One of the more formidable tasks facing the Missouri Legislature during the current session is a revision of the Missouri Criminal Code. Considering that its last major update took place in 1979, there is support locally for the refreshening effort.
“I had not realized it had been ’79,” said James Lemon, Hannibal city attorney. “If it’s been that long I would say yes, we are probably due for it when you look at how some things have developed.”
“It’s a good idea in my mind to periodically review what you’re doing and make a decision as to what we need to continue doing, or what can we do to improve,” said Associate Circuit Judge David Mobley.
Mobley notes that the world is a vastly different place than it was when the criminal code was last re-done.
“There’s been enough changes with what is going on with society in general. There area issues that people have to deal with now that 30 years ago weren’t even thought of, from social networking issues that can come up with the use of the Internet, to drug issues. We’re dealing with a whole lot more than we used to in certain areas,” said the judge.
According to Lemon, this represents a chance to clean up “various inconsistencies in criminal code.”
“There are some places where you can tell that people have drafted statutes that were not aware that perhaps that (issue) was already covered by another statute or partially covered by another statute. To bring everything in line and clean up issues like that I don’t see as a bad idea,” he said.
The legislation now under consideration by a Missouri Senate panel is the handiwork of a Missouri Bar panel that began meeting five years ago.
“I know some folks that were on the Criminal Code Committee and participated in re-writing it,” said Talley Kendrick, prosecuting attorney in Monroe County. “I know they tried really hard to address some issues that we face in some areas in the statutory law that quite frankly just don’t make sense. That being said, the way it is now as a prosecutor and defense attorneys, we know where we stand and any time you re-write a statute you’re kind of starting over. It would certainly create some uncertainty by doing that, so I guess to me it’s a wash one way or another. I know they’re trying to fix some issues that should be fixed. At the same time it will create uncertainty.”
The 1,000-page bill would create new classes of felonies and misdemeanors and give judges more flexibility in sentencing. It also would increase the amount of fines that could be levied on some criminal defendants.
Page 2 of 2 - The Senate’s judiciary committee held a hearing Monday, but did not vote on the bill. Another hearing was scheduled Tuesday.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)