Missouri Sex Offender Laws
The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center can assist with sex offense cases in Missouri state court, including:
- Sexual assault
- Child Molestation
- Sexual Contact
- Child pornography
Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney
Published: December 6. 2019.
Updated: December 6. 2019.
Missouri Sex Offender Laws
This state does not take sex offenses lightly. MO sex offender laws are designed to permanently affect the lives of those convicted, and being designated as an offender carries serious social stigmas and legal burdens that are certain to negatively impact the offender’s life.
Most sex offender laws in the United States, including offender laws in MO, were created in the 1980s and 1990s in response to a number of federal and state laws, including:
- The Jacob Wetterling Act, which mandated a sex offender registry in every state
- Megan’s Law, which allowed states to make these offender registries publicly available
- The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking Law, which required an offender to remain registered for life and allowed law enforcement officials to track offenders
- The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, which enhanced national standards regarding this kind of state offender registries
If you have been charged with or accused of committing a sex offense in the state of Missouri, the stakes are high. Your best course of action would be to immediately contact an attorney who is highly experienced with these type of cases, such as those at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center.
Missouri Sex Offender Registration Crimes
Under the state of MO sex offender laws, every person convicted of a specific sex crime is required to register as a sex offender. Missouri Law Offenses Requiring Registration (589.400) lists the below stated offenses:
- Sexual exploitation of a child
- Promoting child pornography in the first and second degrees
- Publicly displaying explicit sexual material
- Coercion of others to accept obscene material
- Possession of child pornography
- Promoting prostitution offenses in the first, second, and third degrees
- Promotion of obscenity in the first degree
- Promotion of pornography for underage persons or second-degree obscenity
- Using children in a sexual performance
- Promotion of a sexual performance by a child
- Kidnapping a child by a non-parent or guardian under Section 565.110, RSMo
- Sexually endangering child welfare
- Felony restraint of a child by a non-parent or guardian
- Sexual relations or sexual contact with a nursing home resident
- Genital mutilation of a female child
- Furnishing pornographic material to minors
Missouri Sex Offenders Registration: Rights and Responsibilities
Under MO laws, sex crimes, like other violent crimes, carry serious penalties. Anyone who is convicted of a sex crime could face incarceration, substantial fines, and/or probation. Furthermore, some defendants who are convicted of these crimes are also required to register as sex offenders.
Here’s what you need to know about the sex offender registration in Missouri:
Who is Required to Register?
Registration as a sex offender is required for anyone who has pled guilty or been found guilty and convicted of a number of crimes, including rape, child molestation, sexual misconduct, kidnapping a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, possession of child pornography, sexual abuse of a child, and many more. Those who pled guilty or no contest to these crimes are also required to register as offenders.
When Sex Offenders Must Register?
If you are required to register as a sex offender, it’s important to do so right away. MO sex offender laws require offenders to register within three days following a conviction or release from jail or prison. Additionally, offenders who are from out-of-state must register in Missouri within three days of moving here.
What Information Do Sex Offenders Need to Submit?
Sex offenders cannot register over the phone or online. They must meet face-to-face with the sheriff department or chief law enforcement official (sheriff) of the county where the sex offender resides. The deputy sheriff will ask for basic information such as the offender’s name, Social Security number, nature of the offenses, home address, and birthdate. A physical description of each offender is also noted along with a photograph, which will be added to the website of registered sex offenders managed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Offenders also need to provide a palm print, photograph, and DNA sample that law enforcement can keep on file. The deputy sheriff will need to see a driver’s license and proof of residency as well. Finally, the deputy sheriff will ask each offender for identifying information used online, such as usernames or screen names. All of the sex offender information collected by the deputy sheriff is available to the public.
Are There Specific Rules That Sex Offenders Must Follow?
There are countless rules that sexual offenders in MO must follow in order to avoid legal consequences. For example, some offenders are ordered to stay at least 500 feet away from school grounds. Sex offenders are also prohibited from engaging in many Halloween-related activities, such as handing out candy to trick-or-treaters.
Anyone who is an offender is also required to update the information listed on the registry as needed. In addition, the court can order an offender to make contact with the deputy sheriff and provide updated information every 90 days or six months. If nothing has changed, the offender will simply need to provide an up-to-date photograph.
Missouri Sex Offender Registry Removal
A Missouri sex offender law was recently passed that allows certain sex offenders to remove their names from the state’s sex offender registry. As a result of this law, many offenders are now eligible for a removal for the first time. If you meet the criteria outlined in the new MO offender registration laws, it’s important to begin the process of taking your name off of the list as soon as possible. Here’s how to remove your name from the list:
1. File A Petition: Work with an attorney to file a petition for removal in the division of the circuit court in the appropriate county or city. The court will immediately dismiss the petition if it does not contain the appropriate information, including your name, sex, race, date of birth, Social Security number, address, place of employment, offenses committed, date of registration, and case number. The petition must also include your fingerprints placed on a special card provided by the court.
2. Pay Fees: You will need to pay several fees during the process of petitioning for removal from the offender registration list. This includes court fees for filing the petition in addition to fees related to the fingerprint-based criminal background check.
3. Give the Prosecuting Attorney Notice: It is your responsibility to notify the prosecuting attorney in the circuit court that you have filed a petition for removal from the sex offender registry. The court will automatically reject your petition if you fail to take this step. The attorney needs to be notified in case he would like to fight your removal from the list. Prosecuting attorneys are allowed to present evidence to the court in an effort to convince the judge to deny your request. The attorney will also attempt to notify the victims of the crime, who are allowed to attend your hearings.
4. Wait For the Court’s Decision: At this point, the court will need to review your petition and criminal records to determine if you qualify for removal. The court will also need to take the prosecution’s argument-if one was presented-into consideration. If your petition is granted, the court will enter a judgment to remove your name and you will no longer be classified as a registered sex offender.
What Disqualifies You from Sex Offender Registry Removal?
There are a number of factors which can stop you from getting off of the Missouri sex offender registry. The most common disqualifiers are:
- Tier 3 category of sex offender must register for life unless adjudicated as a juvenile
- If the victim was a child under the age of 17 and the offense was adjudicated after 2007
- If the offense was not in Missouri
- If you were ever required to register under the Adam Walsh Act, the federal sex offender registry (SORNA)
- Currently have a pending case or have a prior case for failure to register
Unfortunately, in these circumstances you typically must remain on the registry for the pre-determined period of time.
Missouri Sexting Laws
Most teenagers have cell phones, which has taken flirtation and dating to an entirely new level that is often illegal. Sexting, or sending and receiving nude or sexually explicit photographs via electronic means, can constitute child pornography. Engaging in sexting can cause teenagers to become subject to criminal prosecution for very serious charges. The consequences of a sex offense conviction can follow these young individuals around for the rest of their lives.
Under Missouri laws, any nude or sexually explicit picture of a child under the age of 18 constitutes child pornography. As a result, in certain circumstances, teenagers can be prosecuted on child pornography charges as a result of what they may consider to be innocent sexting. There are different statutes under both state and federal laws that may lead to criminal charges for sexting.
For example, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 573.037, it is illegal to knowingly or recklessly possess child pornography involving a minor under the age of 18 or obscene material portraying what appears to be a minor under the age of 18. Possessing one still image of child pornography is a Class D felony, but the offense becomes a Class B felony if the person:
- Possesses more than 20 still images of child pornography or obscene still images,
- Possesses one motion picture, film, videotape, or another moving image that is obscene or constitutes child pornography, or
- Has a prior conviction for an offense under this section
A Class D felony conviction can result in up to seven years in prison, although a judge has the discretion to order less than one year in jail upon conviction, along with a maximum of $10,000 fine. A Class B felony conviction can result in a prison sentence ranging from five to 15 years.
Additionally, under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 573.040, if an individual possesses or distributes pornography to a minor to another and it is a first offense, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in jail, as well as a fine. For a second offense, the offense becomes a Class E felony, which can result in up to four years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
However, once an individual reaches the age of 18 or older and they possess or distribute sexually explicit images of minors, the offense may become far more severe. These individuals are at risk for significant terms of incarceration if convicted, as well as mandatory sex offender registration. The penalties become even more severe if the adult persuades the minor to participate in the creation of sexually explicit images.
As a result, older teenagers easily can be at risk of prosecution for sexting with younger teenagers under Missouri sex offender laws. A 17-year-old can be prosecuted as an adult, and once he or she turns 18, possessing sexually explicit images of a 15- or 16-year-old can be construed as child pornography. This can lead to felony charges and mandatory sex offender registration in the event of a conviction, which can permanently alter the course of a young person’s life.
Missouri Sex Offender Tier Levels
Mandatory sex offender registration can place a heavy burden on those who already have served their sentences for certain sex-related offenses. Registration can impact your ability to get and maintain employment, as well as subject you to constant scrutiny by the public. This type of offender registration can make your life more difficult in countless ways, so the ability to be removed from the offenders’ list can be a big step toward improving your life.
Recent revisions to MO sex offender registration laws now provide for three different tiers of sex offender registration. Tier 1 offenders must report to their local law enforcement agency on an annual basis, and they can request removal from the list after a ten-year period has elapsed. Any Tier II offender must report to the local law enforcement agency every six months. However, removal could be possible after 25 years. A Tier III offender remains on the list for life, with reporting required on a quarterly basis. To have their names removed from the offender registry, individuals must file a petition with the court in the jurisdiction in which their conviction occurred.
Prior to the recent revisions to the MO sex offender registration law, all individuals were required to register for life. The previous laws made no distinctions between individuals who were convicted of public urination while intoxicated and those who committed rape; all sexual offenders were placed into a single category that required them to report to their local law enforcement stations on a quarterly basis. It was also very rare that anyone was ever able to be removed from the registry, regardless of the circumstances. This draconian approach to the sex offender registration list seriously penalized those who had committed only low-level, relatively minor offenses that caused no harm to others.
If you are facing an accusation or arrest for sexual assault, rape, child molestation, sexual contact, or child pornography in Missouri, you are not alone. These cases are notoriously tough, but the criminal defense team at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center has the skills and knowledge that will benefit you in handling your criminal charge. When you need clear answers to your legal questions, don’t hesitate to contact our office.
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