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What Missouri's Amendment 2 Means for Criminal Justice

Missouri voters could make it easier to prosecute sex crimes this November, news sources report. According to a recent article, Amendment 2 is on the ballot, originally called "House Joint Resolution 16." In short, Amendment 2 would make it easier for prosecutors to convict sex crime defendants. But members of the legal community strongly oppose the motion, saying that it could make convictions too easy – even unfair.

The amendment specifically applies to cases that involve sex crimes against children, and would allow the prosecution to present the defendant's prior convictions as evidence during trial.

Under Missouri's current law, the jury would only hear about the defendant's previous convictions during the sentencing phase of the trial, since many sex crimes (especially those against children) are priorable crimes. If voters favor Amendment 2, sex crime defendants could face evidence in court that, according to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, is unconstitutional.

Amendment 2 hinges on the concept of propensity evidence, which alleges that prior offenses demonstrate the possibility of a natural tendency toward the crime. The proposal even includes evidence of previous cases that did not end in a conviction.

Those who oppose the proposal say that evidence of prior cases is not only unfair, but prejudiced against defendants. Nicole Chiravollatti, a defense attorney with The Hammer Law Firm, strongly opposes the amendment. "The introduction of such evidence by the prosecution would unfairly persuade the jury to convict based on the defendant's 'propensity' to engage in criminal conduct," she said, "as opposed to the evidence presented at trial."

Other members of the criminal defense community reject the idea as well. The ACLU (Missouri Chapter) disagrees with the measure for similar reasons. The chapter's Executive Director stated that, "Tampering with the Missouri Constitution to take away constitutional protections that are a traditional and necessary part of our criminal justice process goes against American ideals."

If you are facing charges of a sex crime, contact a criminal defense attorney from The Hammer Law Firm, LLC today.


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