In May, Missouri legislators passed House Bill 210 by a large margin in the state house. The bill proposes fundamental changes to the Missouri Criminal Statutes by creating a new class of felonies (Class E) and a new class of misdemeanor (Class D). There are currently four classes of felonies in Missouri (Class A, B, C and D), and three classes of misdemeanors (A, B, and C). The bill also calls for increases in fines for both misdemeanors and felonies and changes the laws regarding many crimes including assault, abuse of the elderly, kidnapping, harassment, stalking, harassment, rape, sodomy and other sex crimes. The bill would create a wide array of new crimes in the areas of election law and sex crimes. For example, violations of election law including voter fraud could be classified as a Class E felony and punishable by up to 4 years in prison. HB 210 also makes it a crime for a clergyman or a teacher to have sexual contact with students or other individuals in their care.
The changes will modernize the criminal code. Currently, many crimes carry the same punishment even though they are very different offenses. For example, forgery and involuntary manslaughter are classified as the same type of felony and a guilty verdict or plea could expose a defendant to same punishment. By adding a new class of felony and a new class of misdemeanor, the Legislature hopes to change that problem. The bill will now go to the senate and a full vote is expected soon.