MO Vigilante Wants Public Vote on Sex Offender Law

January 25, 2010

stjoenews.net: Voters may ‘regulate’ sex offenders.

Matt Bartle doesn’t care to critique the Missouri Supreme Court’s recent ruling that two sex offender laws couldn’t apply to those convicted before the laws went into effect. Instead, the lawyer and state senator from Jackson County intends to let Missouri’s voters decide the issue — possibly as soon as November.

This month, the Supreme Court ruled that a 2008 law prohibiting registered sex offenders from handing out candy on Halloween and the 2004 law preventing convicted sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school or child-care facility couldn’t apply to those convicted prior to the laws’ passage. Missouri’s Constitution contains a provision that prohibits retrospective punishment. The court interpreted that the laws added additional punishment, not regulation as prosecutors argued, on sex offenders.
So all of the sex offenders convicted prior to 2004 now can live wherever they choose in the state, at least for a few months.

Mr. Bartle, chairman of the Missouri Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believes the next step for proponents of those two laws is a constitutional amendment that would allow both laws to apply to all offenders. “Let’s just say we are not caught flat-footed here,” the Republican said. “(This) doesn’t leave us in a spot where we don’t know what to do. It’s very obvious what the next step is.”

Mr. Bartle sponsored the bill that required sex offenders to register in 2003 and saw the Halloween and 1,000-feet bills come through committee, as well. He predicts the state Legislature will pass a joint resolution during its current session, and believes the amendment could go before voters by November.

Sue Rinne, director of Buchanan County’s public defender office, said she would oppose a state amendment, though she wouldn’t side with or against either law. Instead, Ms. Rinne expressed her concern that the sex offender registry, the starting point for these restrictions, doesn’t differentiate between crimes. “There is a scale in terms of sex offense,” she said. “They are not all the same, and these statutes do nothing to address that. … All sex offenders are lumped into this big category.”

Mr. Bartle does worry about putting the same label on all offenders — from child rapists to a 19-year-old who had consensual sex with a 16-year-old. He acknowledged that legislatures can go “way too far” with sex offender registries, and believes Missouri should be careful in the coming months to create a prudent list that doesn’t lose its meaning.

“The public is worried about the pedophile,” he said. “All we do is hurt the public if we make the list so large, it’s not really meaningful anymore. This is an area where we need to be very careful.”

Mr. Bartle said the Senate was “getting the categories right as we speak. We’ll be fine with retroactive (laws) as long as we have categories.” (Mr. Bartle, “retroactive” laws are unconstitutional ; read the Constitution!”)

You can reach this pathetic Senator here:
State Capitol Building , Room 434 , Jefferson City, Missouri 65101
Capitol Phone: (573) 751-1464
E-Mail: matt_bartle@senate.mo.gov

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