I spent Memorial Day morning in Marshall and visited the Warrensburg Veterans Home in the afternoon.
This week's Capitol Report continues the review of legislation from the Second Session of the 97th General Assembly. This edition focuses on the revision of the criminal code. There are few substantive changes in the law with SB 491 and HB 1371, most changes are updates.
Criminal Code in Review
The Missouri Criminal Code was originally devised in 1979. Before this date the criminal provisions were scattered throughout the statutes of Missouri. Here are some prominent features of the new code:
1. Since the Criminal Code's enactment in 1979, some statutes have become outdated, new crimes have been defined and some punishments have become inconsistent. This revision provides corrections for these problems.
2. The Missouri Bar Criminal Code Revision Subcommittee comprised of experienced prosecutors and defense attorneys, as well as representatives from the judiciary and the legislature began meeting several years ago to update the Criminal Code to make it more cohesive and easier to understand, and to make penalties more consistent and just. After this committee completed its work, legislation was filed.
3. Most of the changes in this proposal involve consistency, correcting grammar, updating language, and clearly identifying the "mens rea" or the mental state necessary to be guilty of a crime.
4. More than 25 public hearings were conducted including interim committee meetings held during 2012.
5. The biggest change in this revision includes the creation of a new class E felony and D misdemeanor. The goal of the new class E felony was to close a gap between class B and C felonies. Currently, a class B felony allows a prison term of 5 to 15 years and a class C felony allows a term of 1 to 7 years. Under the proposed revision, the term of imprisonment for a class C felony would be 3 to 10 years and the term for a class D felony would be the current penalty for a class C felony. The class E felony would contain the current penalty for a class D felony.
6. One example of why this change was felt necessary is the current equal punishment of Involuntary Manslaughter, such as a drunk driver killing someone and Forgery. Under present law both of these offenses are C Felonies. The proposed code keeps the punishment for Forgery the same (up to seven years) but the Involuntary Manslaughter would become a new C Felony with a minimum of 3 and maximum of 10 years.
7. The fine for C and D felonies would rise from $5,000 to $10,000 for an individual.
8. The most significant changes in Chapter 565, Offenses Against Persons, are the reorganizing of many "designer crimes". The designer crimes that exist in the current law include an assault against a specific person like a peace officer or a utility worker. Over the years, three classes of assaults have multiplied into 24 classes. The drafters of the new Code combined these separate offenses and simply created enhancement provisions relating to "special victims."
9. An important change in Chapter 570, Stealing and Related Offenses, was to raise the value of property stolen to be treated as a felony from $500 to $750 - a recognition of inflation. Currently, many property values differ among the various criminal statutes.
10. In addition, various offenses involving the act of kidnapping would be renamed "kidnapping" in this proposal and classified into various degrees so they become lesser included offenses of one another, allowing greater flexibility for prosecutors and defense attorneys to negotiate charges. Also, penalties are greater if the kidnapping involved a sexual offense.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City and Missouri. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.