What’s the deal with the “Bazell” ruling?

A ruling issued by the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday has some claiming that, due to sloppy wording in a particular portion of the state’s criminal code, many stealing charges may no longer be considered felonies.

The issue arises from a specific legal definition of “stealing” that does not align with other areas of the criminal code, creating contradictory wording and thereby establishing the apparent loophole.

In State v. Bazell, a criminal case involving burglary and theft, the Missouri Supreme Court clarified the matter. It is not the Court’s place to override poorly conceived legislation, the judges asserted.

“If the words are clear, the Court must apply the plain meaning of the law,” read part of the Supreme Court’s opinion. “When the meaning of a statute is clear, the Court should not employ canons of construction to achieve a desired result.”

Read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the ruling here.

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Author: Zachary Reger

A graduate of the University of Missouri with degrees in journalism, philosophy and film studies, Zach's primary interests lie in political reporting, media production and social philosophy.

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