I'm a criminal defense attorney as well as a family law attorney. There are some cases that I choose not to take - whether they be criminal or involve the family court system. One type of case I will not take is child abuse - whether physical or sexual. To me, there is no excuse for abusing a child. I will defend a person accused of murder, drugs, etc., but not abusing a child. I will not take a custody case if the person has allegations of abusing a child and I do not believe the person is innocent of these allegations. I know that everyone deserves to be represented by an attorney. I support that but I also know that I will not be that attorney. Why? Because the person deserves the best representation he or she can receive. I am not that attorney because of my feelings on the subject.
With that stated, I want to get to the subject of this post - Missouri's Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), also known as Megan's Law. This is the law that requires certain sexual offenders to register with the chief law enforcement official (usually the sheriff) in the county where the offender resides. These offenders include any person who has been convicted or pled guilty to a felony offense under chapter 566, including sexual trafficking of a child and sexual trafficking of a child under 12, and any offense under chapter 566 where the victim was a minor. The offender has to fill out a form that has been designed by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This information is then sent by the chief law enforcement official to the Missouri State Highway Patrol where the information is put into the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) to be viewed by other law enforcement officials and prosecuting attorneys. Some of this information is also posted online and made available to the general public. The public can look to see whether a certain individual may be a sex offender or if there are sex offenders living in a certain area. I admit, I have looked to see whether there are sex offenders living near my residence. Thankfully I found none. If you haven't checked out your neighborhood, you should. Just plug in "Megan's Law" into your search engine and it should lead to your state's list.
In most circumstances the sex offender must register for his or her lifetime. However, under the Missouri statute (section 589.400) there are certain offenses that allow for the offender to petition the court for removal from the registration requirements. These include those who were convicted of promoting prostitution in the 2nd and 3rd degree, public display of explicit sexual material, statutory rape in the 2nd degree, and no physical force or threat of physical force was used. Those convicted of these offenses may petition the court after 10 years to be removed from the registration requirements. Also, those who were 19 years of age or younger and the victim was 13 years of age or older may petition the court after 2 years. All who petition the court have to prove that they fall into one of the categories that allow the petition, that they have complied with the provisions of the statute, and they are not a current or potential threat to public safety. If the offender cannot prove these elements, the offender is not entitled to the removal. And, even if the offender does prove these elements, the court does not have to grant the removal. If the court denies the removal, the offender must wait for twelve months before petitioning the court again.
Why is this on my mind? I have recently had to do research on this matter in order to keep an offender from being removed from the registration requirement. The removal from the registration requirement is a civil matter and I was hired to defend the registration. This offender pled guilty to the class D felony of sexual abuse with a child, his child, who was 6 years old at the time. I do not want this man released from the requirement to register for the remainder of his life. At this time the court hasn't made a ruling. I will keep you posted.