House Committee Discusses Sex Offender Registry

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JEFFERSON CITY - Members of the House Interim Committee on Criminal Justice heard testimony Wednesday about a sex offender registry system that some say is too strict.

Lawmakers, law enforcers, and legal experts said they like the idea of going to a tiered system for classifying sex offenses. Under state law, people who are convicted of a sexual offense must register with the state sex offender registry for the rest of their lives. The crime can be anything from public urination to rape. One woman said she cannot hold a job because she is on the registry for a misdemeanor she said she did not commit.

Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, compared the current law to a fishing net that scoops up all fish, big or small. He said the registry law goes too far for minor offenses and should be changed to a tier system.

"We want to weed the innocent fish out," Ellinger said.

Ellinger said he wants to make it possible for people who commit minor offenses to be removed from the registry after a certain period of time.

Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, said he agreed with Ellinger, although he wants to make sure serious offenders don't get off lightly. He said he would also like to look at changing laws to protect children from having to testify directly against their accused assailant in court.

Torpey said the committee will hold more hearings about the registry laws next month.