If Romeo and Juliet were teenage lovers today, and they didn’t drink the poison, one of them might wind up on the state’s sex offender registry. Some state senators who think Romeo would deserve better are hoping to change the law this year.
Here’s a real-life situation: Seventeen-year old boy, fourteen-year old girl. They’re in love. And one thing leads to another. Her divorced mom knows about it. Her divorced dad finds out, demands the prosecutor file a statutory rape charge. Prosecutor knows about young love and consensual non-violent things and the boy winds up pleading to a misdemeanor sexual misconduct charge.
If Missouri voters change the state’s sexual offender law next year, that 17-year old boy, now grown, married,and a responsible citizen, husband, and father, will have to register as a sex offender.
Senator Charlie Shields of St. Joseph thinks the sex offender registry law is so broadly-worded that it can include non-violent people who are guilty of nothing more than teenage backseat passion. He has told the Senate, "When people look at this list it is so meaningless and there are so many names on it and there are so many circumstances…where folks have committed a statutory crime they don’t know who to be scared off and who NOT to be scared of."
Shields and others are looking at a crime bill working its way through the legislature as an opportunity to change the law, so that Romeo doesn’t wind up on the same list as vicious sexual predators just because he and Juliet thought they were really in love years and years ago.