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Missouri Lawmakers Mull Big Changes To Criminal Code

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State senators are considering sweeping changes to the Show-Me State's set of criminal laws.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State senators are considering sweeping changes to the Show-Me State's set of criminal laws.

The proposed criminal code was introduced in the Senate through a 1,100-page bill, SB 491, sponsored by Kansas City Sen. Jolie Justus and co-sponsored by Springfield Sen. Bob Dixon. The Senate could debate the bill next week. 

"It's forty years in the making," Sen. Dixon said. "The important thing is that we are making an attempt to be more effective on crime, smart on crime, making sure the punishment actually fits the crime."  

Related Link: Mo. Senate's Revision of the Criminal Code

Dixon said the bill, a bipartisan proposal, calls for many necessary, sweeping changes to the state's criminal law.

"This will be without a doubt the most far reaching and most effective piece of legislation in the area of child protection," Dixon said. "We have added the aggravated offense when incest is involved in the crime. That is a very, very long overdue measure." 

The new code would, in some cases, distribute justice and punishment differently since some first-time offenses would carry less weight and repeat offenses would carry more.

For example, a first-time marijuana possession offense would not come with a jail sentence. That's something attorney Adam Woody said will have an impact in and out of the courtroom.

"The goal of the justice system initially, especially for drug offenders, and other types of offenders, is rehabilitation. I think it's a great idea to focus on rehabilitation initially," Woody said. 
 
The proposed code also adds new classifications for felony and misdemeanor crimes, which could give prosecutors and defense attorneys more options. 

"That changes the range of punishment. There are so many statutes and it's hard to lump everything in four categories," Woody said. 

Sen. Dixon said his committee has engaged the public for feedback on the new code and welcomes further input. 

"What were really looking at is a reorganization a cleaning up of the existing code," Dixon said. "The crimes of the seventies are not the crimes of today."

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