The Missouri Senate has given initial approval to a wide-ranging crime package. State Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, wants to bolster protections for assault on a law enforcement animal. On the Senate floor, he called his bill a penalty enhancement.

“The purpose of the bill is to enhance the penalty to be consistent with other property damage crimes that don’t involve a living creature and to make it consistent, and to make sure that the service of these law enforcement animals is recognized in the law,” he said. “So, if we if we actually step it back from where it is right now, I mean, that would be the opposite of my intent.”

The initial part of the bill – Max’s Law – honors a St. Joseph police canine officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2021 while he and his partner were serving a warrant.

The other two parts come from state Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City. One provision would streamline the process to clear criminal records.

“When these provisions were negotiated over the course of the summer with the senator from the 14th, prosecutors, and some criminal justice reform groups, my assumption is is that because we were creating a more streamlined process for expungements, there needed to be some cap on the overall number just so the system didn’t get abused,” said Luetkemeyer.

The wrongful convictions of Kevin Strickland and Lamar Johnson have convinced Williams that Missouri needs a statewide unit dedicated to reviewing convictions. That’s the other provision Williams is behind. Strickland spent about 43 years and Johnson spent 28 years behind prison walls before being found innocent and freed.

A final vote must take place in the Senate before the House considers it.

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