BENTON - Missouri legislators targeted behavior by juveniles with several laws that went into effect Sunday with House Bill 353
Juvenile officers now have jurisdiction over juveniles age 17 or younger who violate tobacco laws.
Before the change, "the juvenile court had no jurisdiction over tobacco laws," explained Bill Lawson, chief juvenile officer for Scott and Mississippi counties. "If they sent us the report we couldn't do anything with it - now we can."
This gives parents and law enforcement officers a tool for intervention. "Most of the parents don't want their children to smoke," Lawson said. "But I think it's also a statement of public health that the legislature said, 'We don't want young people smoking.'"
Possessing prescription medication on school property becomes a class C misdemeanor and distributing prescription medication on school property will be a class B misdemeanor.
The intent is to prevent students from distributing and using drugs like Xanex for recreational purposes, according to Paul Boyd, prosecuting attorney for Scott County. Students who have been prescribed medication "need to make their school aware of what they have on their person and follow the school rules on the ingestion of prescribed medications," he advised.
While not specifically targeting juveniles, the felony threshold for illegal copying and distribution of sound recordings has been lowered from 1,000 copies to 100.
Senate Bill 401 also went into effect Sunday. This bill makes it a misdemeanor for a property owner or renter to allow someone under the age of 21 to drink or possess alcohol on their property. This law does not apply to parents or guardians and their own children.
Visible intoxication and detectable blood alcohol content will be evidence of finding a minor guilty of the purchase or possession of alcohol even if no containers of alcohol are found.
Those between age 15 and 21 guilty of purchasing or possessing alcohol will have their license or driving privilege suspended or revoked for 30 days for the first violation, 90 days for a second violation and one year for third and subsequent violations of the minor's liquor law.
Boyd said this change should discourage those who hold house parties which provide alcohol to minors and should motivate parents to be more aware of what is going on in their homes.