Cedar County Prosecutor Ty Gaither, said of the new Missouri laws which took effect Jan. 1, “They tinkered with the drug laws, I guess is the best way to describe it.”
The prosecutor said, “Basically. they have lowered the punishment for prior persistent offenders,” which he said is frustrating for prosecutors because it was a valuable tool to get drug offenders off the street.
He said, “The possession of most drugs is now a Class D felony. A Class D felony is up to seven years which is the same thing it used to be. It used to be called a C felony.”
Gaither said, “The one that they have changed which concerns me. Possession with intent to distribute, marijuana or methamphetamine, is now a C felony which carries a maximum of 10 years. It used to be a B felony which carried a maximum of five to 15 years.”
He said, “They have done away with the enhancement statutes for persistent drug offenders. Previously if you had a possession of drugs with a prior, it would kick it up to a B felony. If you had two priors, it would kick it up two levels. So a C could be kicked up all the way to an A which is 10 to life.”
He said, “If you started with a B, it would kick it up to an A, then it would kick it up another level, to an A without parole.”
Gaither said, “Well, they’ve done away with that. All you have now, if the person is a persistent offender, any crime, not just drug crimes, when they have two priors, it would kick it up one level.”
He explained the history, “In Missouri, we never technically had three strikes and you’re out (or in). What we had was, if you had one prior, you’d do 40% of the sentence. If you had two priors, you’d do 60% and three priors, you’d do 80%. And then, what is known as prior remand to the penitentiary. Forty, sixty, eighty only applied to non-drug offenders.”
The prosecutor said, “Basically, what they’ve done is, they’ve done away with prior persistent drug offenders. In my opinion, they’ve eased the drug laws, I assume because of an over crowded system. It’s frustrating for the prosecutors. You could kick it up to an A felony or an A without parole. In some cases, I thought that was appropriate.”
He said the punishment for drug possession is still the same, but there is not enhancement for prior drug offenders. And possession with intent to distribute, they’ve lowered the punishment from 15 to 10 years maximum.
He said they have taken away the enhancement. “I assume it is because of over crowding.”