The proposed restructuring of Missouri’s criminal laws is such a massive undertaking that two Senators have spent two days outlining the hundreds of changes. Some of the changes involve drugs and distance.
The rewriting process has brought into focus a series of inconsistencies and inadequacies in Missouri’s current criminal laws. For example–the crime of selling drugs to anyone with certain distances of schools, daycares, or parks brings stiffer penalties than the sale of drugs anywhere else. But as various laws on the subject have been passed through the years, the distances differ. The proposed rewrite standardizes the distance at one-thousand feet.
Another change involves the practice of sending people to prison for first offense possession of as little as 1.2 ounces of marijuana. Critics say there’s no reason to sentence that person to a prison term similar to one given in cases where victims are harmed.
Criminal Code revision sponsor Jolie Justus says the new code responds by making the possession a low-class misdemeanor that, at worst, might involve some local jail time. .
A first-time offender with MORE than 35 grams would still be a felon but the punishment would be eased. Instead of facing one to seven years in prison, that first-time offender would face one to four years.
The easing of penalties for first-time offenders would apply only to marijuana, not to possession of meth, cocaine, heroin, or other drugs.
The change also could take some strain off of the Public Defender system, which must represent indigent clients if prison time is a possibility. Supporters of the change say making possession of small amounts eliminates the prison possibility and the need for a public defender.