Missouri Gov. Mike Parson in July signed into law a hotly contested measure that greatly increases penalties for some violations of criminal law. The penalties are rising for second-degree murder and criminal acts that involve firearms or are gang-related. The new penalties go into effect when the law becomes active on Aug. 28.

Vehicle hijacking felony created

Car-jacking is a commonly known crime of violence that Missouri prosecutors previously dealt with through the state’s robbery laws. The newly enacted criminal law creates the felony crime of vehicle hijacking and enhances penalties for other violent crimes and gang-related crimes. That means no more robbery prosecutions for those accused of hijacking a vehicle and likely stiffer penalties.

Many Missouri groups oppose new criminal law penalties

The NAACP leads a prominent group of organizations opposed to the increased criminal penalties and says putting people in prison for longer periods will do nothing to reduce crime. Meanwhile, among organizations supporting tougher criminal penalties, the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys says the new law does not do enough to stifle a recent increase in violent crime in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield. Whether opposed to the new criminal law penalties or generally supportive, virtually all agree violent crime is on the rise and a problem in Missouri’s big cities.

Potential impacts on current prosecutions and sentencing guidelines

With new criminal laws and related penalties taking effect on Aug. 28, those defendants who are accused of criminal acts need to ensure their cases are handled accordingly. A judge or prosecutor might mistakenly apply the new law and penalties to preexisting cases that should not be affected by the changes. An experienced St. Louis criminal law attorney can help to ensure rights are upheld and proper sentencing applies in convictions.