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Doe v Phillips

6-30-2006 Missouri:

The issue in this case is now controlled by Doe v Keathley (2009).

Doe v Phillips
194 S.W.3d 833 (2006)

Appellants are a group of Missouri residents. None of them have been adjudicated to be a sexually violent predator (SVP), but respondents allege all nonetheless are required to register as sex offenders because each has previously been convicted of or pled guilty to crimes that make them subject to the registration provisions of sections 589.400 to 589.425.1 The registration requirements, popularly known as "Megan's Law," require affected persons to register with designated authorities at various intervals and to notify authorities when they change their residence. They also permit publication of affected persons' names, addresses, photographs and prior triggering offenses.

Appellants filed suit in Jackson County against selected law enforcement officials attempting to prevent further enforcement of the sexual offender registry statutes through declaratory and injunctive relief. To protect their privacy, appellants have sued as Jane Does I-III and John Does I-VIII and are hereafter referred to as "the Does." They alleged that, while it may be proper to apply the registration and notification requirements to SVPs and other violent sexual offenders, it is unconstitutional to apply it to relatively minor offenders such as themselves. They appeal the judgment denying their claims.

During the pendency of this appeal, Missouri's Megan's Law was modified. H.B. 1698, 93rd Gen. Assem., 2nd Reg. Sess. (Mo.2006). The amended law expands restrictions on SVPs, adds additional crimes to its coverage, and excludes or allows petitions for removal from the registry for various non-violent offenses, including offenses of which some of the Does pleaded or were found guilty, effectively mooting those particular claims.

This Court rejects the other Does' arguments that Missouri's Megan's Law violates their due process and equal protection rights under the Missouri Constitution. This Court further rejects their arguments that the law violates Missouri's constitutional prohibitions of ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, and special laws.

The only respect in which this Court finds merit to the Does' challenge to Missouri's Megan's Law is an extremely narrow one. The Does are correct that the portions of the law imposing an affirmative duty to register based solely on pleas or convictions for conduct committed prior to enactment of Megan's Law on January 1, 1995, some eleven and one-half years ago, violates Missouri's constitutional prohibition of laws "retrospective in ... operation." To this extent, and only to this extent, Megan's Law's registration requirements may not be enforced as to this small group of persons.

This invalidation is very limited in nature. SVPs are still fully required to register and comply with all aspects of Megan's Law because their obligations are based on findings that they are SVPs and not merely on pre-Megan's Law criminal conduct. Persons who pled or were found guilty after January 1, 1995, or who committed additional crimes subject to Megan's Law after that date, are fully subject to Megan's Law's relevant requirements. Further, even as to those Does who may not be required to fulfill the affirmative duties imposed directly on them by Megan's Law, Missouri's constitutional prohibition on laws retrospective in their operation does not prohibit others from publishing information about them in the manner permitted by Megan's Law.


Missouri's constitutional bar on laws retrospective in their operation compels this Court to invalidate Megan's Law's registration requirements as to, and only as to, those persons who were convicted or pled guilty prior to the law's January 1, 1995, effective date. This ruling applies only to the registration requirements. All other provisions of Megan's Law remain in effect as to these and all other persons subject to it. Further, the law is fully in effect as to all persons whose pleas or judgments of conviction were entered on or after its effective date of January 1, 1995, more than 11 years ago, or who committed additional crimes subject to Megan's Law thereafter, and is fully effective as to SVPs.

The judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded.
All concur.

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