New Child-Protection Laws Take Effect Today
Provisions Target Sexual Predators, Pornographers
Groundbreaking Legislation Delivers More Protections for
Missouri Children & Stronger Penalties for Sex Crimes
JEFFERSON CITY – Groundbreaking child protection laws taking effect today (8/28) providing more safeguards for Missouri children from Internet sexual predators and child pornographers make Missouri one of the nation’s toughest states on sexual crimes against children
Senate Bill 714, sponsored by Sen. John Loudon (R-Chesterfield) and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Gibbons (R-Kirkwood), expands the state’s sex offender registry, strengthens the severity of charges for sex crimes or attempted sex crimes against children, and provides $3 million per year for state law enforcement and multi-jurisdictional task forces to identify, track and prosecute Internet sexual predators and child pornographers preying on Missouri children.
Some of the bill’s provisions took effect with the governor’s June 30th signature; the entire bill is in full force and effect as of today.
“Our kids deserve all the protection we can provide to keep them safe from individuals intent on harming them through sexual exploitation,” Sen. Loudon said. “With these new laws, we are putting as many buffers and protections in place as possible for children, providing a number of strong deterrents against this kind of criminal activity, and equipping law enforcement with the tools it needs to address these types of horrible and unspeakable crimes.”
A key provision of the legislation taking effect today requires registered sex offenders to update their information on the state sex offender registry with email addresses, cell phone numbers or any other online identifiers. With this in place, parents and the general public can compare online identifiers with information contained on the sex offender registry.
“By requiring online identifying information, we are giving our law enforcement community more tools to catch cyber predators — at the same, time giving parents and teachers one more way to help make sure they know who their children are communicating with online,” Sen. Gibbons said.
The State Highway Patrol also has the authority to share the online information with electronic and computer businesses to prescreen users and compare information.
Another registry-related provision taking effect today expands the list of sex offenders prohibited from being with 500 feet of schools or child-care facilities to include offenders from other states, countries or jurisdictions. Sex offenders from other states are now also prohibited from moving within 1,000 feet of a school.
“By making Missouri’s registry requirements among the toughest in the country, we’ve helped ensure Missouri doesn’t become a magnet for deviants from states with lesser registry rules,” Sen. Loudon said.
Also taking effect today is a provision enabling anyone attempting to furnish pornographic materials to a minor to be charged the same penalty as those who actually do furnish pornographic materials — a Class A misdemeanor (up to one year in jail). The penalty still applies if the “minor” is a police officer posing as a minor.
The new law also strengthens the severity of charges for attempted sexual misconduct with a child when the crime is committed using the Internet, to the same penalty as if the crime were physically committed against a child. Such “virtual” offenders will be charged with a Class D felony, which carries a penalty of one to four years in prison.
“Law enforcement officials and prosecutors asked us to put the same consequences in place for attempting an act as committing the act, and my lawmaking colleagues and I quickly responded,” Sen. Loudon said.
Aspects of Senate Bill 714 that took effect in June include:
— Increasing the punishment for the crime of possessing child pornography from a Class D felony (1-4 years in prison) to a Class C or B felony (1-15 years in prison).
— Closing a loophole in the previous law that made it legal under state law to possess child pornography images of children ages 14-17.
Ø Eradicating parole as an option in certain pornography cases. Individuals convicted of distributing pornographic photos of children under the age of 14 will serve at least three years in prison, with no probation or early parole allowed. If the victim is between 14 and 17 years old, offenders must serve at least some jail time or prison time without probation.
“This year’s legislation adds a considerable number of protections for children from the actions and intents of criminals in the real and cyber worlds,” Sen. Loudon said. “Parents and teachers can make a great difference, too, by connecting with kids on ways to be safe — and stay safe.”