Sunday, December 25, 2011
When the regular session of the Missouri General Assembly convenes Jan. 4, one of the issues to be considered is a proposal by the Missouri Bar to overhaul the state’s criminal code.
The bar seeks to match prison sentences with the severity of crimes and revise fines for various offenses.
The bar’s proposed new state criminal code would allow the death penalty to be imposed for first-degree murder only after a person reached the age of 18 instead of the current age of 16. This brings state law into compliance with a 2005 federal court decision that it is unconstitutional to impose the death penalty for offenses by anyone under the age of 18.
The state provision requiring a life sentence without possibility of probation or parole would remain if any person is convicted of first-degree murder. The death penalty option also would remain for anyone over age 18 convicted of first-degree murder.
The bar’s proposed criminal code also would add a fifth felony class to current penalties that are now labeled A through D, with D as the least severe.
As the code now stands, there is a big gap in the range of prison punishment time between a Class C felony, which is one to seven years, and Class B felony, now five to 15 years.