Bill awaiting Nixon's signature would eliminate jail time for some first-time driving offenses

Friday, May 20, 2011 | 10:09 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Jail time soon could no longer be a concern for people convicted of some first-time driving offenses or for minors caught with alcohol.

Legislation headed to Gov. Jay Nixon would reduce the potential penalties for initial violations of misdemeanors such as driving without a valid license, failing to maintain vehicle liability insurance and being a minor in possession of alcohol. Instead of the possibility of jail time, the legislation only would allow fines up to $300.

The Missouri Bar says first-time offenders seldom are jailed for those offenses anyway. But because of the possibility, public defenders are required to represent people who face those charges but cannot afford private attorneys.

Missouri's public defender system has said it is overloaded with cases and has sought to scale back its work.

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