The Joint Interim Committee on the Missouri Criminal Code meets again today. The 1,034 page proposal that is its starting point has the backing of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
The Association’s new president, Eric Zahnd, says over time the state’s criminal code naturally develops discrepancies and contradictions that need to be fixed. “Legislators, to their credit, see problems and work to fix those problems, which means that new laws are created every single legislative session. At some point we need to again bring some uniformity to all of those changes that have been made, in this case over more than 30 years, to bring the code back into some sense of uniformity.”
Zahnd says the overhaul will impact other issues, such as prison overcrowding and the caseload for public defenders. “One of the things that we’ve heard, in fact, from the special master who the Missouri Supreme Court appointed to look at the public defender situation, he specifically mentioned the complexity of the criminal code as one of the issues that affects the public defender situation and again, frankly, the entire criminal justice system.”
The hearing today will focus in part on drug law, which the state legislature already made one change to regarding the discrepancy between penalties for powder and crack cocaine. Zahnd says the proposal also, “takes the punishment for some possession offenses and actually decreases the punishment for those but at the same time, for some drug dealing offenses, actually increases punishment for those.”
Another portion of the proposal would also create a new class of felony and a new class of misdemeanor.