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A group of Missouri lawmakers have formed a Criminal Code Committee to address redundancies and inconsistencies in the statutes that govern criminal law in the state.

The legislative committee began with an 800-page proposal from the Missouri Bar Criminal Law Committee. The Bar panel spent four years studying the state's criminal code before making recommendations to lawmakers.

The Bar committee focused on cleaning up and renumbering the state's criminal law statutes, including new and outdated laws. They also made recommendations for the criminal code that take into consideration the state's unique needs and political realities.

"The goal is to craft legislation that neither creates new crimes nor decriminalizes existing crimes, but instead re-organizes our criminal statues so they serve justice better," said a state representative on the Criminal Code Committee.

For example, the Bar panel recommended that the state create a "Class E" felony. Currently a gap exists between the punishment allowed for Class B and Class C felonies, and creating another class would allow criminal sentences to be more closely tailored to the charges.

Better sentencing guidelines would give judges more flexibility to sentence those convicted of crimes as fairly as possible They could also simplify charges for prosecutors and public defenders. Targeted sentencing could also result in fairer sentences for those convicted of crimes.

If you have been accused of a crime or are facing criminal charges, it is wise to speak with an experienced defense attorney as early as possible. They can help you protect your rights while navigating the criminal justice system and work toward the best possible outcome in your case.

Source: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Legislative panel reviews Missouri Criminal Code," Elizabeth Crisp, Oct. 9, 2012

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