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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Missouri’s Sex Offender Laws Unconstitutional

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - A split Missouri Supreme Court found unconstitutional two laws governing where convicted sex offenders can live and what they can do on Halloween night. The 4-3 ruling addressed laws enacted in 2004 and 2008.

The first involved a convicted sex offender who challenged the validity of a 2004 law that bars offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school.

The offender claimed it was unconstitutional because he was convicted before the law was passed. The state supreme court ruling reversed a trial court's ruling against the offender.

The second involved convicted sex offender Charles Raynor, who challenged a 2008 law that prohibits sex offenders from going outdoors, turning on their lights or handing out candy on Halloween and required offenders to post a sign stating that there was no candy or treats at their residence.

Raynor claimed it was unconstitutional because he was convicted before the law was passed. The state supreme court affirmed a trial court's ruling for Raynor.

"The new obligations and duties imposed on F.R. and Raynor are solely the result of their past criminal acts, and the failure to perform these new duties and obligations carries a criminal penalty," Judge Michael Wolff wrote in the majority opinion.

"The obligations and duties, imposed after the fact of their criminal convictions and based solely on those prior convictions, violate F.R.'s and Raynor's rights."

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Mary Russell wrote that neither law imposed a new duty on offenders, only a permissible collateral consequence of their conviction. She said lawmakers passed the laws to protect the public, especially children.

"Because I believe nothing in the challenged statutes impact sex offenders F.R.'s and Raynor's vested rights, and because the statutes impose on them merely collateral consequences, I do not believe that Missouri's constitutional prohibition on retrospective laws requires the invalidation of sections 566.147 and 589.426," Russell wrote. "I would uphold these restrictions that the Legislature has determined are necessary to protect children from sex offenders."

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