New criminal code revision features felony class overhaul

Prosecutors say 'punishment should fit the crime'

2017 criminal code revision features...

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Gone is much of the leniency for felony charges in Missouri now that the criminal code has been updated by the General Assembly.

ABC17 News reported this week on the change and the harsher punishments that will be doled out for repeat DWI offenders and child crimes.

A deeper look into the new code reveals a new class of felonies has been added, one that makes it so that the "punishment fits the crime," said Jason Lamb, the executive director of the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.

"As the severity of the offense increases, the corresponding punishment should increase," he said.

Instead of four classifications of felonies, starting Jan. 1 there will be five. For decades there have been A and B felonies, the repeat and violent crime offenders. C and D was reserved for first-time offenders and non-violent offenses.

Lamb said the two lower levels, C and D, have been dropped down to create levels D and E. A new level C has been inserted in the middle and it will feature harsher punishments for certain crimes that were classified as light punishments in the original C and D levels, which are now D and E.

Lamb provided an example of what the new level will influence by comparing a DWI that results in a death and passing a bad check that's worth more than $500. Both currently carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

"Under current law, the same punishment currently applies to passing a bad check worth more than $500 as it does to killing another another individual in a DWI crash," he said. "That's just not right."

The revision creates a new felony class and drops the felony bad check to a lower-level felony and increases the range of punishment for the involuntary manslaughter charge to up to 10 years in prison.

"I think it's beneficial to the system as a whole," said Lamb. "Anytime that the system can gives prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges the necessary tools, that's a good thing."

He said that leads to more appropriate outcomes in cases whether those outcomes are prison time, fines or other sentences.

Lamb said there aren't many misdemeanors that were moved up to Class E. Many felonies now in classes C, D and E were already felonies, but were rearranged to provide better-fitting punishments.

Individual employers will still have the ability to make a decision about hiring a person based on their conduct.

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