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New law gives minors more privacy in Missouri courts

The I-Team has followed this story for years. Now, there's a new change to Missouri law.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — St. Charles County mom Kara Elms has been fighting for years to get justice for her son, and now, there's a change under Missouri law.

"Basically, it says that minors’ information should not appear in court proceedings," Elms said.

It reflects a new level of privacy for young people. It's something Elms said her son did not initially get. 

About five years ago, her then 10-year-old attended a St. Charles city-run summer camp. He was accidentally pushed into some equipment, needing staples on his leg.

“He had $3,000 worth of medical bills, and the city of Saint Charles would not pay for those. So, my husband and I decided to sue on his behalf to get those paid," said Elms. 

They soon learned their son’s personal information was on CaseNet, the state’s website to search through Missouri court cases.  

“His name, his address and then his year of birth," Elms said.

It was all accessible with a few clicks. 

“Ultimately, I didn't think that any children's name should be on CaseNet because, oftentimes, these children have been injured, they've been abused, and I didn't want that information following them in a public way for the rest of their life," Elms said. 

She advocated for part of what’s now Senate Bill 103. Introduced by Missouri State Sen. Bill Eigel, it became law in late August. It excludes certain information on CaseNet among people under the age of 18.

Court officials tell us even before the legislation, people could petition the courts to raise the security level of sensitive information. Now, there’s expanded protection. 

“There are certain situations, especially like with the Catholic Church, where they have the abuse scandal or the Boy Scouts, and that information could be looked up on CaseNet … Then you might be able to, you know, make that conclusion that that child had been abused, and no person should have to deal with that," Elms said. 

Elms told the I-Team the biggest obstacles she encountered came from the logistics of changing what information CaseNet makes public. Personal information from past cases is still searchable. But going forward, she said there will be more privacy for young people in Missouri’s court system.

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