JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Attorney General has partnered with a St. Louis lawmaker to help give “prosecutors the tools they need” to fight vehicle hijackings.
Currently, Missouri has no state law that specifically makes it a crime for hijacking a motor vehicle. Thus, those prosecuting the offense are forced to use other statutes that may not reflect the significance of the crime, according to stakeholders.
Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Rep. David Gregory are looking to solve that “very serious issue.” HB 966, filed by Gregory, would create the offense of vehicle hijacking, which would be considered a dangerous felony.
“We want to see a crime specifically dedicated for hijacking a motor vehicle,” said Gregory. “A very dangerous crime, most particularly because right now it is very difficult with technology to hotwire a car, so you are finding the only way to steal a vehicle is to somehow assault or attempt to assault or harm the owner of the vehicle.”
One witness testified that realistically people are stealing motor vehicles and then using them to commit other crimes. In St. Louis alone, there were over 300 carjackings in 2018 and over 400 in 2017.
“This is an epidemic we would like to see addressed,” said a lawyer with the Attorney General’s Office.
Under the proposal, vehicle hijacking would be if a person knowingly uses or explicitly or implicitly threatens the use of physical force upon another person to seize or attempt to seize possession of a vehicle from another person.
The crime would be considered a class B felony. If the person hijacking a vehicle uses a deadly weapon, causes serious injury to another person, or the victim is a protected person, then the offense is considered a class A felony.
One witness suggested tightening the definition of a motor vehicle so that stealing a golf cart, for example, wouldn’t be penalized at the same level.
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.