This gives me hope that sanity is returning to America in these matters. Hugs
JEFFERSON CITY – The Missouri House is sending a bill to the Senate that could drastically cut back the state’s sex offender registry rolls.
After giving initial approval Tuesday night, the chamber took a second vote on the issue this afternoon, advancing it to the other chamber.
House Bill 1700 received near unanimous and overwhelmingly bi-partisan support in the Republican-controlled House.
The legislation would eliminate mandatory sex offender registry for some crimes including promoting obscenity, and it would create a way for sex offenders to come off the list early based on the severity of offenses.
Representatives from both the Republican and Democratic parties say the bill is an attempt to trim back what they see as the state’s far-reaching sex offender registry laws.
Currently, Missouri has more than 12,000 people on its sex offender registry. Crimes range from extreme rape cases to consensual sex with minors. The new law could cut as many as 5,000 people in its first year and 1,000 people each year after, according to a fiscal study.
Rep. Rodney Schad, R-Versailles, argued that public opinion has pushed the registry too far – adding people who are not threats to society – so that it’s no longer effective.
“The public has become numb to the registry,” he said.
The legislation would allow a sex offender to petition the court to remove his or her name from the sex offender registry after 10 years for most offenses and 20 years for cases that are more extreme.
Schad said that the bill will help offenders re-assimilate. Nearly 56 percent of those on the state’s sex offender registry say they are unemployed. Schad said it’s difficult for them because employers can find out about their previous crimes so easily.
“I believe in second chances,” Schad said. “They just want to become productive citizens againi.”
He said he believes that the people who meet the new requirements will not become threats to society.
Anyone who wants to be removed from the registry would have to petition the prosecuting attorney in his or her county of conviction. He or she would have to prove that he/she has met all requirements and has not had any new offenses.
Lawmakers said some groups have opposed the changes, while others appear to be on board.
Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, said he worries that adults continue to be punished because of things they did as adolescents – particularly so-called “Romeo and Juliet” cases where one teen is engaged in a sexual relationship with another teen.
“They’ve done silly things in their youth,” he said. “This bill will correct that problem.”
Nearly all supporters agree that people who pose a danger to children will still fall under the state’s sex offender registry laws.
Several lawmakers testified that they think child predators are likely to re-offend before the 10- or 20-year waiting period.
But some have argued that Missouri could become a haven for sexual predators looking to get away from registries in other states.
Rep. Nick Marshall, R-Platte City, offered a failed amendment that would have extended the waiting period for sex offenders from other states.
“We do not want Missouri to become a destination state for sex offenders,” he said.
Others argued that offenders would be more likely to conceal their statuses if they were not open to such limits.
In the end, it appears that the Senate and, ultimately, Gov. Jay Nixon will decide the issue with the House on board.