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Legal challenge underway against retroactive sex offender law

A 2005 Texas law that registers thousands of people retroactively as sex offenders is being challenged.

Being charged and convicted of a sex crime is extremely serious, not least because of the possibility that one could be added to the sex offender registry. As the Austin American-Statesman reports, Texas’ sex offender registry currently includes about 100,000 names – or about 3.5 per 1,000 residents – which is far higher than the national average. That long list is largely the result of lawmakers expanding the scope of the registry over the years. However, a 2005 law that added a number of people retroactively to the sex offender registry is now being challenged in the Texas Supreme Court as being unconstitutional.

Sex offender registry keeps expanding

The sex offender registry was created in 1991 and initially only applied to those who were charged with a qualifying sex crime after the law creating the registry was passed. In 1997, however, Texas lawmakers passed another law so that those who had been convicted of a sex crime or who received a deferred adjudication deal for a sex crime going back to 1970 were also required to register. That law was still only limited to offenders who were either still in prison or on probation when the law was passed.

In 2005 yet another sex offender registry law was passed, this time requiring anybody who had been convicted of a qualifying sex crime to register regardless of how long ago they completed their prison sentence or their parole.

Law violates probation conditions

That 2005 law violates thousands of plea bargains whereby offenders had been promised that if they plead guilty to a sex crime and completed the terms of their probation that they would not have to register as sex offenders. As CBS Dallas-Fort Worth reports, over 2,800 people are on the sex offender registry despite the terms of their probation stipulating that they didn’t need to be.

As a result, a number of those people who were promised by prosecutors that they would not be required to register as sex offenders as part of their plea bargains are challenging the constitutionality of that 2005 law in the Texas Supreme Court. Some of those affected have stated that if they had known they would eventually have had to register as sex offenders then they would never have agreed to their plea bargains in the first place.

Criminal law help

While being charged with any crime is serious, being charged with a sex crime is especially so. As the above article shows, those charged and convicted of a sex crime could not only end up in prison, but they could also find themselves listed as a sex offender, which could severely hinder their chances of finding employment or a place to live. As such, anybody facing these very serious charges needs to talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help clients understand what their rights are and fight to defend them.