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House and Senate Agree on Bill to Better Protect Missourians

Senate Bill 491 Revises Missouri’s Criminal Code to Make Missourians Safer

The Missouri General Assembly today truly agreed and finally passed a bill that will better protect the people of Missouri. Senate Bill 491 received final approval by both the House and Senate by votes of 140-15 and 28-2, respectively. Sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, and handled in the House by Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, the measure will now be sent to the governor for his signature.

“Thanks to the dynamic leadership and statesmanship of Sen. Justus, Rep. Cox and Sen. Bob Dixon, this seven-year effort to revise Missouri’s criminal code is just one-step away from the finish line,” said Missouri Bar President Jack Brady of Kansas City. “The Missouri General Assembly, with broad support from both Republicans and Democrats, has crafted and passed a comprehensive and thorough bill that will better protect the people of Missouri. This update and reorganization of Missouri’s Criminal Code will make us safer, create an even fairer system and make better use of taxpayer funds. We now hope the governor will join us in our efforts to better protect Missourians by signing this bill into law.”

The comprehensive measure is the result of four years of cooperative work of The Missouri Bar Criminal Code Revision Subcommittee comprised of experienced prosecutors and defense attorneys, as well as representatives from the judiciary and the legislature. First introduced in the Legislature in 2012, lawmakers have held more than two dozen public hearings that elicited thoughtful input from all stakeholders.

To date, the effort to revise the Criminal Code has the support of many Missouri prosecutors, victims’ advocates for children, victims’ advocates against domestic and sexual violence, public defenders, defense attorneys and law enforcement, including the Fraternal Order of Police and Missouri Sheriffs’ Association.

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 Since its enactment, some statutes have become outdated, new crimes have been defined and some punishments have become inconsistent.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 bill includes the reclassification of both felony and misdemeanor offenses in which a fifth felony class and a fourth misdemeanor class would be created, noting the new penalty scales would allow for punishment to better correspond with the nature of the crime. The bill also would increase fine amounts that have not been adjusted since the Code was enacted in 1979.

If signed by the governor, the bill would take effect on January 1, 2017.

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.

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