Missouri Lawmakers Considering Massive Overhaul to State's Criminal Laws
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 drug offenders.
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.