The term “tipping point” refers to the moment when significant change happens. Malcolm Gladwell’s book of that name popularized the phrase widely. Such change often seems sudden, even though it may have been building for years.

Could it be that the criminal justice system, in Missouri and across the country, has come to a tipping on the way it responds to sex offenders? More specifically, could it be that sex offender registration laws are so over-broad that they serve no useful purpose?

The potential consequences of having to register as a sex offender are well known. They include harassment, social stigma and problems with getting jobs.

In response to concerns expressed by constituents, Missouri state Rep. Rodney Schad reviewed Missouri’s sex offender registration law. He came to the conclusion that the list had become bloated with the names of many people who arguably didn’t need to be there.

For example, someone convicted of public urination would be added to the list. The inclusion of offenses like that on the sex offender registry is of doubtful usefulness. It is doubtful because it makes the registry difficult to use for ordinary citizens who genuinely want to use the list to find out whether someone dangerous is living near their house.

Rep. Schad therefore proposed legislation to take some crimes off of the list for mandatory sex offender registration in Missouri. The House did pass this reform bill, but the Senate did not.

The reform effort is now before the Joint Committee on the Missouri Criminal Code. That committee will examine the question of possible removal of some offenses from mandatory registration.

The tipping point may therefore still be coming.

Source: “Are we approaching a tipping point in the modern-day sex offender panic?” Sentencing Law and Policy, 4-19-12

Additional source: “Missouri Legislature ends combative session,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5-19-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Missouri sex offender registration page.