What are the Different Risk Levels of Sex Offenders in Texas?
Learn what risk levels mean for sex offenders in the Lone Star State
If you or a family member has been convicted of a sex crime, or if you face possible conviction for a sexual assault or other sex offense, you should know that Texas law sets different risk levels for sex offenders for identifying purposes after their release from prison.
What are these different levels, and what do they mean?
We’ll explain below.
Risk levels are part of sex offender registration
First, you should know that assigning a risk level is part of the sex offender registration (SOR) process, which many individuals must follow as part of their punishment for a sex offense.
After release from prison upon serving a sentence for a sex offense, or perhaps after being released from a mental health facility for such an offense, many persons must register as a sex offender in their community in order to make that status and their presence known.
Part of that registration process includes identifying a risk level. This risk level is designed to alert members of the community about the degree of risk or danger to the community posed by the sex offender.
Types of risk levels for Texas sex offenders
The risk levels for Texas sex offenders are:
Level 1-Low Risk
This risk level signifies that the offender is considered to pose a low threat to the community in terms of engaging in further criminal sexual conduct.
Level 2-Moderate Risk
This risk level signifies that the offender poses a moderate risk to the community and again may engage in criminal sexual conduct.
Level 3-High Risk
This risk level indicates that the offender poses a serious threat to the community and will engage in further criminal sexual conduct.
Such offenders are repeat sexually violent offenders who have a behavioral abnormality making them likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. They are committed for outpatient treatment and supervision, and are closely monitored by law enforcement.
How long is a sex offender assigned a risk level?
Individuals found to be sexual predators are required to remain on the Texas Sex Offender Registry for life, as is anyone found to be a sexually violent offender or a predicate sex offender. (A predicate sex offender is someone who has been convicted previously of another sex offense.)
All others are required to register as sex offenders for 10 years. But the 10-year period doesn’t begin until after the person’s release from prison.
How are sex offender risk levels assigned?
The level of risk assigned to a sex offender is determined by a court, the Texas Youth Commission or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, depending on the crime and its circumstances. Those entities make the decision based on criteria set forth by the Risk Assessment Review Committee established by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
That committee has created a sex offender screening tool for assessing the risk level of a person required to register as a sex offender. Using that screening tool, the court, the Texas Youth Commission or the Texas Department of Criminal Justice determines the offender’s level of risk to the community.
The risk level then is entered into the offender’s profile as part of their Texas sex offender registration process. Sex crime offenders who are released from a penal institution and required to register as a sex offender are assigned such risk levels.
Are there exceptions to sex offender risk level assessment?
In some cases, the risk level is indicated as “Not Available,” such as when the offender’s risk level has not yet been reported to the TxDPS or if, for some reason, the offender isn’t required to have a risk assessment.
How are risk levels revealed?
As for how such risk levels are revealed, since they are part of the sex offender registration process, they can be accessed by anyone using the Texas Public Sex Offender Website provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS).
There, interested persons can search the sex offender registry to learn about sex offenders in their community. That’s because there is open public access to sex offender registration information. That information can be downloaded from the TxDPS database and printed out by individuals on their personal computer.
As the TxDPS states: “This information is reported, collected, and disseminated pursuant to Chapter 62, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.” Beyond that, all states are required to provide information for the public on their registered sex offenders. That is due to a 1996 federal law known as Megan’s Law.
For their part, when a sex offender is released from prison, the offender must report to local criminal justice agencies such as the police or a sheriff’s department, where they will register as a sex offender. Those agencies collect and submit that information to the TxDPS, which is the state of Texas’ official designated repository for SOR information.
Sex offenders who were convicted in another state and then move to Texas are required to register as a sex offender in Texas.
What sex crimes require sex offender registration?
As for what sex crimes require that a person register as a sex offender, these include (but are not limited to):
- Aggravated sexual assault of a child
- Indecency with a child (exposure)
- Indecency with a child (contact)
- Possession of child pornography
- Sexual assault
- Sexual assault of a child
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault of someone 65 or older
- Aggravated kidnapping with the intent to abuse of violate a victim sexually
- Compelling prostitution
- Indecent exposure (second conviction)
- Prohibited sexual conduct (incest)
- Promotion of child pornography
- Sexual performance of a child, induced or authorized
The risk levels assigned to these crimes for SOR procedures vary, but many are felonies and require a Level 3 risk designation.
Contact a veteran Texas sex crime defense attorney
In view of the punishments for sex crimes in Texas, persons facing a criminal charge for a sex offense should consult an experienced sex crime defense attorney.
Also, keep in mind that a sex crime defense lawyer can seek deregistration of sex offenders in Texas. Though this isn’t possible for violent sex crimes, it may be possible for online solicitation of a minor, indecent exposure, child pornography and indecency with a child 13 to 17 years old.
As you can see, there are not only different risk levels of sex offenders, but different punishments and penalties depending on the situation. A skilled and knowledgeable sex crime defense lawyer can fight for the legal rights of the accused.