Thousands of individuals who have committed sex offenses in Missouri will be restored to the state's Sex Offender Registry as a result of a decision by the Missouri Supreme Court. The state's High
Court has ruled that sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement officials, regardless of when they were found guilty of their crimes.
Missouri was one of a number of states who adopted sex offender bills during the 1990's which were commonly referred to as "Megan's Laws." The laws were named after a 7-year old New Jersey girl, Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered by a twice-convicted pedophile who was living in her neighborhood.
Under the provisions of Missouri's "Megan's Law,"
persons convicted of sex crimes must notify local law enforcement authorities of their place of residence, place of work, and the vehicle they drive. The Missouri State Highway Patrol is required, and local law enforcement authorities are authorized, to maintain websites where citizens may
access information about sex offenders who live in their area. The state's sex offender registry took effect on January 1, 1995.
Individuals subject to the law include offenders guilty of such crimes as kidnapping, sexual exploitation of a minor,
possession of child pornography, or the furnishing of pornographic material to minors.
In previous decisions, the Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that those convicted of sex crimes prior to 1995 were not required to register their names and
information. The Supreme Court concluded that such a requirement violated the Missouri Constitution, which prohibits laws from being applied retroactively. As a result, numerous child molesters with prior convictions ended up exempted from the law.
Under a new ruling just issued by the Missouri Supreme Court, sex offenders who were found
guilty prior to January 1, 1995, must now register as well. The state's High Court determined that such individuals were still subject to a federal law known as SORNA (the Sexual Offenders Registration and Notification Act.) SORNA was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2006, and applies to all offenders, regardless of when they were convicted.
State Senator Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau applauded the Missouri Supreme Court ruling. Senator Crowell has worked for the last three years to pass a proposed constitutional amendment which would have applied Missouri's "Megan's Law"
retrospectively. His proposals were not given final passage by the General Assembly.
"[This] ruling [is] a victory for anyone concerned with protecting Missouri's children from sexual predators," Crowell says. "When it comes to sexual offenses, especially against children, 'when' a crime is committed seems irrelevant...What matters is that these sex offenders were convicted and the community deserves to know who and where they are."
In related news, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has announced that 373 Missourians have been removed from the social networking site MySpace, "because their profiles appear to match
those of registered sex offenders." Under an agreement reached with state attorneys general last year, MySpace agreed to delete the profiles of any user it identified as a sex offender.
"We must protect our children from sex offenders, whether children are playing in a playground or on a computer," Koster said. "I will continue to aggressively pursue any avenue sex offenders use to threaten the safety of our children."
Koster has forwarded the names to the Missouri Highway Patrol. The Attorney General has asked the agency to review them to see "if any of the individuals are violating parole by using a computer or attempting to contact minors."