Submitted by Mary McClure
State Representative Jeff Leach (R-Plano) has filed crucial legislation designed to crack down on the serious sexual offense of voyeurism, most commonly referred to as “peeping,” providing stronger penalties for offenders.
Voyeurism is widely considered by law enforcement to be one of the most common gateway offenses to other sexual crimes, including violent sex crimes, and reports have shown that most voyeurism offenses are committed by repeat offenders. Under current law, the offense is treated as a form of “Disorderly Conduct” and is classified as a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. These offenses are generally not well documented and are not effectively shared by local law enforcement agencies across the state, thus compromising the process of tracking repeat offenders.
Highly endorsed by Texas law enforcement and led by the Texas Municipal Police Association, House Bill 2371 seeks to amend the Texas Penal Code by classifying a voyeurism offense as a Class B Misdemeanor, which is punishable with either probation, a fine not to exceed $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.
As reported in the Dallas Morning News, the recently identified serial rapist in the Lake Highlands (North Texas) area is reported to have a history of voyeurism offenses; one particularly involving a minor in Collin County.
Stated Leach, “After discussing with law enforcement officials the growing trend of voyeurism offenses in our communities, I believe we must address this head-on by creating tougher penalties for offenders and finding more effective ways to reduce repeat offenses. House Bill 2371 goes a long way to address a problem that is proven to lead to violent sexual offenses, revealed most recently by the heinous acts that have taken place in Lake Highlands.”
The legislation is also supported by advocacy groups such as the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County. Dan Powers, Sr. Vice President and Clinical Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Collin County stated, “House Bill 2317 enhances the protection of children and families by identifying potential sex offenders in our community that in the past, have slipped through the cracks.”
Joint Authors of House Bill 2371 include Representative Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), Representative Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola), Representative Stefani Carter (R-Dallas) and Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso).
Representative Leach serves on the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, the House Committee on Urban Affairs, and the House Committee on Rules and Resolutions. Leach represents portions of Plano, Allen, Richardson and Dallas in Collin County.