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TX: Something Is Wrong with the Sex Offender Registry, and Deregistration Is the Only Tool We Have to Fix It

Something is wrong with the sex offender registry. It is not working the way it was intended to work. Worse, the registry is causing innocent people to be harmed. Yet none of these innocent people harmed by the registry are convicted sex offenders.

Before diving into a discussion regarding the public sex offender registry, it is important to note that this article is not a critique of those who created and implemented the registry. Nor is this article a critique of those who keep the registry functioning. Rather, this article provides empirically based information about the utility of the registry and how deregistration might improve the registry. Full Article on Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

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  1. AnotherAnon

    This is an excellent article packed with updated studies and information. Its flaw is that it puts actuarial “tools” on a pedestal, maybe because it has little choice and is working with what is available and possible to change in the present climate.

  2. Joe

    Yes, this is a wonderful collection of studies / data. I am puzzled by the recommendation, however.

    “The sole function of deregistration is the removal of the individual’s information from the public registry.”

    While public notification is undoubtedly one of the, if not the, most damaging aspects of SO registration, there is a plethora of other life-crushing requirements and restriction that would remain. When the most comprehensive article I have read in a long time just made the point that SO Registration is based on myths and does nothing to improve public safety. What gives?

    And if it did improve public safety AND it were totally constitutional – why are not ALL criminals made to register? Is my government not interested in protecting me and my children from ALL crime? How can this be???

    • Tim l

      Unfettered Government use of a database. That’s what is has always been about. Big brother must make sure their people run everything to maintain the two party system. Social media scared the hell out of the established parties. The Don broke through precisely because the people are sick to death of the two parties cutting each other’s throats and hurting those in the middle. NEITHER PARTY GIVES A SHIT.

  3. E

    I think the article is trying to be a bit too clever by presenting “realistic” options in the current climate. Fair enough. But I like the last line the most: “While deregistration is a step in the right direction, the recommendations presented in this paper offer some additional steps that could potentially result in a registry that produces a positive impact on the public. Unless, of course, we just do away with Vaccine X altogether.”

    Yup. Toss out the whole stash of vaccine.

  4. CR

    It seems to have been written with a view toward persuading legislators to look at the registry differently, and giving them the information they need to promote positive changes while also providing them with the means to combat accusations that they are “soft on sex-offenders”. Legislators and elected judges know, or at least fear, that a perception among voters that they are soft on sex-offenders may end their careers.

    So while I think the recommendations in the article fall short of the real fix for the registry (i.e., just throw out Vaccine X altogether), I see it as an attempt to reduce the harm caused by the registry in a way that law makers may be able to accept. Baby steps.

    If the state were to adopt some or all of the recommendations from the article, I’m not sure whether that would help me. I have no risk rating, as my offenses predate Texas’ adoption of its risk-assessment tool. I am also not eligible for deregistration due to having multiple counts (not recidivism, just two charges brought at the same time), and because of the specific charge in one case.

    On another note, the article mentioned a risk-assessment tool called the Static-2002 (Hanson & Thornton, 2003). I don’t recall that tool ever being mentioned here on this site. Is anyone familiar with it?

    • Henry

      I don’t care if it ends their careers.

      These politicians and judges disobeyed (and ignored) they law.

      Retroactive Sorna is a constitutional violation.

      LET them loose their jobs………my family is innocent and they were punished too, AND the politician’s did that to them and the judges let it happen.

      • CR

        Henry, the point is that they aren’t willing to do anything to risk their jobs. Even if they know that the registry does not protect the public and harms innocent people, the legislature will not do anything at all to reduce the reach or the impact of the registry, nor will they pay attention to any data proving that the registry does no good, so long as they believe that voters will think them “soft on sex offenders”.

        The only way a legislator could be persuaded to do the right thing is to give them an out, a way to avoid the negative consequences of being seen as “soft on sex offenders”.

        But no worries, those hateful and spineless cretins won’t be losing their jobs on account of making sensible and positive changes to the registry laws.

        We’re not likely to get relief from the legislature anyway. Relief is more likely to come by way of the courts. The best we can hope for from the legislature is that they stop passing ever more draconian registry laws. Articles like the present one may help to slow down the onslaught of increasingly tough (and doubtless unconstitutional) registry laws, but even if they don’t, they at least aggregate a lot of data that will useful in court challenges.

        • Dustin

          Spot on, though I would add that it’ll only be in the appellate courts. Most superior/criminal court judges are elected as well, making them just as much a politician as the legislators.

          Oddly enough, that is precisely why federal judges are appointed for life – so they don’t have to concern themselves with the politics of the moment. The problem (as I see it) is that many federal judges forgot that and think they got their robe because they’re smarter than everyone else.

        • Tim Moore

          Courts? Legislatures? When has either of them did anything against the status quo, unless there is a movement already in place to challenge the status quo? This country is ruled by popular media. The legislatures respond to the reports of the media, and the courts uphold the cultural perspective that is fostered by the media. Judges aren’t radicals. Did you ever wonder why the founders put free speech as the first amendment? It is the common dialogue that determines everything else. Power flows from the bottom up. Reason first needs to be heard in the public square. Then it works its way into the guilded chambers. Comment well and often in public.

  5. Chris F

    Baby steps will just keep the registry around forever and tell legislation it is ok to circumvent the courts role to punish, rehabilitate, and PROTECT the public. There is no excuse for any legislation interfering other than providing tools for judges to use at THEIR discretion.

    Courts are the only entity that can taylor protecting the public to the individual and legislators are violating separation of powers with every law labeling someone or restricting them based on a crime within the court’s jurisdiction.

    • CR

      Full relief will only come when the courts, ultimately the Supreme Court, puts an end to the registry by declaring it unconstitutional. Frankly, I don’t see a complete victory from the courts in the near future. I expect we’ll make some gains that may help curb some of the excesses of registry laws, but I don’t think it’ll be a complete reversal of the current jurisprudence on registry laws. Not for a long time.

      If legislators can be persuaded to change the registry laws in positive ways because of articles like this one that present peer-reviewed studies that refute the myths and contradict the basis on which the registry laws are founded, it’ll bring some relief to some registrants and their families, even if it doesn’t cure all of its ills. It will do nothing to change how legislators feel about their role relative to that of the courts in these matters. Any correction on that front will have to come from the courts, and the courts will need to get some spine in order for that to happen. Don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

      If you take an all or nothing stance with the legislators, you will get nothing. Any change to registry laws that moves the status quo in the right direction will reduce the negative impacts on registrants and their families. It shouldn’t be rejected just because it isn’t perfect and complete.

      • AnotherAnon

        Exactly right, and another court will have to play a role before the courts can be brave enough. The court of public opinion. Only the most independent judges will strike down some of these laws because most judges face a vote. While federal judges do not they still need the data to justify change. The big changes are the result of a strong court record in terms of evidence and studies to back up change.

      • Timmmy

        Actually there is another way. What if there was a massive movement of a certain group of people into the least populated state in the US, and those certain people started voting each other into legislative elected office?

        • CR

          If half of all registrants and their families could move to Wyoming, we’d have a great shot at that.

        • Timmmy

          Here are the qualifications to state legislature in Wyoming according to its Constitution.

          “Senators shall be elected for the term of four (4) years and representatives for the term of two (2) years. The senators elected at the first election shall be divided by lot into two classes as nearly equal as may be. The seats of senators of the first class shall be vacated at the expiration of the first two years, and of the second class at the expiration of four years. No person shall be a senator who has not attained the age of twenty-five years, or a representative who has not attained the age of twenty-one years, and who is not a citizen of the United States and of this state and who has not, for at least twelve months next preceding his election resided within the county or district in which he was elected.”

        • Tired of this

          That’s…actually an amazing idea. If we all flocked there and become the majority, it would be a very interesting turn of events indeed. You got me pondering this, for sure.

        • Timmmy

          With a population of only 579k , it would not that hard to become a majority if that could be accomplished.

          Project Exodus anyone?

        • E

          WY currently has 580,000 residents… if half of people on the registry are off paper (500,000), and half of those moved to WY (250,000), that would be roughly 1/3 of the new population of the state (830,000). It would be a very influential majority. The challenge is that only 1% of people on the registry want to be identified as such; we all have very divergent opinions and values. I still like the idea…

        • Tim Moore

          The Wyoming state budget would swell in the short term, because they now charge you for registering. When registrants get in office, we could not only eliminate registration but use all those registration fees for restitution for all the troubles the registry has caused.

  6. Timothy D A Lawver

    The sex offender registration regime was about our nation’s surveillance saints to advance their desires to utilize database infrastructure errected in Saratoga springs UT!

    If a state can indenture a man to a database then the more powerful FED can go how far?

    Our leadership recognized that terrorist from other nations were a big problem. The surveillance upon them was indeed crucial for protecting U.S. soil and citizen.

    BUT they also had a big problem. Americans don’t want gov’t agents snooping around their business. Americans demand warrant before searches can begin. Our constitution is based on keeping gov’t agents on a leash. SO domestic electronic searches were indeed necessary to stop the jihadists like them that hit WTC. The sex offender made the perfect scapegoat for the surveillance saints.
    SOR says a lot about what a state gov can do with a database for the advancement of public safety. The Utah facilities were supposed to be quarantined from misuse by FISA warrant, but the facts will show the surveillance saints could avoid that by outright misleading judges or lying to them. All this is playing out now as indeed the surveillance saints moved to attack THE DON, via a contrived dossier financed a certain campaign. This is the kind of folks who lead us. Why would the folks be law abiding when our leaders surely don’t follow the law or any constitutional boundary.

    IMHO J.J. ROBERTS has to go! His action in Alaska v Doe indeed lead to vigilantism, ostricisim, and loss of civil dignity. He is culpable and I think he purposefully withheld pertinent information from the Rehnquist court to witt “having to show up in person” like P&P.
    Alaska was the ONLY 1,of 50 ,which never intended in person reporting. That’s why he picked it to make his case. DIRTY BOY got himself the highest seat in our land via his deception. WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO?

    My question is how does America hold such a man responsible for his usurpation?
    I’ve but one way to do so. I posted it on NARSOL site under the “Sex offenders should be shot” article there. I’m not a member of that group. For me they are a horse with no legs.

  7. Steveo

    Since courts are presided over by flawed humans, they don’t tend to always tend to rule as if lady justice were blind. So, you have a bunch of conservative, strict constitutionalist Supreme court judges appealing to a very flawed report that showed the chance of recidivism was extremely high, and so they used that as an excuse, and the false idea that it was not punitive to force us to register.
    These people on the supreme court aren’t stupid. They knew it was flimsy stuff, but the national attitude was such as the people would have freaked out, and they probably had their own emotional baggage and so they played their logic games and justified the ruling.
    This is one reason why precedents being set in our favor with lesser rulings in the right direction are important, and this campaign of information that has been waged from our side and from people who are on our side is important. It takes time, it takes momentum, and then it will happen. I’d say there will be a major ruling within the next 3 years at the federal level that will be in our favor, if we keep up the pressure. In the meantime, the more states that reject (all or part of their own registration laws the better. This is why bringing all kinds of litigation in every state, and taking multiple angles of attack is all a good thing. The registration monster will have to begin to die of a thousand cuts in states before the most major federal blows can be dealt against it. Swaying public opinion is hard, but the fact that articles informing people of the truth now appear when you do internet searches for terms relating to our issues is important.

  8. Ali

    Question, lets say I serve the full minimum of post 10 years after 5 year probation (15 years total). Can I stop registering with the dps? what difference does it make going through de registration? Does it allow me to get off registry sooner than the minimum?

    • lovewillprevail

      It is my understanding, but take advice from an attorney and not me, that in your example, for the State of Texass the ten years start ticking when the probation is completed. It is also my understanding that at the end of those ten years, your local law enforcement agency will notify dps that your time is expired and you need to be removed. But again, I am not an expert. And I have heard that even if dps is notified, it could another 6-12 months or longer to be off the registry since they are so short staffed and so far behind in removing people. It is my understanding that the de-registration will not allow you off any sooner if the time to register for the state is shorter than the time listed to register under SORNA. In that case you will register the full 10 years.

  9. hostage in texas

    The Texas deregistration scheme is a catch 22. I am required to register life time because my charge was a 1st degree felony. However, i served a 10 year deferred adjudication which states that after successful completion there is no conviction. I am deemed a “low risk” classification. But, the dergistration in Texas is tied to the federal AWA that tiers people according to the charge not risk level. Therefore I would be a tier 3 under the fed classification. Also, Texas is not AWA compliant. I don’t get it. I do not believe there is a clear path to getting off the registry in Texas until a challenge is successfully completed. Maybe this needs some scrutiny from legal experts. Any thoughts?

    • CR

      The Texas lege has made it extremely difficult to deregister, that’s for sure. The topic article makes that clear. I’m sure it is that way by design.

      I am not a legal expert, but I don’t think there could be a legal problem with Texas utilizing Federal SORNA tier classifications in its deregistration laws, despite not being a SORNA-compliant state.

  10. Norman P

    I expect a legal challenge to come regarding Texas not recognizing federal offenders as eligible for deregistration. I was convicted in Dallas federal court on a child porn charge in 2004 and served 51 months with 3 years supervised release. I am now eligible for deregistration by Texas statute, and there is no mention in the statute as to the court of conviction’s location. The Texas section on deregistration is not only unconstitutionally vague, but denial of relief based on state policy is also a violation of due process, equal protection under the law, and denial of redress of grievances. I’m not aware of any legal challenges at the moment, but I’m more than willing to be the first.

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