In 2016, Missouri state law required that a person who passed a bad check for more than $500.00 and a person who killed another while driving drunk be charged with the same class of felony. For obvious reasons, a decade ago a group of government prosecutors and defense attorneys came to the agreement that this legal code did not make sense. Both sides pored over the code, line by line, in an effort to come up with a more comprehensive criminal law. It took years of vetting, dozens of public hearings in the state legislature, and a two-year waiting period before implementation. Nonetheless, the new changes in the state’s criminal law took effect in January of 2017 according to a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch report.
Missouri’s Prior Criminal Code
Under the old sentencing guidelines, felonies begin at the bottom with Class D, which are punished with a maximum of four years in prison. Class C felonies can carry up to seven years in prison while Class B felonies can result in up to 15 years of prison time. Class A, the highest level of a felony, warrants 30 years to life.
The change to the law is the first major revamping of the state’s criminal code since the 1970s reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Some Changes in the Law
Supporters of the overhaul praise the changes for being tougher on crimes against children; incest was added as an aggravating factor in child sex abuse cases. Additionally, the number of felony child molestation charges was increased.
Other highlights include the creation of a fifth, Class E, felony. This will allow a more gradual step to punishment as compared to the prior code. The newly created class allows for harsher sentencing for drunk drivers and eliminates jail time for first-time offenders who have been convicted of marijuana possession of 10 grams or less.
Beyond this, the changes in the criminal code will correct and clarify a legislative mistake that included conflicting guidelines, pointed out by the Missouri Supreme Court, regarding felony stealing.
The rewrite of the code stems from legislation passed in 2014. The bipartisan bill took effect on January 1, 2017.
Know Your Rights
As is illustrated by the recent changes in Missouri’s criminal code, it is important to understand your rights and obligations, especially when the law is revamped. If you have any questions or concerns about the recent changes in your state’s laws, contact a knowledgeable attorney today