “has reversed the dismissal of a challenge to the constitutionality of a city’s sex offender residency restrictions” (para. 1). The matter is that in 2008, Texas prohibited registered sex offenders involved in crimes with children to settle closer than 1,500 feet to any locations where children could gather. It caused a problem for the family of Aurelio Durante accused of online solicitation of a child with finding a place to live when he was released. He went to court but even the Court of Appeals rejected the case as the one that lacks standing.
Clarke, M. (2015). Dismissal of a challenge to Texas city’s sex offender restrictions reserved. Prison Legal News. Web.
Wright, R.G. (Ed.). (2015). Sex offender laws. Failed policies, new directions (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.
I believe that the laws created to regulate sex offender behaviors demonstrate the care of the Government for the citizens. Contemporary legislation and registration and notification laws in particular are the tools that have the potential to reduce the frequency of sex offenses in the areas where the offenders live. I consider the issue of safety to be one of the most important for the community. Consequently, registration and control over the releases of sex offenders is a necessary intervention.
To my mind, such legal procedures provide the improvement of the offenders’ lifestyles. The fact that these people know they are watched can prevent them from repeated offenses. The necessity to register can make offenders more disciplined. Moreover, the possibility of punishment in case of missing the proper registration date can stimulate their obedient behavior.
There are active discussions concerning the severity of laws regulating the sex offender registry. Some people claim that the offenders completed their sentences and deserve a life of normal people. However, I believe that the people once convicted of a sex offense have some mental problems that cannot be eliminated during their imprisonment. Thus, after they are released, they can return to criminal behaviors. Consequently, legislation aimed at the control and prevention of sex offenses is necessary and cannot be too strict.
On the whole, sex offender legislation concerning registration is a useful controlling tool. It allows monitoring the location of offenders after they are released. Thus, it provides opportunities for the improvement of safety measures in the areas with great concertation of sex offenders.
Recently, there have been many discussions concerning the Constitutional or not Constitutional character of the sex offender registry laws. Some human rights activists claim that this legislation violates the rights of those people for personal information security. Moreover, their right to live cannot be always followed as well. However, I believe that the matter of security should be of primary importance. Thus, the Bill of Rights (n.d.). guarantees the right of people to be safe. The fact the sex offenders live in the neighborhood does not make it a safe place to live.
Another issue that is frequently treated as a violation of constitutional and human rights is the restriction of the place to live. Thus, sex offenders involved in crimes with children are not allowed to settle near the places where many children gather together. These places include schools, swimming-pools, sport-grounds, etc., and the distance they should keep depends on the state legislation. On the one hand, it looks like a breaking of the law. On the other hand, the concern is the safety of the community that should not be under a threat. This issue frequently appears in the courts (Collateral Consequences Resource Center, 2016). Moreover, I different states offenders are pushed out of the neighborhood (Phillips, 2016).
One more aspect that can be regarded as a violation is the restriction of employment of the released sex offenders. Thus, they are not allowed to work as bus drivers or provide other transportation services. Moreover, they cannot provide accommodation unless this process is properly controlled. I do not consider it a violation of the Constitution. It is a safety measure to protect the population and a prevention tool for offenders.
Bill of Rights. (n.d.). Web.
Collateral Consequences Resource Center. (2016). Sex offender residency restrictions in the courts: is the tide turning? Web.
Philips, L. (2016). Over 20 Texas towns repeal restrictions on where sex offenders live after a broad legal challenge. Web.
Case study: Nichols v. the United States
The parties to the case are petitioner Nichols and the United States. Nichols is a registered sex offender. He moved to the Philippines from Kansas and did not update the registration that caused his arrest (Supreme Court of the United States, 2016). He was returned to the United States and accused of violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law (SORNA). Nichols claimed that SORNA did not demand an update of his registration.
It was concluded that he had to inform the authorities of both locations, the one he left and the one he arrived in because in both cases he changed his location. According to SORNA, he had to update his registration with a valid place of living within three working days because “a sex offender shall register, and keep the registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides, where the offender is an employee, and where the offender is a student” (Supreme Court of the United States, 2016, p. 3).
The Tenth Circuit confirmed his conviction. It was considered that even though Nichols left Kansas, it became the involved jurisdiction. Finally, “he judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is reversed” Supreme Court of the United States, 2016, p. 10).
Case study: Reynolds v. The United States
The parties to the case are petitioner Reynolds and the United States. Reynolds is a pre-Act offender. He confirmed his registration in Missouri in 2005. However, he went to live in Pennsylvania in September 2007 without changing his registration. The fact that he failed to meet the sex offender registration requirements was revealed in the autumn of 2007. Reynolds changed his place of living “to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the Act did not apply to pre-Act offenders during that time, arguing that the Attorney General’s February 2007 Interim Rule was invalid” (Supreme Court of the United States, 2012, p. 2).
At the level of the District Court, the implications of Reynolds were rejected. Moreover, the Court of Appeals also rejected Reynolds’ argument. The court of Appeals considered that the Act’s registration demands apply to “pre-Act offenders such as Reynolds,” even in case of absence of “any rule or regulation by the Attorney General” (Supreme Court of the United States, 2012, p. 8). The Third Circuit “rejected his argument without reaching the merits”, and concluded that the demands of Act registration requirements are applicable even without the rule by the Attorney General. Finally, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Third Circuit to the contrary.
Supreme Court of the United States. (2012). Reynolds v. The United States. Web.
Supreme Court of the United States. (2016). Nichols v. the United States. Web.
Generally speaking, the issue of the sex offender registry is a matter of many disputed. Although generally considered an efficient tool to provide safety in the communities and prevent offense reoccurrence, it is often considered to be violating the Constitution. Nevertheless, it is a necessary intervention that, with appropriate legislation, can lead to the reduction of a sex offense.