(St.Joseph,MO) A new piece of legislation could soon reduce the number of registered sex offenders in Missouri.
According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Sex Offender Registry, Missouri is currently home to 19,365 sex offenders, but after a new law goes into effect later this month, that total could sharply decline. Governor Parson signed Senate Bill 655 in July, allowing for the restructuring of Missouri’s Sex Offender Registry.
Sergeant Jake Angle of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop H said the change will put sex offenders into three different categories instead of grouping all offenders together.
"It's going to be a three tiered system, to where offenders of less serious sex offense crimes would be placed on different points on that list," Angle said.
Offenders will be classified based on the heinousness of the crime committed and placed on a three tiered system with crimes ranging in severity from public urination to child molestation.
The new system will not change the legal requirements for convicted offenders. All sex offenders will still be legally required register with the state within three days of being convicted or being released from prison. Offenders are also still required to remain over 1,000 feet from a school and submit to check-ins from local law enforcement.
"Each one of those tiers has specific requirements as far as what the registry length is and how long they are require to be on the registration and all those things," Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett said.
First tier, non-violent offenders would be eligible to petition the courts to be removed from the registry after 10 years. Second tier offenders would have to wait 25 years before requesting their removal, but third tier offenders will remain on the registry indefinitely.
"Under the new system there would be opportunities for lower level offenders to eventually be removed from the list. It could possibly make the sex offenders list a little less cumbersome," Angle said.
The new system could potentially clear low level offenders from the state registry, but it also requires registered sex offenders to check in with law enforcement more frequently to keep their information up to date.
“Under the new law they’re going to have to check in periodically to updates their information,” Angle said. "We don't want any of these offenders to fall through the cracks. I think under this new system it would be an opportunity for that to be updated, they (offenders) would be required to update their information so that they can be able to be kept track of better.”
Level three offenders are required to check in with local law enforcement every three months; level two offenders are required to update their information every six months and level one offenders are required to visit law enforcement annually. First tier offenders that do not check in with law enforcement could be bumped up to a higher level and potentially lose their ability to petition the courts to remove their names from the registry.
The new law also eliminates the statute of limitations for crimes committed against children.Puett said this legislation will allow child victims to take legal action long after the incident.
“This gives prosecution the ability to prosecute and deal with suspects in sexual assault cases that somehow have had control or manipulation over the victim and the victim is finally able to disclose and talk about that,” Puett said. "These crimes are very significant, very heinous, very intimidating for juvenile victims. Sometimes it takes them a while to come forward and disclose those offenses. This is a good thing, it allows for people who sexually assault, sexually abuse children to always be held accountable."
The new system for classifying Missouri sex offenders will take effect August 28.