Testimony in Opposition to HB 1693 – Creating the Offense of Using a Minor to Commit a Crime

Date: February 21, 2024
To: Chairman Evans and Members, House Judiciary Committee
From: Gwen Smith, Criminal Justice Policy Manager, Empower Missouri
Re: HB 1693

As the largest and oldest anti-poverty non-profit in our state, Empower Missouri is committed to improving the quality of life for all Missouri residents through advocacy. Since our inception, Empower Missouri has focused on the criminal justice system and its impacts. Our Community Justice Coalition consists of community advocates and organizations from across the state who work with those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Many coalition members are formerly incarcerated or have currently incarcerated loved ones, and all are connected by a vision for a future without mass incarceration. 

We are providing testimony today regarding HB 1693, sponsored by Representative Sparks. HB 1693 would create a new offense of using a minor to commit a crime, in the event that someone aged 18 or older intentionally used a minor to commit a crime to avoid detection or apprehension. 

This bill does not take the context of youthful offenders into consideration. Young people tend to associate primarily with other young people, meaning that an 18 or 19 year old hanging out with a 17 year old classmate could be convicted of this charge, if the group decided to engage in any kind of criminal activity. There is ample data that shows the relationship between age and criminal activity, indicating that the adolescent brain does not reach maturity until the mid to late 20s. While adults who have reached full brain development use the prefrontal cortex to make decisions, adolescents and young adults use the amygdala, which is responsible for impulsivity and failure to appreciate risks. HB 1693 should take this important context into consideration, and amend the language to apply only to older individuals- for example, 22 and older, an age threshold proposed in Rep. Perkin’s HB 1996, related to certain drug felonies. 

For these reasons, we urge the committee to oppose HB 1693 as it is currently written. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

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