JOPLIN, MO.--- The debate is underway, state senators discussing whether it's time to vote in a new criminal code for the state. It would be a massive overhaul since the original document was first approved in 1979. State Senator Ron Richard says Missouri's criminal code rewrite is long overdue.
"I've had debated on it for about a week and a half and probably going to be another week and a half more," said Senator Ron Richard, Missouri District 32.
After that, the path is unclear. Neither the governor nor the state attorney general have taken a public stand on the revision. The effort started more than three years ago with a group of prosecutors that says the code needs to be redone.
"Over time, the defense attorneys got involved, law professors, judges and folks who are familiar with the criminal system to draft a new set of laws that make sense in today's society," said Dean Dankelson, Jasper County Prosecutor.
That includes balancing out sentencing guidelines. One example is the potential punishment for a drunk driver who causes a fatal wreck- voluntary manslaughter, a Class "C" Felony.
"The same way assault in the second degree is a Class C Felony, if you're a DD and you're in a crash and someone suffers a minor bruise - it's a Class C Felony. It's the same penalty range as if someone passes away, there's no differentiation," said Dankelson.
While many of the changes are technical, it would also add a new classification for crimes, giving the legal system a new option for carrying out justice. Consideration of the measure hasn't been simple or easy. It's 1,100 pages long, but supporters say it's worth the effort.
"This is a process that's been going on for a long time, it's our three year of proposing this in the legislation, and it's our hope that it gets passed this year," said Richard.
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