What Are The Penalties For Failing To Register As A Sex Offender In Texas?
A criminal sentence does not necessarily end when the defendant is released from jail. As you probably know, many criminal sentences also include a term of probation. And if the defendant was convicted of certain sex-related offenses, they may be required to register as a “sex offender” for the rest of their life.
The Texas registration law states that a qualified sex offender must register “with the local law enforcement authority in any municipality where the person resides or intends to reside for more than seven days.” Failure to do so is itself a criminal offense. This means the defendant could face returning to jail for years, even decades in some cases, just for failing to notify the police of their whereabouts.
Court of Criminal Appeals: Defendant Wrongfully Convicted of Failing to Register as Sex Offender in Place He Never Physically Entered
But as the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) recently held, there are limits to how far prosecutors may go in enforcing the registration statute. The case before the CCA, Herron v. State, involved a man sentenced to 25 years after allegedly failing to register in El Paso, Texas. The CCA reversed that decision and ordered an acquittal.
The facts of this case were fairly straightforward. The defendant had a prior sex offense conviction. He was also serving a prison term for a prior parole violation. Upon his release in 2016, the defendant was required to reside at a halfway house in El Paso County for a period of time.
But the defendant never made it to El Paso. More precisely, while parole employees were buying the defendant a bust ticket to take him from Lubbock to El Paso, the defendant decided to flee. Law enforcement arrested the defendant in another county sometime later. Prosecutors then charged him with failing to register as a sex offender in El Paso. A judge found the defendant guilty and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
The CCA explained that since the evidence was not in dispute–the defendant conceded he fled and never went to, or registered as a sex offender in, El Paso–the issue here was “a question of statutory interpretation.” That is to say, did the defendant actually break the law? After all, the law only requires registration when a person intends to reside in a particular place for at least seven days. Since the defendant never spent any time in El Paso, how he could then be required to register there?
The CCA agreed with the defendant that since the law “requires physical presence in a particular location before a person’s registration duties are triggered, Appellant was not statutorily required to register in El Paso.” Obviously, the defendant could have been charged with failing to register in the county he did flee too, the CCA noted, but that was not the crime he was charged with. The prosecution tried him for specifically failing to register in El Paso.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Keith French Today
In any criminal case, the prosecution must be held to the burden of proof with respect to the specific offense charged. An experienced Pearland criminal defense lawyer can help ensure that your rights are respected during this process. Contact the Law Office of Keith B. French, PLLC, today if you need legal advice or representation in any criminal matter.