The state of Texas imposes residency restrictions on probationers and parolees convicted or adjudicated of sexual offenses which prevent certain offenders from living within specific distances of places such as schools, parks, libraries, and day care centers. Unfortunately, many cities and municipalities have enacted their own residency restrictions that continue to restrict where these people may reside after they have served their sentences. Research indicates that residency restrictions are expensive, counterproductive, and cause harm to families. Additionally, entire families are affected by the imposition of residency restrictions, especially the wives and children of people who are required to register.
Because empirical evidence has shown residency restrictions to be ineffective in preventing harm to children and have needlessly burdened, stigmatized, and ostracized entire families, Texas Voices for Reason and Justice is opposed to restrictions regarding where a person required to register may reside.
Press Release from Richard Gladden, Attorney for the Aurelio Duarte Family:
March 27, 2012
Late yesterday afternoon my clients, the Aurelio Duarte Family, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, against the City of Lewisville, Texas. The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the City of Lewisville’s “sex offender residency restriction ordinance,” which it enacted in June of 2008, is unconstitutional. The suit claims that the Lewisville ordinance unconstitutionally “banishes” certain individuals from living in Lewisville, without due process, and in violation of their constitutional right to equal protection under law. The Plaintiffs also claim that the ordinance is an unconstitutional “ex post facto” law, and that enforcement of the ordinance constitutes a successive “punishment” prohibited by the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The city ordinance applies to anyone who is required to register as a sex offender under Texas State law, which usually arises on the basis of an individual’s prior conviction for a reportable sex offense under State law. The ordinance applies even after the individual is no longer on probation or parole for the offense, and even after they have fully discharged their sentences. Indeed, for some individuals the banishment applies for life. More egregious in our view however, is the fact that under the ordinance it is irrelevant whether the person currently poses, or has ever posed, a threat to children or society by reason of any alleged lack of sexual control. Thus, the ordinance does not attempt to justify its enforcement on the basis of any legitimate concern for the safety of the community; rather, the ordinance appears designed to simply prohibit persons, whom the City Council deems undesirable, from living in the City of Lewisville.
The Duarte family (the Plaintiffs), whose members comprise Aurelio Duarte, his wife , his older daughter, and his 13 year old minor daughter, attempted to buy a house in Lewisville when Aurelio was released from prison in June of 2010. Due to the Lewisville ordinance they were prohibited from doing so, and have been forced to live in a motel room for almost two years.
Aurelio’s wife has lived in Lewisville most of her life and the family had lived in Lewisville for several years prior to June of 2007, at which time Aurelio’s probation was revoked and he began his three-year prison term for online solicitation of a minor. The residency restriction ordinance was enacted by Lewisville thereafter (in January 2008) while Aurelio was still serving his prison sentence. We contend the Duarte family holds a constitutional right to reside anywhere in Lewisville they choose, subject only to the restrictions that would otherwise apply to any family. Aurelio paid his debt to society.
The Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages from the City of Lewisville for the violation of their federal constitutional rights; an order from the Court declaring the ordinance unconstitutional; and a permanent injunction prohibiting Lewisville from enforcing the ordinance.
In recent years several other Texas cities have enacted similar residency restriction ordinances. These other cities are now confronted with the very real threat of becoming involved in similar litigation; and, depending on the outcome of the Duarte Family’s suit, those cities may also be held liable, in the near future, for damages incurred by the enforcement of their ordinances.