ST. LOUIS • Hundreds of sex offenders will soon have GPS monitoring devices removed from their ankles after Missouri officials recently required that they wear the bulky devices, according to a preliminary injunction filed in Cole County Circuit Court on Monday.
“We are hoping to have a permanent injunction,” said Clayton-based attorney Matt Fry, who is suing the state on behalf of a sex offender from St. Charles County.
The case has implications for many people.
The Department of Corrections Board of Probation and Parole said it installed 364 GPS ankle monitors on sex offenders in April because of new security requirements. This was done even though lifetime monitoring was not part of their sentencing agreement.
Officials told them the retroactive requirements are part of a revised state criminal code that went into effect Jan. 1. Offenders who either were found guilty or pleaded guilty to various sex crimes based on an act committed on or after Aug. 28, 2006, were subject to the added security measures.
Previously, the monitoring technology was used for a more limited class of high-risk offenders.
The new requirements also pertained to 500 people who already completed state supervision. That spurred the lawsuit filed against the Department of Corrections on behalf of the St. Charles County sex offender. He is named in the lawsuit only by the initials “D.G.” for security reasons.
In a hearing in his case on Monday, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Green said he agreed to sign an order that at least temporarily stops the state from enforcing the new monitoring requirements on sex offenders whose cases went through the court system prior to Jan. 1.
The preliminary injunction will allow time to further discuss the new restrictions.
“The department will abide by the court’s preliminary injunction,” Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen said in an email. “The department will have 30 days to remove the GPS monitoring devices on those individuals who were not under lifetime supervision previously and whose offenses occurred on or between Aug. 28, 2006, and Jan. 1, 2017.”
The Department of Corrections is represented in the case by the attorney general’s office, which didn’t respond to a request for comment late Monday afternoon.
“I just want to clarify that this was an issue created by the Missouri Legislature, not the Missouri Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole, or the attorney general’s office,” Fry said. “I’m very proud of all three entities for doing the right thing today.”
In essence, he said, all parties agreed to the enforcement changes.
Fry sued the state on behalf of D.G., a 40-year-old man who argued that the law didn’t exist when he pleaded guilty to crimes associated with sending webcam photographs of his genitals to an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.
D.G. completed five years of probation in 2016. He found out about lifetime monitoring in March.
The GPS devices are supposed to alert state officials if an offender lingers near a school, park or other exclusion areas. Offenders face a felony if they cut the wide black strap that attaches the waterproof device to them.
Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield, and former Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, were co-sponsors of a broad Senate bill that updated the criminal code. Dixon said there was a subsequent House bill that also addressed lifetime monitoring for an expanded list of sex crimes.
“Those portions were supposed to deal with people sentenced to lifetime monitoring,” Dixon said last week by telephone. “If they try to apply it to everybody else, then of course that’s not right.”
One of the 364 sex offenders who had an ankle monitor installed in April was part of a recent Post-Dispatch story. The 41-year-old man from south St. Louis County didn’t want to be named to avoid bringing more unwanted attention to himself.
He’s required to register as a sex offender for life. After the GPS device was placed on him April 26, he said he worried that it might cause him to lose his job stocking snack machines. He said he felt too ashamed to wear shorts.
He was happy to hear on Monday that the device probably would be removed sometime in the next 30 days, at least temporarily.
“I just want my life back to what it was,” he said.