Last week, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed a pivotal piece of legislation into law – legislation many believe will strengthen and intensify the harsh laws on prosecuting and punishing those charged with sex crimes.
House Bill 215 was signed into law last Tuesday, July 2 by Governor Nixon. The bill includes several provisions and changes to the Missouri criminal justice system. Most notably, several elements of HB 215 expand the legal definition of forcible rape, redefine certain child pornography laws, and introduce new sentencing classifications for some sexual offenses.
Pivotal Legislative Changes and Their Impact on the Law
Under the previous Missouri law, the state defined rape as one person having sexual intercourse with another by the use of “forcible compulsion” – which can include the use of a substance to physically or mentally impair a person without their knowledge or permission. Under HB 215, the new law now expands the legal definition of rape to include situations in which rape involves a person who is incapacitated, incapable of giving consent, or who lacks the capacity to give consent. Supporters of the bill, as well as the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, have expressed their approval of Governor Nixon's endorsement and the fact that Missouri laws will now encompass the experience of victims. For those who stand accused, these new changes can create heightened charges, severe penalties, and more vigorous prosecution.
In addition to redefining the instances that constitute rape, HB 215 also renames certain sex crimes and categorizes them into a tier system based on their nature and severity. The new classification system is designed to aid juries in deliberating sex crime cases, allowing them to convict defendants of lesser offenses.
Yet another essential component of the new legislation involves an expansion of the individuals who are unable to give consent for sexual contact. Current Missouri laws state that people who are unable to make reasonable judgments due to mental illness or intoxication are not able to give consent. The new law will add people who have been drugged or who are unable – for any other reason – to make reasonable decisions about the nature or harmfulness of the sexual conduct.
Additional changes to sex crime laws will also clarify laws concerning the possession of multiple images of child pornography. Previous state laws stated that 20 images constituted a Class B felony and had to be grouped together for prosecution. Now, with new changes brought about by HB 215, defendants who have been charged with possession of multiple images can face separate charges for each individual image. If a person was arrested with 12 images, for instance, they can be charged with 12 counts of possession. As such, defendants in this situation may face harsher criminal penalties, including the potential for longer terms of imprisonment.
St. Louis Sex Crime Lawyers at the Forefront of Changing Legislation
At The Hammer Law Firm, LLC, our team of St. Louis sex crime attorneys devotes more than 60 years of experience to clients facing a wide range of sex offense charges. As we know that sex crime cases are often the most serious, the most exhaustive, and the most devastating cases in the criminal justice system, we make it a point to leave no stone unturned when fighting on behalf of our clients. In order to provide the highest quality representation possible, our legal team also remains up to date with changes in the law, including the new sex crime changes that were enacted with the passing of HB 215.
At times when your life or your loved one's life may very well be on the line, you need to turn to experienced, proven St. Louis criminal defense attorneys who are capable of handling complex, high-stakes cases. These new Missouri state laws are expected to significantly intensify prosecution and punishment of alleged sex offenders, and anyone facing a sex crime allegation in the area should make working with seasoned lawyers their first priority. If you or someone you care about is facing any type of sex crime allegation, allow our attorneys to confidentially review your case, inform you of your rights, and explain precisely how we can protect your future. Contact The Hammer Law Firm, LLC today for the proven representation you need.