Sunday, July 19, 2009

Court Adds Thousands to Sex Offender Registry : Court ruling requires thousands of Missouri sex offenders to go on registry.

By the end of the month, Missouri should have thousands more sex offenders back on its registry.
That means more offenders for authorities to keep in compliance. A longer registry for residents to pore over and use.

And then there’s the logistics of finding all 4,300 offenders — close to 600 in Jackson County alone — who haven’t had to register since 2006, but must now after a state Supreme Court ruling last month.

“Some of these people may be at different addresses, some may have moved out of state,” said Lt. John Hotz of the Missouri Highway Patrol. “Everyone is coming together to find the best way to get everyone back on there.”

The Highway Patrol has sent letters to offenders across the state. Once they received a letter, they had three days to register or make an appointment.

In the end, if everyone who needs to re-register does, the Missouri list will include about 11,600 people. That’s a nearly 60 percent jump from the past three years.

“This could be a lengthy process,” said Sgt. Gary Kilgore, of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. “The primary task will be making sure offenders know they are required to register now.”

If offenders don’t re-register, the Highway Patrol will determine if authorities have a current address for them and if they were notified about the Supreme Court ruling. But that’s as far as authorities go. Offenders who don’t re-register could face a felony charge.

In late June 2006, the Supreme Court ruled that the Missouri Constitution didn’t allow for laws to be enforced retroactively. So only offenders convicted after the law took effect in January 1995 had to comply.

What the state judges didn’t know at the time was that a federal law, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, would go into effect the next month. It required all sex offenders, regardless of when they were convicted, to register. The Missouri Supreme Court last month ruled again, this time making it clear that the federal law must be obeyed.

States across the country are trying to come in compliance with the federal law, also known as the Adam Walsh Act. Some advocates say it requires too many offenders to register and doesn’t educate communities on how to use the lists.

“People rightly are trying to get information out there (about sex offenders), but absolutely there is an opportunity for overload,” said Suzanne Brown-McBride, board member for the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. “We’re concerned registries are getting flooded with people".