Missouri Bar Proposal Would Bring First Major Changes to State Criminal Code in More than 30 Years

 

A legislative proposal, drafted by a specially appointed Missouri Bar committee and endorsed by the bar’s Board of Governors is expected to get significant attention from legislators during the upcoming session of the Missouri General Assembly. The proposal is the first major update of the Missouri Criminal Code since 1979.  The Criminal Code includes those statutes that pertain to crimes and punishments, sentencing provisions, defenses, and principles of liability.   “This has been a major project of The Missouri Bar,” said Missouri Bar President Lynn Whaley Vogel. “The Missouri Bar Criminal Code Revision Subcommittee, composed of prosecutors, defense attorneys and representatives from the judiciary and the legislature, has been working diligently on this for four years.”

 

In the many years since enactment of the Criminal Code, some statutes have become outdated, new crimes had been defined, and some punishments have become inconsistent.  The new revision will not only make the law more cohesive and easier to understand, but it will also make penalties more consistent and just. “The effects of each change have been carefully considered, with the overall aim to develop a coherent structure that eliminates redundant statutes and inconsistent sentencing provisions. The final product reflects a consensus that these changes are needed and will vastly improve the criminal justice system in Missouri,” said Bar President Vogel.

The committee that evaluated the Code and worked on ways to improve it was composed of career prosecutors and defenders who have extensive experience in the criminal justice system. The committee has two chairs: Jason Lamb, executive director of the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services, and Gwenda Robinson, district defender of the Appellate/Post-conviction Office of the Missouri State Public Defender System in St. Louis.

The task of considering, revising and reorganizing the scores of statutes comprising Missouri’s Criminal Code required close cooperation between prosecutors and defense attorneys.  While members of each group brought their own perspectives to the project, the committee members were able to work together and reach consensus on a reclassification of felony offenses.  The crux of the proposal is the addition of a fifth felony class (Missouri currently has four). This would allow for punishment to appropriately correspond with increasing levels of culpability and heinous conduct.  It would also allow more flexibility for prosecutors in disposition of cases.  The proposal also would increase the fine amounts that have not been adjusted since the original Code was enacted.

“While the criminal justice system is adversarial by nature, we were able to work together to achieve consensus on a product that promotes public safety, harmonizes statutory language and allows for greater efficiency in the disposition of cases,” said Jason Lamb.

“By collaborating on this revision, we are ensured that the practical realities faced by defenders, prosecutors, defendants and victims have been taken into account,” said Gwenda Robinson.

A summary of the revisions and a copy of all the proposed changes to the current Criminal Code can be found on The Missouri Bar website, at  http://www.mobar.org/legislative-proposals.aspx

Each year, The Missouri Bar drafts and endorses a variety of legislative proposals designed to improve the law and its administration on behalf of the public. The update of the Criminal Code has also been endorsed as a package by the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

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Organization and Purpose: The Missouri Bar is the statewide organization that all Missouri lawyers must belong to if they practice law. The Missouri Bar was created in 1944 by order of the Supreme Court of Missouri. It is considered an instrumentality of the state, not a private association nor a state agency. Its mission is to improve the legal profession, the administration of justice, and law on behalf of the public.

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