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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Upholds Conviction for Contacting Victim

On April 27, 2016, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction of a Texas state prisoner for Improper Contact with a Victim.

David Schlittler was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of his five-year-old stepdaughter. He was placed on deferred adjudication community supervision but violated its terms and was subsequently adjudicated and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. While a prisoner, he had a third party use a social media website to relay messages to and from his son, the half-brother of his victim, who was living with their mother. The mother became aware of the communication and alerted prison officials.

Texas Penal Code Section 38.111 prohibits prisoners convicted of certain sex offenses against minors from contacting the victim or minor members of the victim's family. Schlittler was convicted of violating Section 38.111 and appealed. The court of appeals affirmed and Schlittler sought discretionary review in the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) alleging the statute was unconstitutional in that it interfered in his liberty interest in the care, custody and management of his son in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights.

The CCA held that Schlittler had no liberty interest in contacting his son as he was permanently enjoined from such contact by a separate family-court order previously issued in an action to modify the parent-child relationship. Thus, he could not raise a due process challenge.

The court also held that Schlittler's equal protection rights were not violated on the grounds that Section 38.111 applied only to sex offenders and not other violent offenders because sex offenders were not a suspect classification and the statute does not infringe on a protected liberty interest under the facts of this case. Therefore, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed. See: Schlittler v. State, Tex. Crim. App., No. PD-1505-14.

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Related legal case

Schlittler v. State