A new bill gaining momentum in the state legislature is proposing a massive
overhaul of the state's criminal code. The bill, which was created
by a Missouri Bar committee of prosecutors and public defenders, aims
to enact comprehensive changes to criminal laws; laws which haven't
been changed since 1979. In particular, it focuses on changing the way
the state handles
drug crime cases and on reducing stiff sentences imposed on low-priority, non-violent
As states throughout the nation have begun to reevaluate ineffective and
inefficient drug crime policies, there has been a palpable shift to reduce
penalties and focus on rehabilitation, rather than simply punishing drug
offenders with stiff sentences. In a country where medical marijuana is
legal in 20 states and recreational marijuana is legal in two, much attention
was also given to Missouri's draconian stance of
marijuana charges and penalties.
Missouri's Shifting View on Marijuana & Drug Possession
Putting aside arguments for or against the legalization of marijuana, the
fact remains that states across the country – including Missouri
– have wasted tremendous resources prosecuting and penalizing individuals
accused on minor drug offenses, especially those related to marijuana.
The proposed criminal code overhaul would greatly reduce sentencing for
first-time marijuana offenders, prohibiting any jail time and capping
maximum fines at $500. A second conviction for marijuana possession, however,
would be punishable by up to one year in jail and a larger fine.
Other changes to the state's criminal law include reducing maximum
prison sentences for other felony drug possession charges. Currently,
Missouri enforces a seven-year maximum for these offenses. The new measure
suggests reducing that maximum sentence to four years. Many of these changes
were prompted by the state's overcrowded jails and prisons, a problem
that has also prodded other states to change their sentencing guidelines
for minor drug offenses.
St. Louis criminal defense Attorney Nicole Chiravollatti has seen how ineffective
policies impact both convicted individuals and the state. According to
Attorney Chiravollatti, Missouri is making the right decision, given that
the state's prisons are overcrowded and because many are doing hard
time for simple possession charges. "There have been some positive
changes in Missouri, including the implementation of DWI and Drug Courts,
which provide treatment and support instead of just sending defendants
to prison. Despite the small steps in the right direction, we will still
have a long way to go!"
If you or your loved one has been charged with a drug crime in St. Louis
and would like more information about your case and defense,
contact us for a FREE consultation.