Mo. Gov. Signs Bills Tightening Drunk Driving Laws, Providing Added Insurance Coverage for Military

July 19, 2005

Gov. Matt Blunt has signed several crime bills that will reportedly help protect Missourians and ensure convicted criminals receive just and appropriate sentences.

House Bill 972, sponsored by House Speaker Rod Jetton, creates two new classes for repeat DWI offenders, aggravated and chronic, that both carry increased penalties. Similar provisions are also enacted in SB 37. HB 972 also defines new provisions governing adult cabarets and sexually oriented businesses.

Senate Bill 37, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler, has been referred to as “Jessica’s Law” in memory of 7-year-old Jessica Mann and her grandfather, James Dodson, who were killed by a drunk driver. “Jessica’s Law” increases the penalties for involuntary manslaughter in the first degree and requires defendants to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

Senate Bill 402, sponsored by Senate President Pro-Tem Mike Gibbons, changes penalties to address both the possession and consumption of alcohol by minors. Under the act, a minor could now be found guilty of a “minor in possession” if he or she is visibly intoxicated or has a blood alcohol content of more than .02. The bill also prohibits adults from allowing minors to drink on their private property unless they are the minor’s legal guardians and requires school districts to create a policy detailing the consequences if a student is found to either possess or drink alcohol on school property or at school events.

Conflicting language in House Bills 353, Senate Bill 402, Senate Bill 37 and House Bill 972 will be addressed during special session. These conflicts reportedly in no way make Missouri’s current laws on drunk driving ineffective. Aligning language in these bills during special session will offer law enforcement and prosecutors new tools to arrest and convict offenders.

In addition to signing crime bills Blunt also signed House Bill 119, sponsored by Rep. Kenny Jones. The bill allows state retirees and state employed military service men and women to retain their life insurance policy for the full duration of their deployment, rather than just the 12 months that is currently allowed.

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