He writes from Jefferson City on the Missouri justice system: defendants, cops, prosecutors, courts, the legislature, and defense lawyers. Click here for Randy’s law practice website
While one can never feel secure while the legislature is in session, it is good to have your state come in near the top as a free-er state. We have a LONG way to go, but this is compared to the other states which can all be found here.
While many Missouri law-makers are sponsoring a bill that would tell the federal government what they can do with their firearms laws [See Will Missouri nullify federal firearms laws?], a St Louis County Democrat has filed a bill that would require parents who own firearms to provide that information to their children’s school.
Senate Bill 124, filed by State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal creates several new crimes. This law mandates that any parents or guardians of a child must notify the child’s school in writing if such parent or guardian owns any firearm. This registration must occur withing within 30 days of enrolling the child or within 30 days of obtaining a firearm. Violators would be subject to a $100 fine.
The effectiveness of this provision is certainly questionable since the risk of a $100 fine may not be sufficient to encourage thoughtful people to tell the government where the guns are. On the other hand, one can anticipate the inevitable–and Orwellian–classroom scene where the teacher quizzes the children: “Today we will talk about firearm safety. How many of your parents have guns at home?’ That should keep the county busy prosecuting parents who get snitched out by their kids.
The bill also creates the offenses of: 1) parental failure to stop illegal firearm possession by anyone under 18; and 2) the negligent storage of a firearm. These are class A misdemeanors unless death or injury results, in which case it is a class D felony.
- makes it unlawful for any state or local officer or employee (such as police, prosecutors and judges) or any federal firearms dealer to attempt to enforce any federal law relating to personal firearms, accessories or ammunition owned or manufactured in the state and that remain in the state; and
- makes it a felony for any federal agent to attempt to enforce such federal law; and
- authorizes any person in violation of a such federal law to request the attorney general to defend him or her for such violation; and
- that any new federal law that restricts ownership of a semi-automatic firearm (or magazine of a firearm) or requires its registration, shall be unenforceable in the state of Missouri.
State nullification of federal law is the legal theory that individual US states have the right to invalidate any federal law that the state finds unconstitutional. In the early years of the republic, nullification was considered by many states, but the federal courts–not unexpectedly–have not upheld the doctrine.
Obviously, if it came to a showdown, the federal government might be able–to some extent–enforce its firearms laws in Missouri. What would really gut federal enforcement efforts, however, would be the lack of any assistance from state and local law enforcement. Having the Missouri Attorney General defend citizens prosecuted by the United States Attorney would also be interesting.
The change will be a modification of the current Missouri concealed carry law, and would allow teachers and administrators to carry concealed if they obtained a concealed-carry permit. They would have to go through the normal background checks and training required for such permits.
Nothing in the existing law prohibits the school officials or the governing body of a school/district from giving permission now for anyone to carry a concealed weapon in the school if they possess a permit. The effect of the new law would be to allow teachers and administrators to carry without express permission.
Three cheers for Rep. Casey Guernsey and HB 46, pre-filed on December 5, 2012. Guernsey’s proposed law would prohibit anyone–including law enforcement–from using “a drone or other unmanned aircraft to gather evidence or other information pertaining to criminal conduct or conduct in violation of a statute or regulation”
There are three exceptions:
- If the property or business owner consents
- If a court issues a search warrant permitting the use; or
- If a law enforcement agency possesses reasonable suspicion that swift action is necessary to prevent imminent danger to life.
Even with these exceptions, the proposed law would go a long way toward strangling, in its crib, the nascent danger of routine aerial surveillance in Missouri.
Now if there is some way to stop the federal government . . .
Many changes to the interlock law are set out here from the Missouri Bar legislative digest regarding Senate Bill 480:
IGNITION INTERLOCK ENHANCED REQUIREMENTS – Under this act, a person whose driving privilege has been denied for 10 years for 3 or more DWI offenses, or for 5 years for 2 intoxication-related traffic offenses within a five-year period shall be required to use an ignition interlock device that has photo identification technology and global positioning system features when their license is reinstated or whenever a limited driving privilege is granted (Section 302.060). If monthly monitoring reports show during the period of reinstatement that the ignition interlock device has registered blood alcohol concentration readings above the set point established by the Department of Transportation, or that the person has tampered with or circumvented the ignition interlock device, an additional 6 months will be added to the person’s reinstatement.
Under current law, a person who has been convicted of a first time DWI or BAC is assessed points and receives a license suspension of 30 days (“hard walk”), followed by a 60 day restricted driving privilege. Under this proposal, a person who chooses to install an ignition interlock device shall serve a 15 day suspension, followed by a 75 day period of restricted driving privilege. The person’s license will be reinstated following the 75 day period if otherwise eligible by law. If the monthly monitoring reports show a violation during this 75 day restricted driving privilege, the person’s license will not be reinstated until the person completes an additional 75 day period of restricted driving privilege without any such violations. The act provides similar measures for persons whose driver’s license have been suspended under the administrative process.
Under current law, a person who has two or more DWI or BAC convictions, must have an ignition interlock device installed in order to have his or her driver license reinstated. The ignition interlock device must be maintained on the offender’s vehicles for a period of at least 6 months. Under this act, if monthly monitoring reports show during the period of reinstatement that the ignition interlock device has registered blood alcohol concentration readings above the set point established by the department of transportation, or that the person has tampered with or circumvented the device, then an additional six months will be added to the person’s reinstatement.
Under current law, persons with 5 year or 10 year license denials because of multiple DWI or other intoxication-related traffic offenses may seek a limited driving privilege after serving 2 or 3 years of the license denial. Under the terms of this act, such persons may seek a limited driving privilege after only serving 45 days of the denial or disqualification period. In addition, this act allows a person who has his or her license revoked for 2 alcohol-related enforcement contacts within 5 years to seek a limited driving privilege after completing the first 45 days of the 1 year revocation. Currently, such a person is not eligible for a limited driving privilege.
The ignition interlock provisions have an effective date of October 1, 2013.
I get phone calls all the time from people trying to hire me to have their criminal records expunged. Until now, I have always had to give the sad news that–with the exception of some ten-year-old DWI convictions– “They don’t do that here in Missouri.” With the signing of HB 1647 last Tuesday, Missouri’s criminal expungement laws have been expanded.
The new law–chiefly meant to restore the right to possess firearms–goes into effect on August 28, 2012 and allows for the expungement of some felony and misdemeanor criminal records. The felonies must be over twenty years old and misdemeanors ten years old with no other criminal offenses (excluding traffic) committed during those time periods. Here is a rough list of crimes which may be expunged:
Felonies and Misdemeanors:
- Passing a bad check
- Fraudulently stopping payment of an instrument
- fraudulent use of a credit device or debit device
- Negligent setting of a fire
- Tampering in the second degree (joyriding among other things)
- Property damage
- Peace disturbance
- Drunkeness/Drinking in schools, churches and courthouses
Getting convictions expunged requires the filing of a petition in the court in which the person was found guilty. The petition must name as defendants every state agency that may possess the conviction records. On top of filing and service fees, the new law tacks on an extra $100 filing fee. There must be a court hearing and a finding that the petitioner meets every criteria, including full payment of any restitution ordered; and that the “circumstances and behavior of the petitioner warrant the expungement;” and that the expungement is “consistent with the public welfare.”
Although a person is not required to hire a lawyer to obtain an expungement, most people will want an attorney to file the lawsuit and conduct an evidenciary hearing. Despite the time and cost, many people may find a criminal expungement worth pursuing.
Here are some key criminal-related changes from this years just concluded legislative session. Click on the bill number for complete information:
Senate Bill 470, adds Missouri Department of Transportation vehicles that display white & amber lights to the list of emergency vehicles Missouri motorists must move over for.
Senate Bill 611 requires MoDOT to establish minimum yellow light change interval times for traffic-control devises. These times must be established in accordance with nationally recognized engineering standards and cannot be less than the recognized national standard yellow light runtime. This corrects the popular practice of setting dangerously short yellow traffic lights to maximize the revenue from red-light cameras. See Could Red Light cameras be killing us — to make money
Senate Bill 755 creates the crime of disturbing a house of worship if one intentionally and unreasonably disturbs a building used for religious purposes by using profanity, rude or indecent behavior, or making noise. It would also be a crime if a person engages in such behavior within the house of worship or so close to the building that the services are disturbed.
This is another attempt to end the funeral protests of our looneytune Kansas neighbors, the Westboro Baptist Church. It also makes it a crime if an individual intentionally injures, intimates, or interferes with any person exercising the right to religious freedom or who is seeking access to a house of worship. Third offense is a felony.
Senate Bill 489, grandfathers in persons who obtained firearms safety training before the training requirements for concealed carry endorsement applicants were raised in 2011. This measure allows these certificate holders to receive a concealed carry endorsement without having to retake a training course.
Senate Bill 628, establishes the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, to address the crime of trafficking drugs, and evaluates certain offenses on the sexual offender registry.
There is a bill in the Missouri legislature which may have repercussions for years to come. Sen. Eric Schmitt (R- Glendale, MO) has sponsored SENATE BILL NO. 457, which would create the crime of failing to inform the government of sexual abuse of a child.
Unlike the practice in totalitarian countries, free countries like the United States have never been enthusiastic about forcing citizens to inform on other citizens. In this country, “Good Samaritian Laws” are laws that encourage people to aid other people in trouble. For example, healthcare professionals can give emergency help without worrying about getting sued for malpractice. Such laws encourage helping others. Aiding another is the right thing to do, but in a free country, rendering assistance it is not mandatory unless one has somehow contributed to the harm or otherwise has a relationship-based duty of care for that person.
A new kind of Good Samaritan law has become common in recent years. These are called “manditory reporting” laws. Under mandatory reporting laws, doctors, nurses, social workers, day care workers and others responsible for the care of children–who have reason to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected–must report it to the government or face criminal charges. These laws are justified when limited to persons who already have a duty of care toward the child.
Last year, sexual abuse scandals were in the news and decent people everywhere are outraged that persons, who knew of the abuse, said nothing. When the prospective witness is not a mandated reporter, however, nothing can be done to punish them for this morally reprehensible failure. Some states already have universal child abuse reporting laws, so it was only a matter of time before this bill surfaced in Missouri..
The bill takes that next step by making every person a government informer, whether they have any connection with–or duty toward–the child. Since this bill is directed at a truly despicable crime, child sexual abuse, it may well be supported by legislators who “do it for the children.”
With this well-intentioned bill, we cross over to a dangerous side of the street. Maybe in a year or two, it will be but a small step to cover other crimes, serious ones at first, less serious crimes later. Eventually, all crimes may be covered. Then, if you see anything and don’t say something, you go to jail. I hope lawmakers will consider where this bill may take us.
With an informer-oriented society, the police state would blossom, and like the twentieth century residents of fascist and communist states, a healthy fear of one’s neighbors, friends and even family could become a valuable survival skill.