State sentencing panel recommends modifications

Missouri judges are getting some changes to the information they use when issuing sentences in criminal cases.

The state’s Sentencing Advisory Commission announced this week it’s made five changes to the recommendations that the state’s Probation and Parole staff use when listing the possible ranges of punishment to be included in their Sentencing Advisory Reports (SAR).

When someone pleads guilty to, or is found guilty of, a criminal charge, judges order an SAR to help in issuing an appropriate sentence.

“The goal of the sentencing recommendations remains the same,” the panel said in its report of the changes, “to give as much useful information as possible to help inform sentencing decisions.”

The report was included in the Nov. 3 edition of the commission’s “Smart Sentencing” publication. It can be seen online at www.mosac.mo.gov.

Several years ago, Missouri court officials launched the present system in an effort to make sentences imposed for similar crimes more equitable statewide.

“Whether and how the information is used in a particular case is up to the judge, because discretion is at the heart of all sentencing in Missouri,” the commission said.

Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff chairs the commission.

He noted: “Judges will be free, as always, to use or not use the information and recommendations.”

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