JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Currently most people found guilty of committing a sex crime have to register on the sex offender registry for the rest of their life. Whether they were found guilty of public indecency or committed rape, sex offenders are lumped together.
Missouri lawmakers want to change that.
On Tuesday, the House passed a bill that would allow sex offenders to petition to get their name off the list after a certain number of years. Those convicted of lesser sex offenses like fondling, public indecency or possession of child pornography could petition to get off the list in five years.
Those convicted of moderate crimes like having sexual contact with minors could petition to get off the list in 10 years. And those convicted of rape and other violent sexual crimes could petition to get off the list in 25 years.
To get off the list, a mental health professional would have to decide that person is not likely to reoffend and those accused of the worst sex crimes with a high likelihood to reoffend would never get off the list.
Supporters say it would give those who commit minor sex crimes the chance to turn their life around and lessen the burden on Missouri deputies, who currently watch over more than 14,000 sex offenders.
"If we were able to make sure we could watch the people who are more apt to repeat, then it would be more man hours spent doing that rather than trying to make sure everybody's registering just because," said Capt. Mark Brock, Buchanan County Sheriff's Department.
Others disagree, saying parents have the right to know who is around their children.
"I think the public would be very upset because they want to know who is living in their neighborhood," Joyce Estes, child advocate, said. "Are there sex offenders around here? Are there sex offenders around my child's school? They need to know that."
The new law would only list the most violent sex offenders on the online registry, and juveniles would no longer have to register.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.