Missouri Evidence in Sexual Crimes Against Minors, Amendment 2 (2014)

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Amendment 2
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Missouri Constitution
Referred by:Missouri State Legislature
Topic:Civil and criminal trials
Status:On the ballot
The Missouri Relevant Criminal Evidence, Amendment 2 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Missouri as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.[1]

If passed, the measure, which is sponsored by Rep. John McCaherty (R-97), would allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in court in prosecutions for sexual crimes involving a victim under 18 years old.[2]

Text of measure

The following language will appear on the ballot on election day:[3]

This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.

Official Ballot Title: Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that it will be permissible to allow relevant evidence of prior criminal acts to be admissible in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age? If more resources are needed to defend increased prosecutions additional costs to governmental entities could be at least $1.4 million annually, otherwise the fiscal impact is expected to be limited.

Fair Ballot Language: A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to allow evidence of prior criminal acts, whether charged or uncharged, to be considered by courts in prosecutions of sexual crimes that involve a victim under eighteen years of age. The amendment limits the use of such prior acts to support the victim’s testimony or show that the person charged is more likely to commit the crime. Further, the judge may exclude such prior acts if the value of considering them is substantially outweighed by the possibility of unfair prejudice to the person charged with committing the crime. A “no” vote will not amend the Missouri Constitution regarding the use of evidence of prior criminal acts to prosecute sexual crimes.

If passed, this measure will have no impact on taxes.

Constitutional changes

If the measure is approved, it will amend Article I, Section 18 of the Missouri Constitution by adding Section 18(c).[3]

Section 18(a)

  • Text of Section 18(a):

Rights of Accused in Criminal Prosecutions

That in criminal prosecutions the accused shall have the right to appear and defend, in person and by counsel; to demand the nature and cause of the accusation; to meet the witnesses against him face to face; to have process to compel the attendance of witnesses in his behalf; and a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county.

Section 18(b)

  • Text of Section 18(b):

Depostitions in Felony Cases

Upon a hearing and finding by the circuit court in any case wherein the accused is charged with a felony, that it is necessary to take the deposition of any witness within the state, other than defendant and spouse, in order to preserve the testimony, and on condition that the court make such orders as will fully protect the rights of personal confrontation and cross-examination of the witness by defendant, the state may take the deposition of such witness and either party may use the same at the trial, as in civil cases, provided there has been substantial compliance with such orders. The reasonable personal and traveling expenses of defendant and his counsel shall be paid by the state or county as provided by law.


If the proposed measure is approved, it will create section 18(c), which will read as follows:

Proposed: Section 18(c)

  • Text of Section 18(c):

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 and 18(a) of this article to the contrary, in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age, relevant evidence of prior criminal acts, whether charged or uncharged is admissible for the purpose of corroborating the victim's testimony or demonstrating the defendant's propensity to commit the crime with which he or she is presently charged. The court may exclude relevant evidence of prior criminal acts if the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.

Background

Missouri Constitution
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Preamble
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIII
Rep. McCaherty proposed this amendment after receiving a letter from a constituent whose daughter had been sexually abused. No criminal charges were brought against the alleged abuser. In 2007, the Missouri Supreme Court established a legal precedent that rendered propensity evidence inadmissible. Propensity evidence is that which suggests the accused has allegedly committed other criminal offenses and that he or she is likely to do so again in the future. In cases of child sexual abuse, propensity evidence would be used in court to show that the accused had abused the victim in the past, even though the accused is not currently on trial for these past instances of abuse. Similarly, evidence that the accused abuser had abused other children in the past would also be admissible.[4][5]

Support

This bill was sponsored by Rep. John McCaherty in the legislature, when it was known as House Joint Resolution 16.[2]

Path to the ballot

See also Amending the Missouri Constitution

Proposed amendments must be agreed to by a majority of the members of each chamber of the Missouri General Assembly. HJR 16 was passed by the House on March 7, 2013, and it was passed in the Senate on May 16, 2013.[2][6]

Missouri Evidence in Sexual Crimes against Minors, HJR 16 House Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 130 80.74%
No2314.28%
Missouri Evidence in Sexual Crimes against Minors, HJR 16 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 30 88.23%
No25.88%

See also

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