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Senate committee hears legislation on false liens, expungement for prostitution, and raising the age for juvenile criminals

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The first meeting of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence proved to be a long one, with five bills on the scheduled list.

SB 792

The first one presented before the five-member committee during the Monday afternoon hearing was SB 792, sponsored by Sen. Jamilah Nasheed. The bill seeks to create a procedure for the expungement of criminal records relating to prostitution.

“This bill is a very important piece of legislation for me,” Nasheed said.

Nasheed’s bill very simply would provide that, if a court determines that a person was acting under the influence of another agent when committing the offense of prostitution, that person’s criminal record would be expunged. It also provides for increased penalties for the agent, raising the offense of patronizing prostitution to a Class E felony instead of a Class A misdemeanor.

“This bill will help victims move on after trafficking,” one supporter said. “What happened to them in the course of that situation is not relevant to them doing these jobs.”

No opposition was presented for the bill.

SB 793

Sen. Wayne Wallingford presented the next bill, SB 793, the Senate version of Rep. Nick Schroer’s HB 1255 more commonly referred to as the Raise the Age bill.

Under this bill, children under the age of 18 would be tried for most criminal offenses in the juvenile courts. Current law allows children between the ages of 12 and 17 who are alleged to have committed certain offenses to be prosecuted in a court of general jurisdiction rather than in juvenile court.

Addressing the committee, Wallingford said it was time to get rid of the “one size fits all” approach, and instead be “smart on crime”.

“It’s time that we switched from prisons to programs that actually work,” he said.

A string of supporters rose to provide testimony, but no opposition was presented.

“The ability to be rehabilitated doesn’t stop at the age of 17,” one supporter told the committee.

This act has an effective date of January 1, 2021.

SB 750

Sen. Dave Schatz tried to keep things rolling by wasting little time in explaining his bill regarding false documents. To break it down, SB 750 would create a criminal offense for filing false documents, which would be considered a Class D felony for the first offense. It also provides that any person who is found guilty of filing a false document will be required to make full restitution to the victim who suffers from the result of the filings.

The bill also states that “any state agency, county, or the City of St. Louis shall create a system in which suspicious filings are logged, and outlines the process for petitioning a court when a person has probable cause to believe a filing is fraudulent. The system shall be created by January 1, 2019.”

SB 552

The final bill presented before the committee was introduced by the chairman, Sen. Bob Dixon. His bill, SB 552, would allow law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to request an audit be done by the State Auditor, while also modifying the punishments for violating lobbying and conflict of interest provisions, and creates the offense of “official misconduct.”

Dixon, noting that the committee had heard similar language in past years, (SB 176 passed out of the same committee last year) simply asked if there were any questions and deferred to witnesses. He said that the bill expands the list of those who can request audits, as the State Auditor “has limited authority on discretionary audits” at the request of law enforcement or prosecuting attorneys. In more simple terms, it allows the Auditor’s Office to participate where they might not have been able to in years past.

Violating the conflict of interest and lobbying provisions is a Class E felony if the offense involves more than seven hundred and fifty dollars in value, or if the offender has previously been found guilty of violating the conflict of interest and lobbying provisions.

The act also creates the offense of official misconduct in the first degree, which is a Class E felony, and the offense of official misconduct in the second degree, which is a Class A misdemeanor. A court may enter a judgment of restitution against the offender and order the offender to pay restitution against the victim, a government entity, or a third-party payor.

No action was taken on any of the bills, and as each new bill came forward, the number of senators present for the committee dwindled, with the final bill being heard only by Sen. Ed Emery as his colleague introduced it.

The committee had been scheduled to also head SJR 22, but that was postponed to a later date. That resolution would require the Senate, beginning January 1, 2019, to try all impeachments except for the impeachment of the Governor, which would be tried by the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.