© 2021 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government, Politics & Issues

It May Be Too Late To Revise Mo. Criminal Code This Year

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Nearly a full month of hearings wrapped up Monday into a Missouri Senate bill that would revise the state’s criminal code, but it may already be too late to get the bill to the Governor’s desk this year.

Senate Bill 253 is over a thousand pages long -- 1,071 to be exact.  Legislators may not have enough time to read it, let alone pass it, before the regular session ends next month.  The bill would create new classes of felonies and misdemeanors, give judges more flexibility in handing down sentences, and modernize the language used in the code.  Bob Dixon (R, Springfield) chairs the Mo. Senate Judiciary Committee.  He says Senate members may need more than six weeks to decide whether to pass the bill.

“It depends on what response we get from members," Dixon said.  "If we reach consensus on it, I’m not opposed to moving on it before this six-week period is up -- May the 17th being our last day -- but something of this magnitude I’m very hesitant to rush.”

The bill is sponsored by Senate Minority Floor Leader Jolie Justus (D), who lives in Kansas City but due to redistricting represents six counties in eastern and central Missouri (she also owns a home in the district).  She says the issue has gotten lots of attention over the past year, but adds that she’s willing to wait another year if that’s what it takes to get the state’s criminal code updated.

“For the past 30-plus years we’ve just enacted new crimes, and they’re just all over the statute," Justus said.  "What we want to do is bring it all under one roof…we’re just trying to make sure that we have gender-neutral language, that we’re taking into account modern technology changes.”

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence took no action Monday on the criminal code bill.  A Missouri House committee passed a similar bill last week.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.