LEBANON, MO — Starting July 1, non-violent offenders will only be issued a summons rather than a warrant with bond.
The change means the difference between holding non-violent offenders in jail while they await court appearances and letting them wait at home to appear.
Missouri’s highest court has issued a rule saying that non-violent criminals are required to be issued a summons if they are not deemed to be a threat to a victim or community, and have a history of not missing court dates.
No bond will be required for offenders who meet those criteria, and it has some law enforcement officials upset.
Laclede County Sheriff David Millsap thinks it lets criminals off the hook too easily by not forcing them to make bond.
“The Missouri Supreme Court has basically given a free pass to those who are repeatedly breaking into our houses, our businesses, stealing vehicles, or dealing drugs,” Millsap says.
“When we make an arrest, regardless of how many burglaries you have committed in the last, or vehicles you have stolen, if you have no violent crime in your criminal history, and you make it to your court dates, you will get a summons to your court date instead of sitting in jail waiting to have your case go through the court system,” Millsap explains.
Before this rule, associate circuit judges could weigh a criminals history and decide whether or not they would issue a warrant with a set bond.
Millsap believes this decision stems from violent crime issues and jail overcrowding in larger cities, but he believes it should not apply to rural counties.
As things stand now, people spend time in jail waiting for the justice system to run its course. Defense attorney Dee Wampler says that in many cases, it just isn’t necessary.
“Under the current rules, the person is arrested, and the person a lot of times is held in jail for weeks at a time until he can get a lawyer, go to court and get the bond lawyer, or come up with enough money to pay a bondsman,” Wampler said.
Wampler believes the priority for jails should be for those who commit worse crimes.
“We have violent offenders that we want to put in jail but we can’t because somebody is in there on a non-support charge,” Wampler said.
The rule is set to take effect on July 1.