State representative Jeff Leach, R-Plano, listens to colleagues during the final weekend of sessions for the 83rd Texas legislature at the State Capitol in Austin on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)
The following article was written by Marissa Barnett and published by the Dallas Morning News on May 11, 2015.
AUSTINâ€”House lawmakers moved Monday to make voyeurism a separate crime and add stricter penalties in an effort to better identify potential, high-risk offenders.
Currently, voyeuristic behavior, such as spying on a person in assumed private situations, isÂ classified as â€śdisorderly conductâ€ť and punishable by an up to $500 fine.
But supporters of relabeling such offenses as â€śvoyeurismâ€ť and upping certain penalties say the change would improve law enforcementâ€™s ability to quickly identify sexual predators. Voyeurism is considered by law enforcement as a â€śgatewayâ€ť to other sexual offenses and potential offenders could be earlier detected with a separate charge, said Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, who sponsored the bill.
â€śAs the law reads now, thereâ€™s no incentive for voyeur offendersâ€ť to stop because thereâ€™s minimal punishment, Leach said.
As proposed, a third conviction would land a â€śvoyeurâ€ť up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The legislation defines â€śvoyeurismâ€ť as a person who observes another person in a situation deemed private with the â€śintent to arouse or gratifyâ€ť sexual desire.
Leach proposed similar legislation last session but it stalled in the Senate. If the bill gets final approval Tuesday, it heads to the Senate.