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Missouri employers who have been found to maintain an unsafe or insufficiently safe workplace may soon face a greater threat of criminal prosecution. The United States Department of Justice and the Department of Labor have signed an agreement stating their intention to prosecute more often for violations of safety standards by workplace operators.

No changes in the laws have been proposed, as these two institutions are not legislative entities. Instead, this represents a commitment by both government agencies to move forward and prosecute violations of existing law more effectively.

For example, prosecutors will be encouraged to file more serious charges in conjunction with violations of worker safety laws. Crimes that occur in conjunction with the misdemeanor statute violations, such as obstruction of justice, conspiracy, witness tampering and providing a false statement, will be prosecuted more often. Experts say that this is intended to cause a greater deterrent effect and discourage further abuses of the law. There is an expectation that enforcement efforts will concentrate on cases where a worker has been killed or significant environmental degradation has occurred.

Criminal charges can have very serious penalties attached to them, ranging from large monetary fines, to imprisonment, to other conditions imposed by the law or the court. It may be wisest to take an active stance when defending oneself from such charges. A lawyer might be able to help the accused to sort through the information available, determine a defense strategy, consider the evidence provided by the prosecution against them, dispute that which was improperly obtained or inapplicable to the case, negotiate with the court on their client's behalf and perform any of the other necessary criminal defense tasks that an attorney can fulfill.

Source: National Law Review, "US Departments of Justice and Labor To Increase Criminal Prosecutions of Worker Safety Laws", Alex Arensberg, Dec. 22, 2015

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