As mentioned in last week's blog, there has been a storm of debate
and controversy over a recently vetoed bill that proposed significant
changes to Missouri sex crime laws. House Bill 301 – the official name for the legislation –
pushed for changes to current state laws requiring convicted sex offenders
to have their information displayed publicly on the Missouri sex offender
registry website. HB 301 had a few prominent points:
- Juvenile sex offenders under the age of 18 would be removed from the registry.
- Adult offenders who were convicted of a sex offense as a juvenile would
also be eligible to be removed from the registry five years after a conviction
or a release from prison.
Opinions on HB 301 vary intensely. While the legislation passed the House
and Senate with strong support (153-0 in the House and 28-4 in the Senate)
others remain aggressively opposed – including Missouri Governor
Jay Nixon. Governor Nixon vetoed the bill earlier this year, stating that
it would present a danger to the public to remove sex offenders from the
registry and that the bill failed to distinguish the difference between
violent and non-violent sex crimes. Legislators will consider an override
of Governor Nixon's veto when they reconvene in September.
What is at stake?
What hangs in the balance with the passing of HB 301 is actually much more
than public safety and the roughly 870 sex offenders who could potentially
be removed from the registry; it involves money. As it has recently come
to light from the U.S. Department of Justice, Missouri's proposed
change to sex crime laws could potentially cost the state as much as 10
percent of federal funding.
Currently, the Missouri Department of Public Safety receives a large subsidy
from the United States federal government. This year alone, Missouri received
approximately $4.4 million dollars in funding under the Justice Assistance
Grant Program. These funds were distributed by the state Department of
Public Safety and covered far more than the enforcement of
sex crime laws. According to the department's website, the grant was used to
fund drug and gang task forces, drug rehabilitation and crime prevention
programs, technology, and witness protection.
The problem with funding and the new law is that HB 301 violates a federal
law that requires states to comply with national standards for sex offender
registries. If legislators choose to override Governor Nixon's veto
and pass the bill, Missouri will be in violation of the federal Sex Offender
Registration and Notification Act, which requires all U.S. states to include
the name of sex offenders age 14 and older on public registries. Violations
can subject the state to a 10 percent cut of their Justice Assistance Grant.
The amount of money Missouri receives under the grant program varies from
year to year, but annually, the state has averaged more than $5 million
in the past nine years. If HB 301 were to pass, it could potentially cost
the state of Missouri more than $400,000 in federal funding.
While there is still much to consider about the impact HB 301 will have
on juvenile sex offenders, Missouri citizens, and the state's Department
of Public Safety, there is still no denying the fact that anyone accused
of a sex crime in Missouri faces harsh consequences. At The Hammer Law
Firm, LLC, our Missouri sex crime lawyers have accumulated extensive experience
in representing the criminally accused. If you would like to discuss your
case and defense, request a
free case evaluation with a St. Louis sex crime attorney today.