Mo. House endorses criminal code overhaul

The Missouri House gave first-round approval Monday to the first overhaul of the state’s criminal code since 1979 but with time running out in the legislative session its chances of passing are slim.

The plan, a product of a Missouri Bar committee, would create new classes of felonies and misdemeanors.

Sponsoring Rep. Stanley Cox, R-Sedalia, said the current classification system lacks a middle step in sentencing for certain crimes. The current code, for example, classifies the crimes of forgery and involuntary manslaughter by a drunk driver in the same felony category.

The new felony class would carry sentences ranging from three to 10 years, bridging the gap between “B” felonies — a five- to 15-year sentence— and “D” felonies, a one-to seven-year term.

In an attempt to keep up with inflation, the overhaul also would increase the amount people are fined for committing certain crimes.

The effort has garnered bipartisan support and its Senate sponsor is a Democrat. But one House Democrat said Monday that lawmakers could have considered more major changes to the state’s criminal laws.

“Our sentences may still be too long and we may still be incarcerating people for lengths of time that are bad for them and bad for society,” said Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City.

A Senate panel completed a series of public hearings on the matter earlier this month, but has not voted on the bill. The House measure needs one more vote before moving to the Senate. Lawmakers adjourn May 17.

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