Joint Resolution to expand state sex offender registry passes Senate
From Missouri Digital News: https://mdn.org
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed

Print

MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed

Print

MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

Joint Resolution to expand state sex offender registry passes Senate

Date: April 2, 2009
By: Rebecca Beitsch
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SJR 3

JEFFERSON CITY - Nearly 5,000 sex offenders would be added to the sex-offender registry under a constitutional amendment approved by the Missouri Senate Thursday.

Under the resolution, 4,800 Missouri sex offenders who committed crimes before 1995 would be added to the registry. Current state law, including those that keep sex offenders away from schools and day care centers is dictated by Megan's Law, which was passed by the U.S. legislature in 1995.

Currently, sex offenders who committed crimes before Jan. 1, 1995, are not required to register their address with state authorities and have no stipulations over where they can live.

The resolution received wide support in the Senate with a vote of 32-1, but it did spark an intense debate, not just over the type of sex offenders included in the registry, but also over Senate Republican leadership.

Some senators said they were concerned of the so-called "Romeo and Juliet situation" where a teenager could be convicted of statutory rape, even if engaging in consensual sex with someone close in age.

Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, spoke of a 17-year-old boy convicted of statutory rape after having consensual sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. According to the senator, one parent of the 14-year-old girl turned the boy in as leverage against the other parent.

People like this, Shields said, are not a threat to other citizens and should not be on the list now or added to the list should the resolution pass.

"It's watered down," Shields said. "When people look at this list it is so meaningless because it has so many names on it. And there are so many circumstances as I described where folks have committed a statutory crime. They don't know who to be scared of and who not to be scared of." 

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, wanted to define ages that would be excluded from the registry. "So you really want, you're trying to capture that 17 and under year old male, right? And you are also trying to capture post-pubescent females, and that's very important," Bartle said.

Bartle suggested the age for post-pubescent females start at age 14.

Debate became especially tense when Shields hinted at filibustering. The resolution's sponsor -- Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau -- then went into a long speech criticizing Shields, who is the Senate's president pro tem, for wielding too much power. "What has driven me to be upset is your audacity to take the floor and in a sanctimonious tone say 'I never delay a bill.' You kill bills all the time around here. Let's be real," Crowell said.

"I just have to work harder than you," Crowell continued. "There's no difference between us other than I'm a manual laborer; you're an executive."

At the close of debate, Shields voted for the resolution, which now goes to the House.  If approved by the legislature, it would take statewide voter approval to become part of Missouri's constitution.