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Retroactive Application of Missouri Sex Offender Registration Law Banned

Missouri's Supreme Court has held that the state's "Megan's Law" cannot be retroactively applied to persons convicted prior to January 1, 1995. The ruling affects about half of the people previously required to register as sex offenders, but allows information about their convictions to be published.

Before the Court was the appeal of 11 John and Jane Does, who challenged Missouri's sex offender registration law on several grounds. That law "imposes registration and notification requirements on persons committing crimes listed in 1994 Mo. Laws 1131, Section 566, certain other sexual crimes, and certain crimes that are not inherently sexual in nature but the legislature believes to be associated with a risk of sexual offenses against minors, such as child kidnapping." Those with multiple or aggravated offense convictions and sexually violent predators must register for life, all others for 10 years.

The Court held the law does not violate the ex post facto provisions of the U.S. or Missouri Constitutions or the respective procedural or substantive due process clauses.

The Court, however, accepted the plaintiffs' position that the law violated Missouri's constitutional provision "that no … law … retrospective in its operation … can be enacted." In so doing, the Court rejected the claim that publication about the Does' criminal convictions was implicated under that provision. The Court emphasized that its ruling only affected the requirement that persons convicted prior to January 1, 1995 register as sex offenders. "The obligation to register by its nature imposes a new duty or obligation," the Court held.

The Does' attorney, Kansas City lawyer Arthur A. Benson, II, said the ruling reflected "a general sense of fair play in the Missouri Constitution." See: Doe v. Phillips, 194 S.W.3d 833 (Mo. 2006).

Additional Source: Kansas City Star

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Related legal case

Doe v. Phillips