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Rep. David Tyson Smith plans to tackle judicial process, police misconduct this session

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. David Tyson Smith is on a mission this upcoming legislative session: to continue the legislature’s work from last year on police and criminal justice reform. 

Smith has pre-filed legislation to add to a gargantuan new law passed last year that encompassed a variety of criminal justice measures, from expanding parole eligibility parole to creating the offense of institutional vandalism.  

Smith’s changes would ensure citizen review boards were exempt from a section limiting investigative interviews with police officers accused of misconduct. The new law requires interviews to be held during the officer’s work hours and to take place at the station or another location approved by the officer. Smith said the change would allow boards and citizens to retain the ability to look into alleged malfeasance without additional hindrance. 

Additionally, the Columbia Democrat pre-filed a myriad of legislation this month focused on Missourians’ legal rights, a topic he has extensive experience with as a lawyer in mid-Missouri.

“I ran for office to improve the lives and livelihoods of Missourians, and my experience as an attorney has made it crystal clear to me that citizens of this state deserve better from our judicial and law enforcement systems,” Smith said. “Each of these bills will protect citizens from government overreach and abuse and empower them throughout the judicial system.”

The Citizen’s Protection Act, HB 2102, would amend Missouri statute to prohibit prosecutors from re-filing a case multiple times — which can lead to multiple arrests, incarcerations, and bond postings — if it is dismissed at the preliminary hearing stage. Smith said such “unfair and excessive harassment has no place in our legal system.”

HB 2104 would create a Public Defender Protection Fund. Deputy district defenders and assistant public defenders may not be able to withdraw from cases despite threats of physical harm or harassment from clients, but Smith’s bill would allow them to disengage, leaving the district defender to reassign the case or take it on themselves. 

And then there’s HB 2103, which would redirect payments to independent contract attorneys who drop a case back into the public defender’s fund. Those funds go into general revenue under current law, but the act would allow those fees to go back into the original fund instead. 

The Driver’s Protection Act, filed as HB 2100, would forbid traffic stops on zero-point traffic violations, including bumper issues, broken license plate lights, and missing tailgates. The bill would not cover registration issues or commercial vehicles, Smith said. 

A plethora of legislation has been filed ahead of session, including pieces on expungement, utilities, education, and numerous other issues. Lawmakers return for the 2022 legislative session on Wednesday.