Amendment #2 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, meaning it began in the Missouri House of Representatives as House Joint Resolution 16. HJR16 went through the legislative process with public hearings before both House and Senate committees. It then passed the full House and Senate with good bi-partisan support. Not requiring the governor’s signature, it now goes to a vote of the people. The following language will appear on the November 4th ballot:
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 government entities could be at least $1.4 million annually, otherwise, the fiscal impact is expected to be limited.
A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to allow evidence of prior criminal acts, whether charged or uncharged, to be considered by courts in prosecutions of sexual crimes that involve a victim under eighteen years of age. A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution, regarding the use of evidence from prior criminal acts in prosecuting sexual crimes.
This measure, if passed, would allow the use of relevant evidence, known as propensity evidence, to be admissible in courts where it is not now allowed. Propensity evidence is the information that a person has engaged in unlawful behavior in the past and is or has demonstrated that they would likely engage in it again. There are two basic forms of propensity evidence: uncharged prior actions and prior convictions.
The arguments for propensity evidence in sexual assaults or child molestation cases relies on the fact that those who commit such an act once are more likely to repeat the same offense than a person who has never committed such an act to start with.
Supporters argue that propensity evidence is necessary and extremely important to prosecute repeat offenders in cases of sexual assault. Federal rules of evidence allow this information to be admitted in such instances. The use of prior convictions as propensity evidence does not complicate the present proceedings because those actions have already been legally determined to have been performed by the defendant.
Opponents of using propensity evidence believe that prior uncharged acts are unproven because the accused has not been proven guilty in a court of law prior to the proceedings in which they are currently charged. This process can create a “trial within a trial” which complicates the defense of the accused person who must give an account for current charges and other evidence that isn’t actually under consideration for the specific trial.
The proposed constitutional amendment allowing propensity evidence to be used in trials dealing with sexual assault of a young person is a powerful tool that can help put and help keep sexual offenders behind bars, preventing them from repeating their crimes. I, and 130 other House members, voted in favor of this amendment. It now goes to a vote of the people to decide its final outcome.
Some may think that sexual misconduct incidents always happen elsewhere and not in our own neighborhoods. However, for those individuals, all I can say is, “Please check out this newspaper’s (Neosho Daily News) Sunday edition for information that should make you have second thoughts about that belief.”
At a time when sexual assaults on young people are increasing, we need to do all we can to provide as much protection for them as possible. Amendment #2 is such an effort. Let’s help keep sexual offenders off our streets, out of our parks, and away from our innocent young people. And let’s give those dealing with these criminals the legal ability to use all available relevant evidence when prosecuting them.