HG.ORG Legal Resources; Patrick McClain; Date Unknown
In its recent decision in the case of U.S. v. Comstock, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal statute allowing the indefinite detention of those the statute refers to as sexually dangerous predators.
Securing civil commitment after a sexual offender has completed his prison term does have limits, and ultimately this law will apply to only a very small subset of those convicted of sex crimes. Yet, it is another example of the ever-growing range of penalties that can impact someone convicted of a sex crime long after he has served his prison term.
There is little public disagreement that such administrative penalties are appropriate when applied to the most dangerous predatory sex offenders. Unfortunately, those convicted of relatively minor sex crimes may face many of the same mandatory sex offender registration and lifetime restrictions as those convicted of more serious crimes. In some cases, a youthful mistake could mean an unfair and irreversible penalty.
Consequences of Being a Sex Offender
Several of the more traditional penalties imposed on sex offenders, such as length of sentence or the restrictions on availability of early parole, vary considerably based on the seriousness of the conviction. For example, an offender convicted of a violent sexual assault will likely be sentenced to a longer prison term than an offender charged with indecent exposure in front of a child.
However, even for those offenders who receive relatively light sentences, conviction of a sex crime comes with mandatory sex offender registration. Most sex offenses require lifetime registration, although a few, such as attempted sexual assault, only require registration for 10 years following discharge from state supervision.
In Texas, registration is even required for defendants in sex crime cases who receive deferred adjudication, in which is a conviction can be avoided and charges will be dismissed if a probation period is successfully completed. That means someone who never sees the inside of a cell and does not have a conviction could nonetheless wind up on the Texas sex offender registry.
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