When most people think of the National Sex Offender Registry, visions of violent sexual assault and the abuse of children are typically the first thoughts that come to mind. However, there are other actions that could land you on the sex offender list that you may not have thought possible.
Being on the sex offender list can have life-long implications for those involved and many of the violations don’t involve other people at all.
Most of the crimes that carry the penalty to register for the sex offender registry seem obvious; however, there are some crimes that you may think are harmless that can actually carry a lasting penalty.
1. Allowing a child to view pornography
If a child who is under your charge is able to view pornography, you could find yourself charged with the corruption of a minor and required to register as a sex offender. This could occur from something as simple as forgetting to close out your computer’s browser window, leaving out pornographic material or leaving pornography up on your television.
In Texas, incest between a parent and a child is a second-degree felony, a crime punishable by an up to 20-year prison sentence and registering as a sex offender. Furthermore, incest is defined as sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with a family member who is either family by blood or adoption.
Other instances of incest include:
- An ancestor or descendant
- A current or former stepchild or stepparent
- A parent’s brother or sister
- A brother or sister
- The children of the person charged with incest’s brother or sister
- The son or daughter of the person charged with incest’s aunt or uncle
Acts of incest within these covered situations carry a penalty of between 2 and 10 years in prison, a fine and registering as a sex offender.
3. Indecent exposure
Indecent exposure is defined as the act of exposing one’s private parts to another person for the purpose of sexual gratification. When children could witness the act, it increases the likelihood of the charge becoming more severe. Examples of indecent exposure could include public urination, flashing your breasts or streaking.
At least 13 states, Texas included, have precedents to require those who urinate in public to register on the sex offender list. Texas is 1 of 2 states that only require this if the urination occurred in front of a child.
Moral of the story:
Think twice before you get drunk and pee in public!
4. Minor sex acts—even if consensual
In most instances, having sex with someone who is under the age of 18 is a crime in Texas. This includes even when teenagers consensually have sex.
Twenty-nine states require consenting sexual partners under the age of 18 to register as sex offenders. Additionally, this extends to teens who have parental consent as well.
Parents who allow their child to have consensual sex with their partner under their roof could be required to register as a sex offender.
5. Public lewdness
Having sex in public is a quick way to end up on the sex offender registry. Even if the sex between you and your partner is consensual, having sex in a public place can result in both of you being charged with public indecency and require you to register as a sex offender.
Likewise, public lewdness also extends to any type of sexual act, like public masturbation or displaying pornography.
6. Sexting a minor
By definition, sexting is the act of forwarding, receiving or sending messages that are of a sexual nature (including images, photographs or text) via mobile phones or digital devices. With the exception of receiving unsolicited or accidental nude photographs, sexting typically occurs between consenting individuals.
In the case of adults, sexting isn’t a crime; however, minors who take nude photos of themselves can be (and have been) charged with child pornography and find themselves on the sex offender registry.
Furthermore, minors who distribute nude photos—even of themselves—could face felony charges under the Texas Penal Code.
7. Soliciting a prostitute
Visiting a prostitute can land you on the sex offender list if you’re caught. Likewise, men and women sex workers who are convicted of prostitution can also find themselves on the sex offender registry.
Texas sex offender registry time periods
The length of time you’re required to be on the sex offender list varies depending on the severity of the crime committed.
Lifetime registry requirement
There are some offenses that carry a penalty of being on the Texas sex offender registry for life. Most sexual crimes involving children—including continual sexual abuse (if the abuse occurs 2 times or more in a 30-day period or if more than 1 child is involved), child pornography and indecency by contact require registering as a sex offender for life.
Other lifetime sex registry crimes include:
- Aggravated kidnapping and burglary
- Human trafficking and prostitution
- The act of being someone’s pimp
- Sexual assault/ aggravated sexual assault
- Unlawful imprisonment (involving a sex crime)
10-year registry requirement
While still serious crimes, some sex crimes are not as severe and only require those who commit them to register for the sex offender registry for a span of 10 years. These crimes include:
- Indecency with a child
- Unlawful imprisonment (not involving a sex crime but the victim is under 17)
- Soliciting a minor online
- Attempt (and conspiracy) to commit a sex crime