A man who argued he shouldn’t have to register with Missouri authorities as a sex offender has won his case.
Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled today that the man, identified in court documents only as John Doe, doesn’t have to register as a sex offender because he received a suspended imposition of sentence after pleading guilty to sexual abuse in 1992.
Missouri’s sex offender registration act took effect in 1995, and the Missouri Supreme Court held that people convicted before that date couldn’t be required to register because the Missouri Constitution prohibits retroactive laws.
However, a federal sex offender registration law, passed in 2006, said all sex offenders must register regardless of when their conviction occurred, and it’s not bound by the Missouri Constitution’s limits.
But the federal act defines a sex offender as one convicted of a sex crime. And, Callahan wrote, state and federal court caselaw has held that suspended sentences in Missouri are not the same as convictions, or else there’d be no point in having them as an alternative sentencing option.
The judge declined to rule on whether the federal registration law goes against the U.S. Constitution but noted that a federal appeals court upheld the law last year.
Callahan is working to wrap up pending cases before he steps down in a week to begin his new job as U.S. attorney for eastern Missouri.
The case is John Doe v. James F. Keathley, 06AC-CC01088.