Missouri has about 19,300 people listed on its sex offender registry. That figure is expected to decline soon because of a law taking effect this month. St. Charles Republican State Rep. Kurt Bahr, who sponsored the provisions included in a Senate bill, tells Missourinet the changes will show three levels of sex offenders, instead of one, depending on the severity of the crime committed.
“My goal wasn’t to recreate the wheel. It was simply to make sure that we are fully compliant with the federal law that is fully established and to make sure we have a clean and clear process that everybody knew and understood,” Bahr says. “We don’t necessarily need to be punishing people for an entire life because they happen to be peeing in public and got charged with indecent exposure. With everything, there has to be balance. I thought that adopting the federal law was the best balance we could do today.”
Under the new law, first-level offenders can ask to get off the list after ten years and second-level offenders could petition the court to be removed after 25 years. Level three offenders will remain on the registry. The individuals on the list must petition the court in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
“The research has been pretty clear that a tier one offender who does not reoffend after ten years is statistically no more likely to commit a crime than any other general member of the population,” he says. “That’s not to say they won’t commit a crime, but they’re not any more likely to do so than, say your neighbor. By allowing some of these non-violent offenders a chance to behave and not reoffend and have a chance to be removed from the list, we give them a good incentive to, in fact, clean up their life.”
According to Bahr, sex offenders currently on the list must confirm their contact information with law enforcement four times a year.
Under the new law, level three offenders must check in quarterly. Level two offenders will be required to update their information every six months. Tier one offenders will have to visit law enforcement annually.
“That creates a little less burden on the local law enforcement agency so that they’re not spending all their time on these guys who are typically lower-threat people and they have more time to focus on the tier three offenders,” he says.
Under the new law, a level one offender who does not maintain their check-in requirements with law enforcement, the move could bump the person to a level two offender.
Bahr, who is in his eighth and final year in the Missouri House, says giving lower-level sex offenders a chance to get off the registry will make the list more effective.
“The purpose of the list, when it was created, was supposed to be a tool for public safety. If the list becomes too large, the tool becomes less effective. I’m trying to make sure that the tool is able to achieve its intended goal, as opposed to simply becoming wide enough to catch a lot of people whose crimes are sexual in nature but aren’t necessarily violent in nature.”
There could be an influx of lower-level sex offenders who request to be removed from the registry soon, but the process is expected to eventually simmer down.
The provisions are included in Senate Bill 655. The law takes effect on Aug. 28.
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