The Texas Legislature provides a legal process to remove sex offenders from its public registry. Often, registered persons are required to register for many years — sometimes, for their lifetime. This punishment continues even though the person has fully paid his or her debt to society through the completion of treatment, supervision, or a term in prison.
Texas’s registry for convicted individuals was instituted in 1991. In 1993, Texas expanded the registry to include individuals who were not convicted but rather received deferred adjudication.
Since then, we’ve learned that the registry does not serve its intended purpose of keeping the public safe. In fact, we now know that the registry may have a paradoxical effect, increasing individuals’ risk for new offenses. We also know that the registry creates undue hardships on individuals who are working hard to reintegrate successfully with their families and their communities. In short, the registry may only serve to cause problems for the community and registrants.
Please note: my law practice is statewide and I can usually schedule an appointment for you with me and an LSOTP in every metropolitan area in Texas, such as Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and El Paso.
A person seeking to de-register is essentially seeking a court order granting the registrant early termination of their obligation to register on The Texas Public Sex Offender Registry.
By law, deregistration is available to registrants with an eligible offense. A lawyer can help you decide if your offense is eligible to ask for deregistration. The Texas Department of Safety maintains a color-coded pdf chart of eligible offenses. This link will open the pdf in a new tab.
If you do not qualify for deregistration, you may be eligible to petition for a risk level reduction which has several benefits.go to reduction information
First, you do not need a lawyer to complete the application, but you may find one helpful, particularly as you gather the necessary documents.
An application packet consists of a checklist to determine initial eligibility, a $50 fee, and supporting documents, such as the order of conviction or adjudication, the indictment, fingerprint-based criminal history check, and, if a minor was involved, proof of the minor’s age at the time of the offense.
Second, the application will be reviewed and hopefully approved by The Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment.
Third, if the application is approved, the registrant must schedule an evaluation with a deregistration evaluation specialist. There are only 22 specialists in Texas. My office has a deregistration evaluation specialist available every week in Plano.
The deregistration evaluation consists of an interview with the specialist and testing. The tests are either performed on a computer or with paper and pen.
Fourth, if the specialist concludes that a registrant is not high risk for reoffending, then the registrant will be allowed to petition the court for early termination from registration. The registrant must file the petition or motion in the court in which they were convicted.
Finally, if the court grants the petition and orders the registrant be released from the obligation to register, the court will send the order to The Texas Department of Public Safety which will then remove the registrant from the registry.
The Texas Council on Sex Offender Treatment has provided a step-by-step guide in pdf that also outlines each of the steps. This link will open the pdf in a new tab.
In a perfect world, the process from beginning to end could be anywhere from a few weeks to just a few months. The process is highly fact- and human-dependent. At each step there are documents to gather, appointments to be made for fingerprinting and evaluation, and time for Council and court review.
No one can guarantee you how long the process will take once the application is out of their hands and in queue for Council and/or court review. Further, since there are only 22 sex offender deregistration evaluation specialists, it is anyone’s guess when the next available appointment will be. However, Shellie Stephens PC has a deregistration evaluation specialist in the office every week in Plano, conveniently located at US 75 and Park, making the process much smoother and potentially much faster.
The public sex offender registry is a catastrophic failure. The registry has never achieved its goal of promoting public safety and researchers now understand that it never will. The registry is publicly available to search, but the details of each case do not represent the specific facts of each case.
The primary benefit of deregistration is that the person is no longer a registered sex offender. This fact alone may open up job and housing possibilities for the former registrant.
Deregistration removes a person from the public notification system and the person no longer has a duty to report or register. For some registrants, every move they make is preceded with postcards mailed to the neighborhood and schools alerting them that a registered sex offender lives there. This one act can destroy any chance a registrant and their family had to integrate into the neighborhood — make friends, plan their children’s playdates, or use the local grapevine to find meaningful work.
Significantly, state courts have said that laws affecting registered sex offenders (such as a new duty to register for a previously excluded offense) are constitutional. Deregistration frees former registrants from the fear that a legislature will post a retroactive law limiting their constitutional rights.
The deregistration evaluation specialist will conduct testing and an interview to assess the registrant’s risk levels for general criminality, future sex offending, future non-sexual crimes, or future violent crimes. Only individuals who are judged low or moderate risk are eligible for consideration for deregistration.
In the interview you will discuss the reportable offense and your offense history. You can expect to discuss your behavioral history and any treatment you have participated in. If you have received treatment, you should be prepared to discuss what you have learned since the offense.