10 Surprising Crimes That Could Make You a Sex Offender in Texas

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

In certain states, 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.

For example, Pennsylvania law (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6301) makes it a crime for an adult (anyone who is 18 years of age or older) to “corrupt the morals of a minor” (anyone who is under the age of 18). What, exactly, is meant by “corrupting the morals” is debatable and has been vigorously contested in court. However, generally speaking, the charge prohibits exposing a minor to anything that offends the common morality, decency and propriety held by most folks in the community. The statute also prohibits an adult from aiding, enticing, or encouraging a minor to commit a crime, violate a court order, or violate parole.

While Texas has no specific minor corruption law, there are many statutes on the books in the Lone Star State prohibiting certain actions with minors and enhancing the penalties for sex offenses involving minors.

2. Incest

In Texas, incest between a parent and a child (even if it is consensual) is a second or third 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.

Examples of incest include having sexual relations with:

  • An ancestor or descendant
  • A current or former stepchild or stepparent
  • A parent’s brother or sister (uncle/aunt)
  • A brother or sister (including half siblings and adopted siblings)
  • The children of the person charged with incest’s brother or sister (nephew/niece)
  • The son or daughter of the person charged with incest’s aunt or uncle (first cousins)

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.

Sec. 25.02. PROHIBITED SEXUAL CONDUCT.

(a)  A person commits an offense if the person engages in sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse with another person the actor knows to be, without regard to legitimacy:

(1)  the actor’s ancestor or descendant by blood or adoption;

(2)  the actor’s current or former stepchild or stepparent;

(3)  the actor’s parent’s brother or sister of the whole or half blood;

(4)  the actor’s brother or sister of the whole or half blood or by adoption;

(5)  the children of the actor’s brother or sister of the whole or half blood or by adoption; or

(6)  the son or daughter of the actor’s aunt or uncle of the whole or half blood or by adoption.

3. Peeing in public

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.

However, while it is possible for a person to be cited as a sex offender for public urination in Texas, this is not generally the outcome. Typically, defendants and their attorneys can get the charges reduced or dropped by arguing that the defendant needed to relieve themselves but no public restrooms were available and that the action was not out of urgency (not with the “intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person”).

Moral of the story:

Think twice before you get drunk and pee in public!

Sec. 21.08.  INDECENT EXPOSURE.  

(a)  A person commits an offense if he exposes his anus or any part of his genitals with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person, and he is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by his act.

Sec. 21.11.  INDECENT EXPOSURE WITH A CHILD.

(a)  A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex and regardless of whether the person knows the age of the child at the time of the offense, the person:

(2)  with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(A)  exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present…

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. That said, Texas does allow an affirmative defense under Romeo & Juliet law to avoid having to register as a sex offender if:

  1. The defendant was not more than 3 years older than the victim and of the opposite sex,
  2. The defendant did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim at the time of the offense; and
  3. At the time of the offense the defendant wasn’t a sex offender (or had a prior conviction or adjudication).

If the defendant was married to the child, this can also be an affirmative defense.

In Texas, the legal age of consent is 17.

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.

Sec. 21.11.  INDECENCY WITH A CHILD. 

(a)  A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years of age, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex and regardless of whether the person knows the age of the child at the time of the offense, the person:

(1)  engages in sexual contact with the child or causes the child to engage in sexual contact; or

(2)  with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:

(A)  exposes the person’s anus or any part of the person’s genitals, knowing the child is present; or

(B)  causes the child to expose the child’s anus or any part of the child’s genitals.

(b)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor:

(1)  was not more than three years older than the victim and of the opposite sex;

(2)  did not use duress, force, or a threat against the victim at the time of the offense;  and

(3)  at the time of the offense:

(A)  was not required under Chapter 62, Code of Criminal Procedure, to register for life as a sex offender;  or

(B)  was not a person who under Chapter 62 had a reportable conviction or adjudication for an offense under this section.

(b-1)  It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the actor was the spouse of the child at the time of the offense.

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, which is a class A misdemeanor, 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.

Sec. 21.07.  PUBLIC LEWDNESS.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly engages in any of the following acts in a public place or, if not in a public place, the person is reckless about whether another is present who will be offended or alarmed by the person’s:

(1) act of sexual intercourse;

(2) act of deviate sexual intercourse; or

(3) act of sexual contact.

6. Sexting a minor (or sending nude images as a teen)

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 misdemeanor charges under the Texas Penal Code.

Sec. 43.261.  ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF CERTAIN VISUAL MATERIAL DEPICTING MINOR.

(b) A person who is a minor commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly:

(1) by electronic means promotes to another minor visual material depicting a minor, including the actor, engaging in sexual conduct, if the actor produced the visual material or knows that another minor produced the visual material; or

(2) possesses in an electronic format visual material depicting another minor engaging in sexual conduct, if the actor produced the visual material or knows that another minor produced the visual material.

7. Soliciting a prostitute

Visiting a prostitute can land you on the sex offender list if you’re caught. “Solicitation,” as it is referred to in the law, is a serious crime that can range in penalties from a class B misdemeanor to a second-degree felony depending on the age of the prostitute. You can still be charged with a sex crime in Texas even if you never actually engaged in sexual behavior with the prostitute.

Likewise, men and women sex workers who are convicted of prostitution can also find themselves on the sex offender registry.

Sec. 43.02.  PROSTITUTION.

(a) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to receive a fee from another to engage in sexual conduct.

(b) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly offers or agrees to pay a fee to another person for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with that person or another.

8. Recording someone without their permission

In Texas, it is a criminal offense to take a video of a person’s “intimate areas”—such as their genitals (naked or clothed), pubic area, anus, buttocks, or female breast—without their knowledge or consent. Such crimes, which commonly happen in changing rooms and bathrooms, are a state jail felony.

Sec. 21.15.  INVASIVE VISUAL RECORDING.

(b) A person commits an offense if, without the other person’s consent and with intent to invade the privacy of the other person, the person:

(1) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of an intimate area of another person if the other person has a reasonable expectation that the intimate area is not subject to public view;

(2) photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another in a bathroom or changing room; or

(3) knowing the character and content of the photograph, recording, broadcast, or transmission, promotes a photograph, recording, broadcast, or transmission described by Subdivision (1) or (2).

9. Promoting intimate visual material without the person’s permission

Any visual material that contains “intimate” subject matter of a person’s naked genitals, pubic area, anus, buttocks, or female nipple is protected under Texas’ privacy laws and therefore cannot be promoted or distributed without their consent. Unlawfully disclosing or promoting such intimate visual material (or threatening to do so) through the Internet, film, photograph, videotape, disk or other physical or online medium that allows an image to be displayed on a computer or other video screen is a state jail felony in Texas.

Sec. 21.16.  UNLAWFUL DISCLOSURE OR PROMOTION OF INTIMATE VISUAL MATERIAL.

(b) A person commits an offense if:

(1) without the effective consent of the depicted person and with the intent to harm that person, the person discloses visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct;

(2) at the time of the disclosure, the person knows or has reason to believe that the visual material was obtained by the person or created under circumstances in which the depicted person had a reasonable expectation that the visual material would remain private;

(3) the disclosure of the visual material causes harm to the depicted person; and

(4) the disclosure of the visual material reveals the identity of the depicted person in any manner, including through:

(A) any accompanying or subsequent information or material related to the visual material; or

(B) information or material provided by a third party in response to the disclosure of the visual material.

(c) A person commits an offense if the person intentionally threatens to disclose, without the consent of the depicted person, visual material depicting another person with the person’s intimate parts exposed or engaged in sexual conduct and the actor makes the threat to obtain a benefit:

(1) in return for not making the disclosure; or

(2) in connection with the threatened disclosure.

(d) A person commits an offense if, knowing the character and content of the visual material, the person promotes visual material described by Subsection (b) on an Internet website or other forum for publication that is owned or operated by the person.

10. Being a “peeping Tom”

Lastly, Texas and many other states prohibit “peeping Tom” and voyeuristic behavior by making it against the law to observe someone without their consent for sexual gratification while they are in their home or any other place where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Sec. 21.17.  VOYEURISM. 

(a) A person commits an offense if the person, with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the actor, observes another person without the other person’s consent while the other person is in a dwelling or structure in which the other person has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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
  • Prostitution

It’s no surprise that committing a sex crime is serious and merits a serious penalty. If you or a loved one are facing a sex crime and need the assistance of an attorney, contact Matt Sharp today for legal advice.

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