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Senator seeks to fix ‘oversight’ in child sex crime punishment

by Ryan Pivoney | February 16, 2022 at 10:35 p.m.
Sen. Mike Bernskoetter waits to present his bill before a committee Wednesday at the Missouri state Capitol in Jefferson City. His bill would make it illegal for those found guilty of possessing child pornography to be present in certain public places like parks, swimming pools and athletic fields. (Ethan Weston/News Tribune)

A Mid-Missouri senator is looking to prohibit people who are found guilty of possessing child pornography from accessing public parks and museums.

SB 751, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, seeks to extend the state’s current limitations on people found guilty of child sex crimes to people found guilty of possessing child pornography.

Currently, state law prohibits people found guilty of certain child sex crimes from being within 500 feet of public museums and parks with playgrounds, swimming pools or athletic fields primarily used by children.

Those restrictions apply to crimes of incest, first-degree child welfare endangerment, use of a child in a sexual performance, promoting a sexual performance by a child, sexual exploitation of a minor, promoting child pornography and furnishing pornographic material to minors.

Bernskoetter’s bill would add possession of child pornography to the list.

“It seems silly that it wasn’t in there already,” he said.

The first violation is a class E felony, which carries up to four years in prison, and a second violation is a class D felony, which carries up to seven years in prison.

“I don’t think we want those kinds of people around our kids,” Bernskoetter said. “It seems like a common sense solution that that should be included with all the different crimes that people have committed.”

Bernskoetter presented his bill before the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate committee didn’t ask any questions about the bill, and there was no public testimony in support or opposition.

Bernskoetter said that is a good sign.

He said he plans to attach the measure onto another judiciary bill for a better chance of getting the legislation signed into law this  session.

“Something that small would probably be pretty easy to tack on to another piece of legislation,” he said. “We just have to see where it fits.”

If he can’t get it attached to another bill, Bernskoetter said he would still advocate for the measure as a standalone bill.

He said he largely sees the exclusion of child pornography crimes as an oversight, but a constituent brought the idea to his attention.

“It will help people all over the state,” Bernskoetter said. “I think if they’ve been involved in child pornography, I think that’s somebody we want to keep away from our kids, but yeah it came to us from one of our constituents.”


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