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Missouri legislature takes step toward code rewrite

The Missouri Senate has been working on a plan to revamp the state’s criminal laws and recently gave it an endorsement. The plan needs an additional affirmation from the Senate before it moves to the state’s House of Representatives. The code rewrite was a collaborative effort of prosecutors, private defense attorneys, judges, public defenders and lawmakers. It is the first time since 1979 that the state legislature has updated the criminal code.

The new plan seeks to focus penalties on repeat offenders and lessen the penalties currently in place for first time and non-violent offenders. The bill calls for a reduction in penalties for marijuana possession, but increases prison sentences for drunk drivers who kill someone. It also increases punishment for parents who abandon children if the children die or are seriously injured during the time that they are abandoned.

The governor’s office and some lawmakers had pushed for the 700-page bill to be broken down into separate bills based on subsets of crimes. Backers said that such an approach would not have worked because the plan changes jail terms across all types of crimes.

This potential future change to the Missouri criminal code will have far-reaching effects on the citizens of the state. When a person is facing criminal charges, it may be hard to determine which laws are applicable, what the potential punishment could be and if there might be a possibility for jail time. A criminal defense lawyer stays up to date on changes in the laws in order to help his or her clients navigate through the legal requirements of the judicial system.

Source: CBS, “Missouri Senate Endorses Criminal Code Overhaul”, Jordan Shapiro, April 08, 2014

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