House and Senate Committees Hear Bills to Reorganize Missouri’s Criminal Code

Missouri Bar Proposal Gains Early Traction in the 2014 Legislative Session 

JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Legislation to reorganize Missouri’s criminal code is one step closer to becoming law with hearings conducted today by both the state Senate and House Judiciary Committees. The bills, Senate Bill 491 and House Bill 1371, sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, respectively, could be voted on by each committee as early as next week.

Missouri Bar President Jack Brady, of Kansas City, testified at both hearings and said the needed revisions would mark the first major update of the Missouri Criminal Code since 1979.

“An updated and organized Criminal Code is better for the people of Missouri because it will make us safer, create an even fairer system, and will make better use of taxpayer funds,” Brady said. “We appreciate the extensive and thorough attention both committees are giving this legislation so early in the session.”

The proposals are the consensus work of The Missouri Bar Criminal Code Revision Subcommittee comprised of experienced prosecutors and defense attorneys, including public defenders, as well as representatives from the judiciary. The specially appointed bar committee was chaired by 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 panel worked for four years to consider, revise and reorganize the scores of statutes comprising Missouri’s Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code includes statutes that pertain to crimes and punishments, sentencing provisions, defenses, and principles of liability. Since its enactment, some statutes have become outdated, new crimes have been defined and some punishments have become inconsistent.

Brady said the most prominent aspect of the proposals is the reclassification of both felony and misdemeanor offenses in which a fifth felony class and a fourth misdemeanor class would be created. The subcommittee agreed the new penalty scales would allow for punishment to better correspond with the nature of the crime. The proposal also would increase fine amounts that have not been adjusted since the Code was enacted.

Each year, The Missouri Bar drafts and endorses a variety of legislative proposals designed to improve the law on behalf of the public. The Missouri Bar is a statewide organization that is dedicated to improving the legal profession, the law and the administration of justice for all Missourians. Created in 1944 by order of the Supreme Court of Missouri, it serves all 30,000 of Missouri’s practicing attorneys. To achieve its mission, The Missouri Bar provides a wide range of services and resources to its members, as well as the media, educators and the citizens of Missouri.

MoBar Quick Info

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.

Member Size: Currently, the bar is comprised of about 32,000 members.

Staff Size: The executive director, Sebrina Barrett, supervises a staff of 50 employees. Click here to see a Staff Directory

Budget: Approximately $10 million. No tax dollars are used to support Missouri Bar activities. Most money is derived from dues that lawyers pay; some is derived from CLE programs and publications, grants and The Bar Foundation.

Governance: The Board of Governors of The Missouri Bar determines policies and sets the course of action for the state bar to follow. The 45 members of the Board are elected by bar members. The Board elects a president, president-elect and vice president to serve as officers of the bar.

Sections and Committees: The Missouri Bar offers more than 50 substantive law committees for its members to join. It also has two sections: a Family Law Section, and the Young Lawyers' Section.

Location: The Missouri Bar Center is located in Jefferson City, at 326 Monroe St.

Missouri Bar Resources and Activities: The Missouri Bar provides a wide variety of services and resources, not only to its members, but also to the news media, school teachers and the citizens of Missouri. These include: CLE programs and publications, an Annual Meeting, a Solo and Small Firm Conference, teachers’ programs, committee meetings and extensive services for attorneys. The bar also administers a minimum continuing legal education requirement for attorneys.