In Missouri, criminal sentencing guidelines have been in place since 1984. These guidelines were created to promote consistency and fairness in sentencing by providing judges with recommendations for sentence lengths based on the severity of the crime and the offender’s prior criminal history. However, a recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling has called into question the constitutionality of these guidelines and their impact on the state’s criminal justice system.
In 2017, Missouri passed Senate Bill 493, which made changes to the state’s criminal sentencing guidelines. The bill increased the maximum sentence lengths for certain crimes and eliminated the possibility of parole for some offenses. These changes were intended to address concerns about public safety and reduce crime rates. However, they also had the potential to increase the number of individuals serving long prison sentences and increase the state’s prison population.
The Missouri Supreme Court Ruling
In a recent ruling, the Missouri Supreme Court found that the state’s sentencing guidelines are unconstitutional because they do not provide judges with enough discretion to consider the unique circumstances of each case. Specifically, the court found that the guidelines do not take into account the offender’s individual characteristics, such as their age, mental health, and potential for rehabilitation. This lack of discretion, the court found, violates the Missouri Constitution’s requirement that sentences be proportionate to the severity of the crime and the offender’s criminal history.
Implications of the Ruling
The Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling has significant implications for the state’s criminal justice system. It means that judges will now have more discretion to consider the unique circumstances of each case when determining sentence lengths. This could lead to more individualized and fair sentences, as well as a reduction in the state’s prison population.
However, the ruling also raises questions about how to ensure consistency and fairness in sentencing without the guidelines. The court’s ruling does not provide guidance on how judges should determine sentence lengths without the guidelines, and it is unclear how the state will address this issue.
The Missouri Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the state’s sentencing guidelines has important implications for the state’s criminal justice system. The ruling will give judges more discretion to consider the unique circumstances of each case when determining sentence lengths, which could lead to more individualized and fair sentences. However, it also raises questions about how to ensure consistency and fairness in sentencing without the guidelines. It will be important for the state to address these issues in order to ensure that the criminal justice system is fair and effective.