A constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot could change the way sexual crimes are prosecuted in Missouri.
Constitutional Amendment 2 would allow previous relevant criminal activities to be admissible in court for crimes of a sexual nature against a minor.
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that it will be permissible to allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age? If more resources are needed to defend increased prosecutions additional costs to governmental entities could be at least $1.4 million annually, otherwise the fiscal impact is expected to be limited.
What it means:
If passed, a suspected sexual offender's past criminal activity would be admissible in court as evidence of wrongdoing. Even if the offender had not been charged or sentenced, accusations of sexual crimes involving children still would be admissible. Currently, previous sexual criminal acts are only admissible during the sentencing phase of a trial.
The Kansas City Star's editorial board suggests that voters vote "yes" on Amendment 2. The Star is hesitant about mere accusations being admissible in court, but says sex crimes committed against children are heinous enough to warrant the amendment.
"States have different standards for child sexual abuse prosecutions for good reasons: The crimes are nearly always committed in secret, and young victims often don’t report abuse until long after physical evidence has disappeared," the Star wrote. "Also, past victims who have been afraid to speak up often come forward once a prosecution gets underway. "
Opponents of Amendment 2 include the Missouri ACLU chapter and the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense. Jeffrey Mittman of the ACLU released a statement claiming that Amendment 2 presumes suspects are guilty instead of innocent.
"The Missouri Supreme Court has repeatedly reminded us: in America we are tried only on the crime charged," Mittman wrote. "Missourians should avoid the temptation to allow evidence of uncharged crimes to be presented at trial, simply to demonstrate a propensity or tendency to commit a crime."