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St. Louis Criminal Defense Law Blog

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Missouri Supreme Court Issues Stunning Decision Declaring Almost All Stealing Crimes To Be Misdemeanors – Thousands Of Cases Affected

             Yesterday the Missouri Supreme Court issued a stunning decision in State v. Bazell, declaring almost all stealing crimes to be misdemeanors.  Previously many stealing crimes had been considered felonies: Stealing Over $500, Stealing a Firearm, Stealing a Controlled Substance, Stealing a Credit Card, Stealing from a Person, and Stealing a Motor Vehicle.  All such crimes are now misdemeanors. 

             The ruling was based on poorly drafted language in the stealing statute, § 570.030.  The General Assembly amended the statute in 2002, and this outcome is likely an unintentional legislative blunder.  And the error has already been corrected, as a new criminal code with different language goes into effect on January 1, 2017.

             Nonetheless, the consequences of the decision will be far-reaching, and prosecutors and defense attorneys are scrambling to respond.  First, it will affect almost all pending felony stealing cases.  Second, it will affect all future felony stealing cases with offense dates before January 1, 2017.  Third, it will affect all felony stealing cases in which the imposition of the sentence was suspended.  Fourth, it will affect all closed cases in which the defendant has not yet completed the sentence (there are likely hundreds of inmates in the Missouri Department of Corrections and thousands of probationers and parolees for whom this is true).  Finally, it will affect all defendants who have plead guilty to other crimes for which felony stealing was used as a predicate, such a felon-in-possession of a firearm, prior and persistent offender, and armed criminal action.

             I have already begun filing motions in cases affected by the Bazell decision.  If you are currently serving a sentence for felony stealing, or if you are on probation or parole for felony stealing, your sentence may be illegal, and you should call Missouri criminal defense attorney W. Scott Rose at (314) 462-0200 today.  I can typically charge a reasonable flat rate for filing a Bazell motion that may obtain your release from prison or discharge from probation or parole.

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