MISSOURI -- Missouri is becoming known as one of the toughest states in the country dealing with sexual crimes against children.
New child protection laws took affect Aug. 28 providing more safeguards for Missouri children from Internet sexual predators and child pornographers.
Senate Bill 714 expands the state's sex offender registry, strengthens the severity of charges for sex crimes against children, and provides $3 million per year for state law enforcement and multi-jurisdictional task force to identify, track and prosecute Internet sexual predators and child pornographers.
A key provision of the new legislation requires sex offenders to update their information on the state sex registry with e-mail addresses, cell phone numbers or any other online identifiers.
A news release from Michael Gibbons, president pro-tem of the Missouri Senate and co-sponsor of the bill, said with this in place, parents and the general public can compare online identifiers with information contained on the sex offender registry.
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 that took affect Aug. 28, expands the list of sex offenders prohibited from being within 500 feet of schools or child-care facilities. This includes 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.
The new law has also 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 new law 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.
Portions of SB 714 took affect in June. Some of the provisons in the bill include:
* Increasing the punishment for the crime of possessing child pornography from a class D felony (one-four years in prison) to a class C or B felony (one-five 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.
* 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.