Prosecutors from across the state, including Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks, are urging lawmakers to pass revisions to the state’s criminal code.
Legislators should heed the recommendations of the prosecutors and a host of other legal experts who have been collaborating on what would be the first comprehensive overhaul of the criminal code in three decades.
Why update the criminal code?
Because it is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do for our state.
Pending legislation in the Missouri General Assembly modernizes antiquated statutes, harmonizes numerous duplicate provisions and creates a fifth felony classification.
In her state of the judiciary address earlier this year, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Rhodes Russell, argued for passage of criminal code revisions noting that unfairness and inconsistencies have crept into the code over the decades.
For example, Justice Russell pointed out that killing someone in a drunk driving accident and writing a bad check for less than $500 carry the same seven-year maximum sentence.
Is that being smart on crime, she asked.
Proposed revisions to the criminal code will increase the maximum punishment for that same drunk driver to 10 years behind bars. Habitual drunken drivers will be treated as dangerous felons and will have to serve 85 percent of their time in prison before being eligible for parole.
Other important revisions would mandate that those who commit violent felonies will have their punishment increased on their second offense and not their third offense as in current law.
Laws pertaining to child sex abuse would be strengthened and would give prosecutors greater ability to put child molesters in prison.
Prosecutors are calling the revisions the strongest approach to assault crimes ever seen in Missouri.
The proposed update includes some sensible revisions to the criminal code concerning nonviolent offenses including drug offenses. Prosecutors endorse these changes saying they strike the right balance between violent and nonviolent offenses as well as maintain and promote public safety and accountability with respect to drug crimes.
The proposed criminal code revisions have undergone intense scrutiny and vetting both from the legal community and other impacted stakeholders. The consensus is that they make sense and are warranted. It also appears that there is strong bipartisan support for the overhaul.
All that is left to do is for legislators to pass the legislation. It’s time.