Missouri’s SECOND AMENDMENT PRESERVATION ACT

handgunSenate bill 613, known as the SECOND AMENDMENT PRESERVATION ACT is moving forward in the Missouri legislature. The bill is similar to one that was almost passed last year over the governor’s veto.

Key provisions are:

Declares invalid all federal laws or orders that infringe on the federal and state right to keep and bear arms. Such infringments would include confiscation, taxing, registering, tracking, selling and trading of firearms, ammunition or accessories.

 – No law enforcement officer or agency may enforce such infringing federal laws and they may be sued by Missouri citizens whose rights are thereby violated. Attorney’s fees and costs are paid by the loser of such lawsuit. The defendant cannot use governmental immunity as a defense. The violator may be arrested and charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This  is effective on August 28, 2017, or upon the passage of any federal law that curtails the right to keep and bear arms or upon the passage of similar laws in at least four other states.

The bill permits open-carrying of a firearm by persons holding a concealed carry permit in all political subdivisions in the state. It also forbids the disarming or restraint of any persons carrying a handgun except where there is a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. No political subdivision may outlaw the otherwise legal use of a firearm in the defense of persons or property.

Provides for the training and designation of school teachers or administrators as armed “school protection officers.”

– There is also a provision that no health care professional may be required by law to inquire if patients own firearms, or to document or notify authorities of such ownership, unless by court order. [Bill modified 01/27/2014:  no longer prohibits doctors from documenting ownership status, but it does require written permission to disclose that information]

Lowers the age to obtain a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19.

Makes possession of a firearm a felony for any person illegally present in the state.

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Passage of this (or a similar) bill seems likely and if the governor signs (or his veto is overridden), this will create a confrontation with federal law enforcement agents who heavily count on the cooperation of local law enforcement.

The threat of state prosecution may not thwart federal agents, but it will give pause to any Missouri law enforcement agency or officer thinking about assisting federal efforts to enforce federal firearms laws. For an overview of Missouri Weapons offenses, see Chapter 571 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.

DWI – ignition interlock lets drivers back behind the wheel

jefferson city dwi lawyerMost of the new laws from the Missouri legislature this year went into effect this last week, but there are a few changes that go into effect at other times. The rules for obtaining a limited driving privilege changed effective July 1, 2013. For the better, I think. (see earlier post here)

  • In the past, the law prevented anyone from getting more than one limited driving privilege permit within a five year period. There is now no limitation to the number of limited privileges one may obtain. Section 302.309.3(6). Eligible persons may receive a limited driving privilege if their license is revoked for failure to submit to a chemical test (usually a breath test), but they must complete the first 90 days of the revocation and obtain a certified ignition interlock device.
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  • Persons under a five or ten year license denial may now petition the court for a limited driving privilege without a waiting period. The court must grant a limited driving privilege to any person who otherwise is eligible, has filed proof of installation of a certified ignition interlock device, and has had no alcohol-related enforcement contacts since the contact that resulted in the license denial. [Note that any person with a felony DWI conviction will still be denied a limited privilege under section 302’309.3(6)(b), unless issued by the DWI court.]
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There are also some other changes coming on March 3, 2014. One of those will allow first time DWI offenders a restricted driving privilege so they may drive to work [or to school, or to attend a SATOP program] during the 30 day suspension period.  Currently, they are not permitted to drive at all during that 30 days. Drivers will have to install an ignition interlock device to take advantage of this provision.

 

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Will Missouri nullify federal firearms laws?

Ionic60Now there is a bold proposal that directly defies the federal government by nullifying federal firearms laws. State Rep. Casey Guernsey of Bethany, Missouri has filed a bill, HB 170, which:

  1. makes it unlawful for any state or local officer or employee (such as police, prosecutors and judges) or any federal firearms dealer to attempt to enforce any federal law relating to personal firearms, accessories or ammunition owned or manufactured in the state and that remain in the state; and
  2. makes it a felony for any federal agent to attempt to enforce such federal law; and
  3. authorizes any person in violation of a such federal law to request the attorney general to defend him or her for such violation; and
  4. that any new federal law that restricts ownership of a semi-automatic firearm (or magazine of a firearm) or requires its registration, shall be unenforceable in the state of Missouri.

State nullification of federal law is the legal theory that individual US states have the right to invalidate any federal law that the  state finds unconstitutional. In the early years of the republic, nullification was considered by many states, but the federal courts–not unexpectedly–have not upheld the doctrine.

Obviously, if it came to a showdown, the federal government might be able–to some extent–enforce its firearms laws in Missouri. What would really gut federal enforcement efforts, however, would be the lack of any assistance from state and local law enforcement. Having the Missouri Attorney General defend citizens prosecuted by the United States Attorney would also be interesting.

Missouri bill: Armed teachers & principals coming?

House Bill 70 , filed 12/18/2012 by Representative Mike Kelley  of Lamar, MO would permit Missouri school teachers and administrators to carry a concealed handgun on school premises.

The change will be a modification of the current Missouri concealed carry law, and would allow teachers and administrators to carry concealed if they obtained a concealed-carry permit. They would have to go through the normal background checks and training required for such permits.

Nothing in the existing law prohibits the school officials or the governing body of a school/district from giving permission now for anyone to carry a concealed weapon in the school if they possess a permit. The effect of the new law would be to allow teachers and administrators to carry without express permission.

 

Expunging Criminal records in Missouri

I get phone calls all the time from people trying to hire me to have their criminal records expunged. Until now, I have always had to give the sad news that–with the exception of some ten-year-old DWI convictions– “They don’t do that here in Missouri.”  With the signing of HB 1647  last Tuesday, Missouri’s criminal expungement laws have been expanded.

The new law–chiefly meant to restore the right to possess firearms–goes into effect on August 28, 2012 and allows for the expungement of some felony and misdemeanor criminal records. The felonies must be over twenty years old and misdemeanors ten years old with no other criminal offenses (excluding traffic) committed during those time periods. Here is a rough list of crimes which may be expunged:

Felonies and Misdemeanors:

  • Passing a bad check
  • Fraudulently stopping payment of an instrument
  • fraudulent use of a credit device or debit device 

 Misdemeanors only:

  • Negligent setting of a fire
  • Tampering in the second degree (joyriding among other things)
  • Property damage
  • Trespass
  • Gambling
  • Peace disturbance
  • Drunkeness/Drinking in schools, churches and courthouses


Getting convictions expunged requires the filing of a petition in the court in which the person was found guilty.  The petition must name as defendants every state agency that may possess the conviction records. On top of filing and service fees, the new law tacks on an extra $100 filing fee. There must be a court hearing and a finding that the petitioner meets every criteria, including full payment of any restitution ordered; and that the “circumstances and behavior of the petitioner warrant the expungement;” and that the expungement is “consistent with the public welfare.”

Although a person is not required to hire a lawyer to obtain an expungement, most people will want an attorney to file the lawsuit and conduct an evidenciary hearing. Despite the time and cost, many people may find a criminal expungement worth pursuing.

Can vehicle ignition interlocks solve the DWI problem?

DWIMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), on November 1, 2011, announced that it is urging the passage of the ROADS SAFE ACT (HR 2324/S 510) which would provide sixty million dollars in federal funding to finance the advanced alcohol detection research program known as DADDS. This technology is most commonly known as an “Ignition Interlock Device” or “IID.” These devices prevent the operation of a motor vehicle until the driver passes a blood alcohol test.

Anyone who is familiar with current IID technology will know that these gadgets are somewhat expensive, finicky, maintenance intensive and rather demeaning for drivers who are required to blow, hum and suck them repeatedly to start and continue to drive their cars. It is the sort of requirement that no one would ever tolerate unless they had no other choice. You can get a feel for how they work in this short video: Ignition Interlock Demo

So far, in Missouri, only repeat alcohol offenders are required to install the IID before they can get their licenses reinstated (after a long mandatory period when they are not allowed to drive at all). The IID must then be maintained for six months following the reinstatement date, and the driver is required to report to a certified IID vendor every month for maintenance to ensure the device is working properly.

MADD has a short term and a long term agenda. In the short term they want every legislature to force first-time DWI offenders to install the IID. In the long term (after the MADD ladies finish with the first-time offenders) they are coming after you and me, whether we drink and drive or not.

The purpose of the proposed federal sixty million dollar research program is to perfect a way to test the blood alcohol level of all drivers (not just drinkers), ideally without any need for their consent or cooperation. Understandably, researchers are looking for an involuntary test method to force compliance from the many drivers who do not esteem such nanny state initiatives.

Technologies being investigated include mounting cameras in cars to record and analyze a driver’s eye movements. Sensors may also be able to detect alcohol from air samples taken from the passenger compartment; or detect alcohol through a driver’s skin touching the steering wheel. They also discuss the possibility of requiring the driver to wear an arm or leg bracelet similar to those worn by criminal defendant’s under house arrest. Good luck with that idea. I can’t wait.

If the MADD ladies want an idea that really could save lives (without harassing the rest of us), here’s one:

Everybody now knows that if you get a DWI, you lose your license for anywhere between 30 days and ten years (or more). Supposedly, these license revocations are not to punish a DWI, but rather to safeguard the public. Punishment is a separate issue addressed by the criminal courts, not the license bureau.

Too often we read stories of drunk drivers who have an accident and hurt someone and it turns out that they were also driving while revoked. In those case, the license revocation or suspension did nothing to safeguard the public. It is hardly surprising to learn that many DWI offenders refuse to obey license revocations and drive anyway, especially when it means keeping a job and feeding their families.

If the ignition interlock device really is effective in stopping people from driving drunk, then the legislature already possesses the key to the problem. They would not even need to force people to use the IID. They could simply give the option of replacing the license revocation or suspension with the IID installation. Most defendants would take that deal if it meant they could keep driving. And then, even if they did drink, they would unable to harm anyone.

It’s not good enough to add the IID months or years after the offense occurs. It needs to be immediate to take away the temptation to drink and drive. Some may object because the state is not getting its “pound of flesh” from the offender, but any reasonable public policy will put public safety ahead of vengeance. It’s not often that the public good is best served by giving the bad guy a break, but this may be one of those times.


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New Cole County Jail Pictures: the Prisoner’s Tour

If you missed the grand-opening tours of the new 28 million dollar Cole County, Missouri jail, here’s a second chance. My tour group was mostly retired ladies from a local nursing home and we were guided by the most excellent tour host, Sheriff Greg White. The one thing the pictures do not really convey, is HOW BIG IT IS. Like the biblical city of Jericho, I suspect it would take all day to walk around it seven times. It is a monster building. I only include a portion of the non-public areas to hold down the number of pictures.

Below is the tour from the perspective of a new prisoner entering the jail under escort. The prisoner arrives here, a huge drive-in space called a “sally port.” The police drive all the way inside the jail and the door is closed (so as to avoid any temptation for the prisoner to escape). From here, the prisoner sallies forth to the booking area.

Sally Port


There is one other way to get to the booking area. If a person is asked to come to the Sheriff’s office to answer questions regarding a crime, they will be taken to this interrogation room. If they do what most suspects do, they will answer the questions. Some of the foolish suspects will lie. The other foolish suspects will tell the truth because they want the officer to like them. After confessing, they will be arrested. From there, it’s on to booking.

Interrogation room

 

This is the booking area where the prisoner is photographed, fingerprinted & eyeball scanned. The far walls have holding cells (one is in the next picture).

Booking

Holding

Prisoners stay in these holding cells for no more than 24 hours. After that, they will have either bonded out or are moved into the general jail population.


Time out

This little room is the holding cell for misbehaving inmates. The Sheriff calls it: “time out.” It’s 4 walls and a drain. (The drain actually flushes like a toilet –I know, the the drain slits are a bit narrow. No, I didn’t ask.). And no furniture; just a bare concrete floor.

They turn out the lights and lock the door. As you may imagine, its very peaceful.

If the prisoner is completely out of control, they have a “restraint” chair to strap him/her into before they turn out the lights.

 

There is even a cell for prisoners in wheelchairs. This handicapped cell is very roomy

Handicapped

 

On his or her way to the general jail population, the prisoner gets a new costume. Here are some of the men’s florescent orange uniforms. Woman prisoners get beautiful lime green outfits.

Mens uniforms

Flipflops

Prisoners will also be gellin’ in these cool “gummy” sandals. Ladies also receive an official issue Cole County bra.

 

Before we get to the general population cell block, I wanted to show the part of the new jail that I was really looking forward to. Below is the “work release” area of the jail. This area houses non-violent prisoners who are employed. They leave the jail each day, go to their jobs, and then return to jail at the end of the workday. The point of work release is to punish offenders without destroying their jobs and families. The inmates PAY for their room & board and the taxpayers benefit. It’s a great idea and is used all over Missouri. The most disappointing thing I learned in my tour was that it will be ten years before the “work release” cell block is ready. I hope the county commission makes completing this area a priority.

Work Release

 

This is the control center for the main cell block. It sits in the center and is surrounded by pie-shaped cell blocks.

Control room

These gentlemen can see every cell from inside the “bubble.”

 

This is one of the pie-shaped cell blocks. There are 12 two-person cells in each cell block. Most prisoners will spend the day out of their cells at the table. Each has his own little seat. Note the video visitation box on the far right of the photo. More on that later.

Cell Block

Each cell measures 6.5 by 12 feet and has a shower and a toilet.


Remember that video visitation box on the wall in the cell block? Friends and family can visit prisoners by coming to the video visitation room where there are a slew of these video boxes. Visitors are warned not to expose any private body parts for the camera, for the Sheriff assures me that they will not be allowed to do that twice (and may be charged with a crime).

There is a TV on the wall in each cell block. Note that prisoners cannot see out the windows to the control center.

When they get tired of watching TV, prisoners are entitled to 1 hour per day of “outdoor” recreation. This next room is the “outdoor” rec room. Also pie shaped, it is a bare room with no exercise equipment. The sliding door in the picture below raises to reveal what looks like a basement window well. Out of sight–at the top–is a skylight, and when opened, actual daylight reaches the room, hence the name “outdoor” recreation.

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That’s it. The new jail. It’s big, clean and new. And I still wouldn’t want to stay there. So remember the two rules:

  1. If you are a suspect in a criminal case, do not answer any questions about it until you have talked to a criminal lawyer. You have the right to remain silent. Don’t lie. Just remain silent.
  2. Never consent to a search of yourself, your car, your home or your stuff. Never.

 

 

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Missouri 2010 racial profiling stats “disturbing”

Jefferson City criminal lawyerThis week Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster released Missouri’s 2010 racial profiling statistics. The stats track the race of drivers stopped by law enforcement. They record the numbers of traffic stops, searches, search results and arrests. The results were the similar to those of years past.

Relative to the population of the various groups, Hispanics are stopped less often than whites. Asians are stopped only half as often as whites. Native Americans might as well be invisible and are stopped only 1/7th as often as whites. The report uses a “disparity index” to report how much a racial group is under/over represented as a percentage of that group’s population.

Koster reported, “the disparity index for African-American drivers continues to be of significant concern. The disparity index for African-American drivers decreased slightly from 1.62 in 2009 to 1.61 in 2010.” He cites as a “disturbing trend” that African-American drivers  were stopped 27 percent more often than their population would suggest in 2000 and 61 percent more often in 2010.

Koster does not say exactly why he is “disturbed,” but has noted that the numbers are an indicator that further inquiry is appropriate.

It seems there could be several explanations for stopping members of the  over-represented group:

  1. the individuals are such bad drivers that they draw police attention (not likely?);
  2. the individuals drive unregistered or defective vehicles that draw police attention (possible, as a function of poverty perhaps?); and
  3. the individuals are stopped for belonging to the over-represented group (sometimes known as “driving while black.”)

Reason number three would seem to be the most “disturbing” answer.

Other interesting stats reveal the number of searches done on each group and then compares the search numbers to the success rate of those same searches (“success” meaning that the police find something illegal”). Blacks and Hispanics are about twice as likely to be searched than are whites. They are also twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop. Police are far less likely find to find contraband on Blacks and Hispanics than on whites. (White: 24.5%, African-Americans: 17.5%, Hispanics:14.4%).

When mulling over the numbers, keep in mind that when Blacks and Hispanics are arrested (twice as often as whites), they are automatically searched without police needing any reason to think they will find anything. Whites–being arrested less frequently–may get “successfully” searched more frequently, because police are only searching them when they have reason to think they will find contraband. Of course, it could also be that–as a group–whites are less likely to tell police “no” whenever a search is requested. Obviously, these would be people who don’t read this blog.

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Update: I was thinking about the Native Americans being stopped only 1/7th as frequently as whites. When you consider how few even live in Missouri, you have to believe that many of those traffic stops were of non-resident Indians just passing through. That means the resident Indians are probably even less likely to get stopped than the numbers suggest. Since the Attorney General believes that “further inquiry” is needed, let me suggest that he should ask the Indians what their secret is.


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Missouri Special Session to stop TSA groping?

Most have seen the news that the Texas House unanimously passed a bill declaring that any government (read “TSA”) employee who “touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person,” shall be guilty of a crime if such search is conducted without probable cause to believe the other person had committed a crime.

After the Texas house scored with that popular vote, the Senate stepped up to the plate ready to turn the bill into law. At this point, U.S. Attorney John Murphy sent a letter to the Texas Senate threatening to ground all Texas flights. “If HR 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers or crew.”

TSA messes with Texas privates

The Texans quickly backed down.

Feds 1, Lone Star State 0

Now the State of Utah may step up to protect the honor of their mothers & daughters, babies & grandmothers: Utah lawmaker’s proposal to ban TSA pat downs in Utah

Now Missouri Gov. Nixon is being urged to consider asking for a special legislative session to deal with Missouri’s spring disasters:

Disasters could be special session topic


Others have called for a session to consider the nuclear plant site permit. If this happens, might we see the legislature also take up an anti-TSA molestation bill? Might something be done about this ongoing assault?

If you’ve missed all the fuss, the gallery of abuses below will bring you up to speed (real photos should be distinguishable from the satirical ones):

Hard at work. Can’t you just hear this next guy grunting, even without sound?





Most people are unaware of the dangers of allowing un-inspected breasts onto an airplane, but apparently it’s the real deal!



 

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Could Red Light cameras be killing us — to make money?

Last month we read the headline:  Missouri Supreme Court Strikes down Red Light cameras.” Depending on the reporter, some media outlets got the story right and some did not.

In fact, red light cameras had little to do with the Supreme Court’s opinion at all. It was the City of Springfield’s enforcement scheme that was condemned by the court. The short version is that Springfield’s red light defendants could not get a real trial, nor a proper appeal. “Nice try, Springfield” the court seemed to say, “but you can’t do that.”  Other cities with red-light cameras–such as Columbia, Missouri–may well have judicial schemes that pass muster.

More interestingly, however, the court recounted the facts of the case. The defendant was Adolph Belt, a 30-year veteran of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Experienced at traffic control, Belt investigated the traffic light cycle at the intersection where he was photographed running a red light. The yellow light lasted about 3.5 seconds (too short a time for most traffic light situations).

It turns out that the city of Springfield prepared for the installation of its red light camera system by slashing the yellow warning time by one second at 105 intersection signals across the city.  A 2005 Texas Transportation Institute study had shown that a “one-second reduction in yellow time resulted in a 100% increase in the number of violations.” See City Lowers Yellow Light Time Before Installing Cameras. Springfield has been noted as one of “6 Cities That Were Caught Shortening Yellow Light Times For Profit

It doesn’t take a genius to know that if shaving a second off the yellow light doubles the number of “violations” (meaning the number of red lights being run through), then that lost second is CAUSING accidents.

It is beyond argument that when a yellow light is shortened beyond a certain point, it can be impossible to stop safely before running the red light. Not only do cities know this when they shorten their yellow lights, THEY INTEND IT.

To consciously create such a risk is reckless conduct and if a person were killed in this “shortened yellow” scenario, the city and its leaders would be guilty of Involuntary Manslaughter under section 565.024, RSMo.

Perhaps this situation will give a boost to Senator Jim Lembke’s MIssouri Senate Bill 637 which will forbid the use of red light cameras and thereby remove the incentive for this lethal government scam.


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