Blunt signs bills tightening rules for Mo. sex offenders

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Missouri continued its crackdown on sex offenders Monday when Gov. Matt Blunt signed a bill mandating longer prison terms for some offenders and expanding the list of crimes that force offenders to register with law enforcement officials.

The new law, passed by the Missouri Legislature this year, also bars registered sex offenders from taking part in Halloween candy giveaways. Instead, from 5 to 10:30 p.m. each Oct. 31, registered sex offenders must stay in their homes, extinquish outdoor lights and post a sign that they are not providing treats or candy.

The measure tightens registration requirements for newly released offenders, reducing to three days from 10 the time for them to register. But for some on the registry, the law creates a path to have their names removed after 10 years if their crimes did not involve violence.

The new law also takes aim at offenders who use the Internet to lure victims by requiring registered offenders to provide law enforcement a list of all e-mail names, instant messaging identifiers and personal Web sites used by the offender.

The bill will build on laws passed in recent years aimed at protecting children from sexual predators, Blunt said. The Internet identifications mean parents can search a database to see if someone sending their child e-mails or taking part in online chats is actually a sex criminal. "This will better enable parents to join this fight," he said.

Blunt conducted a signing ceremony at the Cape Girardeau Police Department surrounded by law enforcement officials.

In some of its provisions, the law adds to the list of crimes that will force compliance with the sex offender registry, including crimes committed outside Missouri and "conspiring to commit" sex offenses. In others, it toughens the penalty, such as denying probation or parole for three years to anyone convicted of promoting pornographic material depicting a child younger than 14.

The relaxation of sex offender registry rules only covers a limited number of crimes. But Blunt said the courts will retain discretion over whether to order the removal of a name. Limiting the list to those most likely to reoffend will make it more effective, Blunt said.

"The registry can become so large that it is not a valuable resource for parents," Blunt said.

The Halloween restrictions were not part of the original bill, but it addresses justified concerns of parents, Blunt said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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