New Lawsuit Targets Missouri Sex Offender Registry

It was recently pointed out to me that a federal lawsuit has been filed in the Western District of Missouri arguing that the Missouri Sex Offender Registry constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, not just for those on the registry, but their family members as well who were never convicted or even charged with a crime. The suit was initially filed in May, however, it was only brought to light recently.

According to the Columbia Tribune, the suit which includes 25 John and Jane Does, many of which are the children of registrants against Missouri State Highway Patrol Superintendent Col. Eric Olson, Technical Service Commander Maj. David Flannigan and Criminal Justice Information Services Director Capt. Christopher Jolly. In the initial suit, the plaintiffs claim that “the registry results in retribution for past offenses more than the public safety it was originally intended to promote.”

Some of the examples include a women who could not assist with a food drive with her church, a man whose children suffered hate speech so often that he was forced to move and to make matters worse, his wife even took her own life. According to Debra Grund, Treasurer of Women Against Registry (WAR), some registrants are being punished for crimes committed decades ago. “Some of these people did something when they were 19 or 20 years old and paid their debt to society and at 40 they’re still dealing with this and their families are still dealing with this.”

Last year, Missouri implemented a three tiered system that allows some recipients to petition for their removal after 25 years, as opposed to the previous duration of life. Many of the petitioners in this case are “serving” a life sentence.

We will continue to monitor the progress of this suit and keep you informed of any additional details. In another interesting case involving the registry out of Tennessee, a suit filed by a “John Doe”, a registrant argued that registry violated the ex post facto and due process clauses of the Constitution.

Doe was charged with several sex offenses involving a minor victim, described as eleven (11) years old, in the State of North Carolina. On August 15, 2006, Plaintiff pled guilty to the charge of Indecent Liberties with a Child. As a consequence of his guilty plea and conviction, Plaintiff was required to and did register as a sex offender on the State of North Carolina’s Sex Offender Registry. After relocating to Tennessee, Plaintiff was required to and did register as a sex offender on the State of Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry. Plaintiff has continued to report annually with the Registry and complied with the requirements of the Act.

In 2014, Tennessee added an amendment that required any offender whose victim was 12 years of age or less would be required to register for life. Previously, the Plaintiff was forced to only register for 10 years. The plaintiff stated that he had an employer who knew of his status and still continue to employ him, as well as even working with him by having other employees make deliveries to schools and such. Upon the enactment of the 2014 amendment, the plaintiff’s employer terminated him because they were no longer willing to accommodate him indefinitely. The plaintiff then filed suit claiming that the registry was punishment and violated the ex post facto clause and that he was not given notice of the change to the duration of his registration period, it also violated his due process rights.

To summarize the conclusion the case, the order states “For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment will be GRANTED in part as to Plaintiff’s Ex Post Facto claim and DENIED in part as to his due process claim.

We will continue to follow this case as well.

Finally, last week on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, the host and longtime First Step Act opponent Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) complained that the FSA released several violent offenders and sex offenders. According to Fox News, the FSA released 500 inmates who committed weapons or explosives crimes, 250 sex offenders, and 60 or 70 who were guilty of homicide or aggravated assault.

Previous numbers show that the majority of those released were already serving some type of community sentence, such as in a halfway house or home confinement. According to the B.O.P. website, on July 18, there were 8,291 prisoners in residential reentry centers and 2,193 on home confinement. A week later, there were 7,604 in residential reentry centers, a drop of 687 and 1,683 on home confinement, a drop of 510. While B.O.P. policy allows everyone the eligibility of home confinement, in reality, we all know that violent offenders and sex offenders are not going to be placed directly on it and any person that fits into one of the above categories would have been released within the next six months anyway. In addition to both of those, several news outlets have also reported that a large majority of those were also deportees who have been sent to immigration facilities.

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