Missouri sex offender ruling
By: CJ Cassidy
By: CJ Cassidy
A new Missouri Supreme Court ruling changes the way the state handles its sex offender list.
What does this mean for you?
It means a convicted sex offender could be living in your neighborhood and you would never know about it.
"It's already so easy for sex offenders to get away with it and do it again," Erin Schloss says. She was brutally raped at her Cape Girardeau home, seven years ago.
She's finally found peace in her surroundings, but never lets her guard down.
"If you know a sex offender is in your neighborhood, you know maybe to keep a closer eye on the kids or maybe to make sure and lock your doors," she says.
That's why Schloss always checks out public sex offender lists.
But, under the new Missouri ruling, that information might not be as complete as you'd like it to be.
"They ruled that sex offenders whose convictions occurred prior to this law taking effect in 1995, cannot be forced to come in and register," Cape Girardeau Prosecutor Morley Swingle says.
He's referring to Megan's Law, which requires offenders to register names and addresses at the county sheriff's department.
Now, unless someone's a persistent offender (convicted of two or more sex crimes) or a predatory sex offender (found by a court to have committed multiple sex crimes) Swingle points out they'd be off the hook, and it's all thanks to the Missouri constitution,, which says a law may not be retroactive, or applied after the fact.
"It's going to have a big impact because probably about half to 3/4ths of the sex offenders in Cape Girardeau County lists were for convictions that occurred prior to 1995," Swingle says.
"Most individuals that are convicted of sexual offenses are not repeat offenders," Defense attorney Malcolm Montgomery says.
One of his clients, recently found guilty of failing to register, is now likely to have the verdict overturned.
"I don't think they were ever required to register to begin with. That's my client's position and that's the position of an awful lot of people," he says.
But not Erin Schloss's.
"It seems like there's a pattern with them it seems like it's a craft almost," she says.
So what can you do in the meantime?
If you disagree with the ruling, Swingle says you can call your local legislators and speak up.
If the issue gets put on the ballot, there's always a chance you could vote to have the constitution amended.