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Possible Change to Missouri Sex Crime Laws Could Cost State Thousands

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.


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