Missouri Capitol Jefferson City

Governor Mike Parson signed a bill on July 6 meant to amend provisions pertaining to dangerous felonies. The bill passed in the Missouri senate with support from both Democrats and Republicans, but some question the bill's effectiveness in reducing violent crimes.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a crime bill, Senate Bill (SB) 600, into law on July 6. The new act addresses an expanded definition of “dangerous felonies,” conspiracy, probation and criminal street gangs, among other topics.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer and was introduced to the Missouri General Assembly to “modify provisions relating to dangerous felonies.” 

Details of the bill include:

  • Vehicle hijacking will be punished as a Class B felony, unless aggravating circumstances list it as Class A.

  • Minimum sentencing for armed criminal action can be increased for the first and second offense.

  • Unlawful possession of a firearm was modified from a Class D felony to a Class C felony, a more serious felony that could result in harsher punishment.

  • Modifications in length of imprisonment for individuals involved in criminal street gang activity.

  • Conspiracy to commit a crime can now be charged separately from a criminal offense.

  • Added to the definition of dangerous felony is the offense of armed criminal action and conspiracy to commit an offense when it is a dangerous felony, whether the crime has been committed or not.

The bill passed the 34-person State Senate with bipartisan support and was later signed into law by Gov. Parson. However, some oppose the act and question its effectiveness to cut violent crime.

Opposition to SB 600, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Prosperity and Empower Missouri, argued for the governor to veto the bill in a letter to Parson.

“Senate Bill 600 takes Missouri deeper into the mass incarceration that has exploded our prison population and our state budget,” said Jeanette Mott Oxford, director of policy and organizing at Empower Missouri, in a public statement.

In an interview with The Standard, Oxford said the bill simply beefed up the hand of the prosecutor and failed at addressing the problem of violent crime.

“This is a waste of taxpayer money for failed policies,” Oxford said. “Our governor is a retired sheriff pulled by his loyalty to some people in law enforcement.”

In 2019 Gov. Parson stressed the importance of re-entry programs and alternative sentences in House Bill 192 and Missouri saw nearly 7,000 inmates leave prisons between 2017 to 2020, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections. Going forward, projections from the fiscal notes of SB 600 show an upward trajectory in incarcerations over the next decade along with an increase in spending.

“As governor and a former law enforcement officer for 22 years, protecting the citizens of our state is of utmost importance to my administration,” Parson said in an official statement. “We all want our communities to be safe, and we worry when we see violent criminals threaten our neighborhoods. SB 600 holds violent offenders accountable for their actions and is a major step towards safety and justice for our communities.”

A number of organizations including the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police partnered with the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (MAPA) in sponsoring a letter that urged Parson to sign SB 600.

“Senate Bill 600 contains many common-sense measures that will help stem the bloodshed in our state, particularly in urban communities like St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield that regularly appear on the lists of America’s most dangerous cities,” a press release from MAPA reads. “Simply stated, Senate Bill 600 will protect Missourians from the most dangerous and violent criminals in our state.” 

The new law goes into effect August 28. For more information on the bill click here.