A lot of crimes and punishments have been defined by state laws since 1979, the last time an updated criminal code was put in the statute books. This could be the year, though, that Missouri’s criminal laws are brought into the 21st century. .
The revision fills about 1,000 pages of a bill. Supporters hope it bring order to a scrambled system of laws passed in the last 35 years. They hope for early action by the legislature.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Dixon of Springfield hopes three years of hearings, recommendations, and rewrites put the bill up for debate before the month is out. But the bill is coming along at a time when interest in repealing the death penalty has been rekindled. Dixon hopes that discussion does not stall the bill. “That’s an issue that has many opinions…But I would hope that we can get the basic criminal code structure set and then have those very important substantive debates at a time when we can have them and solely focus on those,” he says.
The revised code does not make wholesale changes in penalties for violations of laws. But it does created a new, low-level of felony that sponsors hope will give prosecutors more flexibility in handling cases.
The House has its own recodification bill. It’s slightly different from the Senate bill. Supporters of the Senate bill don’t think it’s different enough to tie up the issue in eventual compromise discussions.