Changes to the Criminal Code
JEFFERSON CITY - It took a decade but a renovation of the Missouri Criminal Code will take effect on January 1st, 2017. It began as SB491 and was passed, and HB1371 featured added suggestions before the final form of the bill was signed into law in 2014.
The executive director of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Jason Lamb, said practitioners, legislators and advocacy groups all worked to get the legislation passed.
It featured a two-year delay in implementation, which is why it does not go into effect until 2017. Lamb said they built the delay into the law for practitioners and Missourians to learn the new laws before they went into effect.
Efforts to pass the bill began ten years ago, when a special committee was formed by the Missouri Bar to draw up a revision. This draft took four years to be drawn up by the committee, which was composed of both prosecutors and defense attorneys. After more than 30 public hearings and three years of debate in the Missouri legislature, it was eventually passed in 2014.
Lamb said the changes aim to get rid of confusing and repetitive laws, create a new class of felonies and misdemeanors and re-organize punishments to fit the crimes.
"Under current Missouri law the same punishment level applies to the crime of passing a bad check worth more than 500 dollars as it does to killing another human being in a DWI crash, what's called involuntary manslaughter," Lamb said. "They're both class C felonies. They both carry a maximum punishment of seven years in prison."
He said it is not fair for the punishments of those two crimes to be the same. The new revisions fix that problem.
"So you're going to see increased penalties graduating upwards based on the criminal history and prior criminal conduct," Lamb said. "Also how serious the crime was and whether or not it was a crime against a person, a violent crime, or a non-violent crime."
Highlights of the revision include:
- Classification of repeated DWI offenders so that they must serve 85% of their sentence
- Increasing punishment of causing a death in a drunk driving crash to include up to ten years in prison
- Creation of four levels of felony child molestation. This enhances the punishment.
- Incest has been added as an aggravator in child molestation cases, increasing the punishment
- Relaxed penalties for first-time marijuana possession of less than ten grams.
- Addition of a fifth-felony class
The addition of a fifth-felony class which now encompasses non-violent and first-time offenses such as property crimes and simple drug possession. Penalties for repeat and violent crimes such as assaults and sex offenses are increased as a result of the revisions.