The Republican-led Missouri House gave first round approval Tuesday to legislation that would allow some people eventually to be removed from the state's sex offender registry.
Sponsoring Rep. Rodney Schad said the registry must be sufficiently narrow to be a notification tool and not additional punishment. In recent years, lawmakers have expanded the public sex offender registry.
"We've piled on to the point that the registry no longer means anything to the public," said Schad, R-Versailles. "The public has become numb to the registry."
Under the legislation, several offenses no longer would require state registration, including promoting obscenity and furnishing pornographic materials. In other cases, people could petition a state trial judge to be removed if they meet certain requirements. Petitions for removal could be filed after 20 years for those convicted of particularly serious offenses such as forcible rape, forcible sodomy or child molestation - crimes Schad labeled as the "seven deadly sins." People convicted of other sex offenses would need to wait 10 years before they could seek removal.
The local prosecutor, who would need to be notified by the person making the request, could present evidence suggesting some requirements for removal had not been met. Prosecutors also would need to make "reasonable efforts" to notify the victim of the sex offense of the dates and times for court hearings on the petition. Requests for removal would be granted unless the person has not properly registered, committed another offense requiring registration or failed to complete probation and sex offender treatment programs.
Lawmakers endorsed the legislation by voice vote during an evening session with few people watching from the public galleries. The measure needs another vote before moving to the state Senate. There was little apparent opposition to the measure, and Schad said the legislation was discussed at night to avoid conducting the debate in front of the many children who visit the state Capitol during the day on school field trips.
Besides allowing people to be removed from the registry, the legislation also would exclude juveniles who are required to register as sex offenders from the public list posted online.