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Phillip Harbin

Other Sex Offender Registration Exonerations
In the summer of 2000, 36-year-old Phillip Harbin was released from a California prison, where he had served sentences for convictions of sexual molestation of children in 1988 and 1994. He then traveled to Lewisville, Texas to live with his brother.

When he arrived, Harbin went to the Lewisville police department to register as a sex offender. Police told him to wait until the department determined whether he was actually required to register. Lewisville police contacted the Texas Department of Public Safety, which oversees the sex offender registry.  Not long after, the Texas Department of Public Safety notified the management at Harbin’s brother’s apartment complex that Harbin was living there. As a result, the manager threatened to evict the family if Harbin was seen on the premises.

Harbin then moved into a hotel in Lewisville and returned to the police department, where he registered with the hotel address. A week later, however, the hotel forced Harbin to leave. He next moved in with his mother and notified Lewisville police, who warned him he would be arrested if he did not register with his mother’s address. Harbin did not want to register his mother’s address because she was living in the same apartment complex as his brother.

As a result, on July 28, 2000, Lewisville police arrested Harbin on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender. After he was released on bond, Harbin moved into a hotel in Plano, Texas and registered with the Plano police department. However, the following day, he was asked to leave the Plano hotel.  He called Plano police and said he was moving in with his mother, who by that time had gotten a new apartment in Dallas.

When Harbin went to the Dallas police department to register, a detective refused to register him because he didn’t have proper Texas identification. The detective said he would register Harbin if he brought documentation from his mother that he was living with her.

When Harbin and his mother returned to the Dallas police department, the detective entered her proof of residence along with Harbin’s California identification information into the computer. The detective said, however, that they needed to return with an affidavit from the apartment manager giving approval for Harbin to reside there. Harbin asked the detective for a receipt acknowledging his appearance and for the records he and his mother submitted, but the detective said he should use the registration receipt he had received from the Plano police department.

The following day, August 11, 2000, officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested Harbin at his mother’s apartment on a charge of failure to provide proper notice of his change of address.

On October 19, 2001, Harbin pled guilty to two second-degree charges of failure to register as a sex offender. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Years later, Harbin filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus.  He contended that the Texas Sex Offender Registration Act did not require him to register at all, and that his defense attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense by advising him to plead guilty without determining that there was no such requirement in his case.

In September 2009, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated his convictions. The Court ruled that a provision of the Texas law provided that any sex offense convictions that had been completed—meaning that the sentence had been served and any period of probation or parole were finished—before September 1, 1997 did not trigger the registration requirement.

The court held that in Harbin’s case, both of his California convictions had been completed. As a result, the court said, at the time Harbin was charged, he “did not have to register for either the 1988 or 1994 offenses.”

On October 16, 2009, the Denton County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges.

Harbin subsequently sought compensation from the state of Texas and was awarded $733,000 and a $3,800 monthly annuity.
– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/3/2017
Most Serious Crime:Sex Offender Registration
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2000
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:36
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No