Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon signed a new crime related bill that updates youth sentencing laws, changes use-of-force statutes, and bans traffic ticket quotas.
Changes will go into effect in 2018 and also make it easier to seal conviction records for some crimes. Currently state laws require a 20 year waiting period to file for an expungement of felonies and 10 years for misdemeanors. The new law reduces the waiting period for felonies to 7 years and 3 years for misdemeanors. The cost to file is $250 and the person must not have received any other convictions during the waiting period. Those convicted of dangerous felonies, domestic assault, certain violent crimes and sex offenses will not be eligible.
The legislation, approved by large margins in both the House and Senate, is designed to help former criminals find employment more easily. Records would be sealed from public viewing but prosecutors and police could still receive the information.
Legislation has changed how much physical force a police officer may use to bring Missouri in compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Tennessee v. Garner.
Ticket quotas, a practice in some Missouri municipals, will likely be abolished with laws now prohibiting cities from encouraging or requiring an employee to issue a certain number of tickets. This change has come about after a push in traffic ticket reforms post 2014 Ferguson unrest and protests.
Sentencing reform also was part of the changes, particularly involving juveniles. Juvenile murders older than 16 can be assessed a minimum of 50 years and be eligible for a parole hearing. Juvenile murders under age 16 can be sentenced to a minimum of 35 years and be eligible for a parole hearing. These sentencing options were added for juvenile murders after a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court case ruled death sentences were unconstitutional, which left Missouri with only one option of a first-degree murder conviction. And a later 2012 case stated that life without parole also was unconstitutional.