Texas Supreme Court Upholds General Law Sex Offender Residency Restrictions
Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court upheld a general law city’s sex offender ordinance that complies with House Bill 1111, passed in 2017. The case is styled City of Krum v. Taylor Rice.
In 2014, Rice pled guilty to sexual assault of a fourteen-year-old. Rice agreed to deferred adjudication, the terms of which barred him from going “within 1,000 feet of a premise where children commonly gather, including a…playground,” until 2024.
Rice also had to register as a sex offender. At the time, the City of Krum had in place a sex offender residency restrictions ordinance (SORRO) prohibiting registered sex offenders who had committed violations involving minors under the age of sixteen from residing “within 2,000 feet of any premises where children commonly gather.”
Rice challenged the city’s ordinance, alleging that general law cities had no authority to enact a SORRO, largely based on a March 2007 opinion from the Texas attorney general’s office. He claimed that, because they are incorporated under the general laws, and no general law expressly delegates the authority to enact a sex offender residency restriction ordinance, the defendant cities are not authorized to enact one.
While the lawsuit was pending, the Texas Legislature passed H.B. 1111, a TML priority bill. The bill’s effective date was September 1, 2017, and it effectively overruled the attorney general’s opinion. Among other things, the bill caps the distance of any SORRO at 1,000 feet and requires an exemption for persons who established residence within a restricted zone before the effective date of the relevant ordinance. After the bill’s effective date, Krum passed an amended SORRO that complies with its requirements. The amended ordinance prohibits registered sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a “child safety zone.”
The court held that Rice’s challenge to the SORRO is moot in light of H.B. 1111 because the bill clearly empowers general law cities to enact ordinances that limit the movements of sex offenders. Rice filed a motion for rehearing, which is pending.