Being forced to register as a sex offender in Missouri is one of the consequences of conviction — but there’s a lot of confusion about what exactly that means ever since the laws changed in late 2018.

If you or someone you love has been charged with a sex offense, here’s what you need to know about the registry:

The “one-size-fits-all” approach has ended.

Prior to the law change, Missouri took a simple (and highly unfair) approach to the registry: Everyone convicted of a sexually-oriented offense was registered for life. That means that someone who exposed themselves in an alley while urinating after a night out drinking could end up on the registry for life — right beside someone who was convicted of armed rape.

Accordingly, more than 19,000 residents in the state found themselves trapped on the list with no way out. The new laws instituted a three-tier system of offenses that allows people categorized as Tier One or Tier Two offenders who don’t re-offend a second chance. This is more in keeping with federal laws on the issue, as well.

In addition, reporting requirements have eased, somewhat, for those on the registry. Under the old rules, everyone on the list had to update their contact information with the authorities four times a year. Now, only Tier Three offenders must do so. Tier Two offenders need to update their information every six months, while Tier One offenders only have to do so once a year.

You have to petition for removal from the registry.

If you’re convicted of a low-level, Tier One offense, your name goes on the registry for 15 years — although you can petition the court to have it removed after only 10. Tier Two offenders can ask the court to remove their name from the registry only after 25 years — while Tier Three offenders are never eligible for removal.

Being placed on a sex offender registry will, without a doubt, be a disruptive force in your life for as long as it lasts. Do everything in your power to protect your legal rights and defend your interests during this time.