Child advocates say there are changes made in the proposed rewrite of Missouri’s criminal code that are good for children.

Deputy Director of Missouri Kids First Emily van Schenkhof was involved closely in the development of the legislation. She says one of the significant changes it makes is to add incest as an aggravating factor to increase penalties on sentences for sex crimes.

“We see [incest] in about two-thirds of the cases that go through child advocacy centers … that the child is related to the person that is harming them,” says van Schenkhof. “We believe that this will be something that will allow us to increase penalties for a lot of folks that harm children.”

The bill would also eliminate a misdemeanor class of child molestation, so that the crime at all levels is now a felony.

“This allows … a little bit more variation in the charge and the penalty that the person will face,” says van Schenkhof. “We think we will get more “C” felonies, more “E” felonies.”

She says it also gives juries more options in sentencing, “which we think will ultimately benefit children in having stiffer penalties for people who hurt children.”

Van Schenkhof says also important is that there are no proposed reductions in penalties for child abuse crimes or changes in definitions that would impact prosecution of those cases.

The criminal code legislation (SB 491) is awaiting action by Governor Jay Nixon (D).

Watch Emily van Schenkhof talk more about the criminal code bill and the proposed budget below: