Missouri Updates Its Criminal Code

  Missouri’s legislature has revamped Missouri’s criminal code – this is the first major revision in that Code since 1979.  There was some talk in past weeks about a possible veto of the measure by Governor Jay Nixon but the deadline for such a veto was last Tuesday and the date passed without any action on the governor’s part as far as formal disapproval of the measure. The new law goes into effect without being signed by the Governor. The new criminal code will be effective on January 1, 2017.  This revision was the culmination of a four year effort of the Missouri Bar Criminal Code Revision Subcommittee.  This subcommittee was made up  of prosecutors, criminal defense attorneys and representatives from the judiciary and the legislature.

     This bill was quite long (600 pages) and reorganizes the existing criminal laws and creates new classes of felonies and misdemeanors.  Among the changes, the law creates a new felony punishment range that carries three to ten year prison terms for certain crimes.  This closes a “gap” between existing classes of felonies that provide an authorized prison term  between five and 15 years and another provision that stipulates a maximum four year prison sentence.  Other provisions reduce potential prison sentences for drug crimes that are considered non-violent and an increase in penalties for things such as sexual assault and driving while intoxicated.  Drunk drivers who kill a person could receive longer prison sentences.

     Another part of the law creates a new class of misdemeanors which will not be punishable by jail time.  Generally, fines will be increase to take into consideration the effects of inflation.

     When this new criminal code revision takes effect January 1, 2017, a conviction for a first time offender possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana will not result in incarceration.  Right now, if a person is convicted of possessing up to 35 grams of pot, he or she may be sentenced up to a year in prison.

     As far a sex related crime go, incest will be added as an “aggravating” factor for all sex crimes.  This will allow people to be charged with a higher crime classification that could result in longer prison sentences.
     While my office does not handle criminal matters, this criminal code revision is something all Missourians would be interested in.