ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Attorney General wants people who carjack someone or try to carjack someone to face at least 10 years in jail.
In a press conference on Monday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt, State Senator Bob Onder, and State Representative David Gregory introduced a statute to better address and prosecute violent carjackings in Missouri.
The statute would allow prosecutors to charge carjackers with motor vehicle hijacking rather than a broader robbery charge or lesser stealing charge. “This would allow for more efficient prosecution, simplified and more detailed statistical tracking, and an increase in uniform sentencing,” Schmitt said.
“Grandfathers shouldn’t have to worry about their cars being violently stolen in the streets that they grew up in,” Schmitt said. “Families shouldn’t have to worry avoiding certain parts of town for fear of being carjacked.”
In 2018, there were over 300 carjacking incidents in the St. Louis Metro area, according to data obtained from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The original press release sent out on Friday included Chief John Hayden would be in attendance, but he was not there during the press conference.
In January of this year, 26 carjackings were reported in the City of St. Louis.
In the most recent carjacking in the City of St. Louis, a woman was left screaming in the middle of the street in the Tower Grove South neighborhood.
Missouri is one of 27 states without a state statue.
With this statute, Missouri would join states like Georgia, Florida, and Illinois in establishing a state statute on carjackings, and Missouri would catch up to federal prosecutors who have added additional resources to tackle carjackings.
“This statute will streamline the prosecuting process, increase uniform sentencing, and lead to more accurate statistics relating to carjackings in the state of Missouri, and I want to thank Senator Onder and Representative Gregory for joining in this incredibly important fight. This is about removing the most violent criminals from Missouri streets. With today’s announcement, we’re sending a clear message to those who seek to harm others: we will bring you to justice,” Schmitt said.
Under the statute, prosecutors would charge carjackers with motor vehicle hijacking rather than a broader robbery charge. The main issue with prosecuting and reporting carjackings in Missouri is the lack of uniform charge or sentencing. Some carjacking incidents are charged as robbery first, robbery second or stealing. This can lead to Class A, Class B or Class D felonies.
With a carjacking statute, the baseline classification is a class B felony, but the use of deadly weapons or dangerous instruments as well as the victim being a child under 17 or a special victim would elevate the offense to a class A felony.
The statute would also be used in conjunction with charges for Armed Criminal Action in the event a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument is used.
“If you attempt to or successfully commit a carjacking with a gun, you will be going to jail for at least 10 years,” Schmitt said.
This statute seeks to improve the reporting of statistics by more uniformly charging and prosecuting carjackings.
There is one element this legislation doesn’t impact – juveniles arrested for carjacking.
According to St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden, in his 2018 Year in Review News Conference, a majority of carjacking suspects are under 18.
“That’s what we’re seeing, mostly 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds,” Hayden said back in December 2018.
5 On Your Side asked Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office if they had a strategy for how to cut down on the number of juvenile carjacking offenses. They declined to comment saying they would just let Schmitt’s news conference speak for itself.
State Senator Bob Onder, one of the sponsors of this legislation tells 5 On Your Side, these changes are a great first step but he hopes he and other lawmakers can find other ways to reduce the number of juveniles involved in carjackings.