By Dan Viets
I was in the Capitol Tuesday to testify for Senate Bill 451, the Missouri Bar's expungement bill, sponsored by Senator Bob Dixon, Republican, of Springfield. Senator Dixon chairs the Senate Jurisprudence Committee which heard the bill.
There were actually five expungement bills heard by the Committee Wednesday afternoon. The other bills are all good, and would cover many misdemeanor marijuana offenses, but the Missouri Bar bill is actually the most comprehensive and also seems to have the best chance of actually passing.
It would allow all marijuana offenses, except for relatively rare Class A convictions, to be expunged from all public records. The bill specifically authorizes defendants to say that they have never been convicted of such offenses after an expungement takes place. The expungement of misdemeanor offenses can be sought three years after the sentence or probation ends and, in felonies, five years after the end of probation, parole or a prison term. Although probation on most felony offenses in Missouri begins at five years, for almost all drug offenses, defendants now receive two months' credit for each month on probation without a violation. Therefore, the actual time on probation for most marijuana defendants with a felony case is only two and one-half years.
This bill has the support of the Missouri Bar Board of Governors, the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
The Committee also heard Senate Bill 31, a bill which would mandate that any defendant on probation be arrested immediately if he or she tests positive for marijuana or other prohibited substances. The Department of Corrections, while not actually opposing that bill, did point out that it might be rather expensive to implement. A companion bill is pending in the House of Representatives, but we hope neither of them will gain traction.