After more than 30 years, the Missouri Criminal Code is as close as ever to being revised. Yesterday Missouri lawmakers passed a revision to the Code and have sent it to Governor Nixon for his signature. There are many long-overdue revisions, the summary of which can be found here. It appears as though the sense of optimism that should be present after finally getting to this point has been negated by reports that Governor Nixon will likely oppose signing the bill in its current form. And, even if he does, the revised statutes are not slated to take hold until 2017.

There are many positives to the proposals, including tougher stances on sex offenders, child molesters, and habitual drunk drivers. But one item missing from the proposal that many attorneys were hoping to see was the ability to more easily expunge certain non-violent crimes, especially for young offenders. The failure to include this option led at least one legislator to vote “no”.

Unlike in many neighboring states, it is extremely difficult to expunge a prior conviction. A select few types of crimes are eligible (first-time alcohol-related misdemeanor, passing a bad check, trespassing), but many crimes that a younger offender may commit are ineligible for expungement and can have long-lasting effects on a person’s ability to obtain employment, apply for student loans or housing, etc. An offender must wait at least 20 years to even apply for a felony expungement (10 years for a misdemeanor), and even then, at the expungment hearing, the State will almost certainly ask the Judge to dismiss the expungement application.

This high hurdle has been an issue for ages and it has always been said that the only recourse is the state legislature. So while news of the revised criminal code is a welcome sound that will streamline the criminal justice process and relieve our overcrowded jails and prisons, it was very disappointing to see a revised expungement process excluded from the bill.