New law goes into effect in Missouri: Four impacts

On January 1, 2017 a new law went into effect that represents the first "major overhaul" to Missouri's criminal code in decades.

The law is always evolving. It changes, and these changes can impact those who are charged with a crime. Those who live in Missouri are currently experiencing how these laws can change. As noted in a recent piece by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the criminal code was updated on January 1, 2017 - a significant feat since it represents the first "major overhaul" since the 1970s.

What is the new law and what kind of changes were made?

The law, SB 491, is an act that deals specifically with an array of criminal laws. Its enactment led to a number of changes. Some laws were renamed, others consolidated and those viewed to be obsolete or duplicative were repealed.

Four specific changes to take note of include:

  • New classes of crime. The law resulted in the establishment for a new classification of felonies, known as Class E, and a new classification for misdemeanors, Class D. The change increased monetary penalties for Class C, D and E felonies as well as Class C misdemeanors. The change provides courts with more sentencing options and reduces the prison sentences for some nonviolent drug crimes.
  • Sex offense laws. SB 491 also changed some sex offense laws. Those facing these charges that use consent as a defense should note that the age of the alleged victim was changed. Original law allowed for the use of this defense if the alleged victim was 12, this law raises the age to 14.
  • Driving while intoxicated. The law repealed the requirement that ignition interlock devices include GPS capabilities. The law also created the crime "boating while intoxicated." Although there is currently a similar law, it is generally limited to boating on specific waterways. This change removes that stipulation.
  • Drug crimes. The change expands the definition of an "ultimate user" when it comes to drug crimes to include immediate family members, regardless of whether that member resides within the household of the person accused of the crime. In some cases, the law led to a reduction of penalties associated with possession of a small amount of marijuana. In the past, criminal charges for this type of crime resulted in a criminal record. The change allows for courts to require a fine without resulting in a criminal record.

These are just a few of the changes that went into effect. Those who are charged with a crime are wise to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to better ensure their representation takes these changes into account when building a defense.