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Changes proposed for Missouri's criminal code - KOAM TV 7

Changes proposed for Missouri's criminal code

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Some recommendations backed by the Missouri Bar Association follow a four year study of the criminal code, by a committee of prosecutors, defense lawyers, and members of the courts and legislature.

The Missouri's Bar Association says their recommendations are not to remove or add laws, but consolidate regulations.

Some state lawmakers are calling the proposal significant and necessary.

Attorneys in Missouri tell us navigating through the state's statutes of laws can be confusing, especially for those not familiar with the legal system.

"It's been kind of a patchwork, kind of a hodgepodge that's developed, just naturally as the legislature passes new laws over the years," says Newton County Prosecutor Jake Skouby.

Skouby points to one example where separate statutes define the punishment for stealing animals, cable television, or even library books.

"And there's really no reason that can't all be consolidated into one 'stealing statute' with differentiation, to put you on notice on what is a felony and what is a misdemeanor," says Skouby.

Skouby and defense attorneys say penalties for illegally distributing drugs aren't even in the criminal section of the statutes.

"For example, what does 'possession mean?'" says defense attorney Bob Briggs.  "Obviously walking around with it in my pocket it's possession.  If I live in an apartment complex and I have four roommates and all my roommates are living in the house with me, who is possessing what?"

Some state lawmakers are looking at ways of better organizing Missouri's criminal law.

Attorneys say it may take a few headaches out of their job with clients able to understand the law.

"They can come in with documents to substantiate their position," says Briggs.

But more than anything there's the right to know.

"Everything we do should be transparent - the public ought to be able to follow along," says Skouby.

The Missouri Bar Association says the entire proposed bill is turning out to be more than 1,000 pages.

Lawmakers say they intend to file the proposal in sections with the first bill proposed in January.

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