A significant change to Missouri law potentially affecting all criminal defendants and something good criminal lawyers need to keep an eye on, might be coming soon. Missouri State Senator Jack Goodman is proposing that Missouri's laws receive a complete face lift. Goodman proposed a bill to the Missouri legislature that would create a committee whose responsibility it would be to update the laws that define crime and punishment. Those laws are collectively referred to as the Missouri's criminal code (basically a collection of all the Missouri state criminal law) and it is in desperate need of an overhaul. The Missouri criminal code has not been updated since it was first drafted, over 30 years ago. Instead of spending time revising the code to keep up with the times, the Missouri legislature, located in Jefferson City, fell into the habit of adding a series of crimes and punishments over the years, creating several inconsistencies and legal conundrums along the way.
There are several examples of the code's internally inconsistent construction, including the following example noted by retired Judge Miles Sweeney in a separate report to the Missouri State Supreme Court.
- Property crime: If a thief takes $499 from another person, it is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. If the same thief writes a forged check for $2, it is a Class C felony punishable by seven years in prison.
- Drug offenses: If a person possesses a Xanax pill, which is used treat anxiety, without a prescription, it is a Class D felony, punishable by four years in prison. If that person gives the Xanax pill to someone else, it is transferring a controlled substance, which carries a 15-year sentence.
Missouri's prosecutors also seem to be in favor of the proposal. It would likely make their jobs easier if they had a streamlined criminal code to refer to when deciding how to charge a potential defendant. Dan Patterson, prosecutor for Green County, made it clear that he thought the review should have come a long time ago. "It really is time to do that sort of review, to go back and make sure the provisions are harmonized with one another," Patterson said.
Yet, experienced criminal defense attorneys may not agree. At our firm, Sansone/Lauber, we typically look for those inconsistencies in the Missouri Criminal Code and we exploit those inconsistencies and use them to our advantage.
Goodman's bill will provide the basis for a solid system in the Missouri legislature that focuses on keeping the criminal code up to date. Every couple of decades the committee should take a look at the laws and determine whether it is time to abolish some, amend others, and rearrange parts and sections for the sake of clarity and cohesion. The Bar Association's model draft makes a great starting point, but the committee is going to have to tailor that code to make it work for the state.
If you have any questions about Missouri Criminal Law or need to speak to an experienced Missouri criminal defense lawyer. Contact Gary J. Lauber today at (314) 863-0500.
Source: "Missouri's criminal code could get much-needed overhaul," by Josh Nelson, published at www.News-Leader.com.
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