Everything You Need to Know About
Missouri Sex Offender Laws
This state does not take sex offenses lightly. MO sex offender laws are designed to affect the lives of those convicted permanently. Being designated as an offender carries serious social stigmas and legal burdens that 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 several 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 types of cases, such as those at The Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center.
Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney
Published: December 6. 2019.
Updated: August 12. 2021.
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: Sexual Offender Information
Under MO laws, sex crimes, like other violent crimes, carry serious penalties. Anyone 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 offenders registration in Missouri:
Who is Required to Register As a Sex Offender?
The Sex Offender Register in the state was created to publish sexual offender information. Anyone convicted or pleading guilty to one sex crime must report personal information to MSHH. The information provided to Missouri State Highway Patrol is put to public access via an online database.
Under Missouri Revised Statutes, a person can be required to register as a sexual offender if they have pleaded 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 plead guilty or have no contest to these crimes are also required to register as offenders.
How Long do Sex Offenders Have to Register in Missouri?
The law requires that all convicted sex offenders registered with the local police department within three days of their release from custody. If they are not incarcerated, they must also register within three days of coming into this state or moving out of a county where they were required to register.
Sex offenders under supervision by the Department of Corrections will be notified by the Department when it is time for them to report and provide information about their place of residence.
Registration is required for life unless an offender’s sentence includes parole or probation, which would require re-registration every year during those periods, even if there was no change in address since the last registered date.
However, such registrants shall notify law enforcement agencies immediately upon any change in their residence address while on parole or probation. They shall promptly return to their jurisdiction following termination from parole or probation to comply with registration requirements imposed by law during any period of supervised release.
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’s 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 the chief law enforcement officer can keep on file. The deputy sheriff will need to see a driver’s license and proof of residency as well.
Finally, the chief law enforcement officer 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 can be accessed through the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s website.
Can Sex Offenders go to State Parks in Missouri?
Yes, sex offenders can go to state parks. But there are some restrictions. Sex offenders cannot be within 500 feet of a school or daycare center and must register their address with the Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) every 90 days.
They also have to keep law enforcement informed about any change in residence, employment, or student status at an institution of higher education for 10 years after release from prison.
Can Sex Offenders Have Facebook in Missouri?
In Missouri, if you are on probation or parole and have a Facebook account, you can’t post anything that might be considered “sexually explicit.” That includes pictures of yourself or other people who are nude or engaged in sexual activity. You also can’t post any sexually suggestive comments.
Violating this rule could result in consequences such as being sent back to prison for violating probation/parole conditions and having their internet access revoked by the court system.
The best way to avoid these issues is not using social media at all while on probation/parole – but if you do use Facebook, please follow these guidelines carefully.
Are There Specific Rules That Sex Offenders Must Follow?
There are countless rules that sexual offenders in MO must follow 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 Missouri supreme court can order an offender to contact the deputy sheriff and provide updated information every 90 days or six months. If nothing has changed, the offender will 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 convicted sex offenders are now eligible for removal for the first time.
If you meet the criteria outlined in Missouri’s sex offender registry 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, sexual 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
Your responsibility is 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 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?
Several factors 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 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 law sex offender registry (SORNA)
- Currently have a pending case or have a prior case for failure to register
Unfortunately, you typically must remain on the registry for a pre-determined period of time in these circumstances.
Missouri Sexting Laws
Most teenagers have cell phones, which has taken flirtation and dating to an entirely new level that is often illegal. Sexting, 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 severe 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 18 constitutes child pornography. As a result, teenagers can be prosecuted on child pornography charges in certain circumstances due to what they may consider being innocent sexting.
There are different statutes under both state and federal laws that may lead to criminal charges for sexting.
For example, under 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 the first offense, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in up to one year in jail, and a fine. For a second offense, the offense becomes a Class E felony, resulting in up to four years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
However, once individuals reach 18 or older and 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 found guilty, as well as mandatory sex offenders registration. The penalties become even more severe if the adult persuades the minor to create 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 they turn 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 sexual offender registration can burden those who already have served their sentences for certain sex-related offenses.
Registration can impact your ability to get and maintain employment and 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 Missouri sex offender registry can be a big step toward improving your life.
Recent revisions to MO sex offenders registration laws now provide for three different tiers of sex offender registration.
Tier 1 Missouri offenders must report to their local chief law enforcement official on an annual basis, and they can request removal from the list after a ten-year period has elapsed.
Tier II offenders 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. A person seeking removal removed from the sexual offender registry must file a petition with the court in the jurisdiction in which their conviction occurred.
Before the recent revisions to the MO sex offender registration law, all individuals were required to register for life.
The initial sex offender registration laws made no distinctions between individuals 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 sporadic that anyone could 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 face 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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