Missouri Supreme Court hears sex offender case

A mid-Missouri prosecutor this morning asked the Missouri Supreme Court to let him prosecute a man charged with violating new restrictions the actions of registered sex offenders on Halloween.

The issue is whether the restrictions are retrospective, and therefore illegal.

Last year, state lawmakers adopted legislation that requires sex offenders to isolate themselves from trick-or-treaters. The law says an offender must stay inside his home between 5 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Halloween.

"He's supposed to turn the light off, put up a sign 'No Candy, Missouri Supreme Court Judge Mike Wolff said.

Audrain County Prosecutor Jacob Shellabarger, in front of the Missouri Supreme Court for the first time, brought charges against Mexico resident Charles Raynor after a police officer spotted a woman handing out Halloween treats at his house.

Shellabarger was an assistant in the prosecutor TMs office when Raynor TMs case was filed. Shellabarger took over as Audrain County Prosecutor in July.

The trial judge dismissed the case because the Halloween restrictions went into effect more than a decade after Raynor's sex crime conviction in another state.

"It is a present and continuing duty of the defendant to comply with the requirements for sex offenders, Shellabarger said.

Shellabarger argued the Halloween restrictions are "collateral consequences" of offender registration, not penalties for the original conviction.

"There's two tests for whether a law is retrospective, Raynor's Attorney Ellen Flottman said. One is whether it adds new duties, or obligations and restrictions. But the other test that has been used is whether it impairs a vested or substantial right.

In the past, the court has rejected prosecution of sex offenders who live within a 1,000 feet of schools if their homes were acquired before that rule went into effect. The larger issue here is whether new behavior restrictions on sex offenders imposed by the legislature constitute new punishments not assigned by the courts.

"Could the legislature next year enact a law that said 'you can't go outside in the evening in the summer if children are playing? Missouri Supreme Court Judge Laura Stith said.

"I don't know where the line is, Your Honor, but I think this is clearly on the legal side of it, Shellabarger said.