JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri legislative bill spurred on by a hit-and-run fatality last year in Neosho has advanced out of the state Senate and is on the way to the House and possibly the governor to sign into law.

JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri legislative bill spurred on by a hit-and-run fatality last year in Neosho has advanced out of the state Senate and is on the way to the House and possibly the governor to sign into law.
Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, handled House Bill 1733 that was advanced by the Senate this week. The bill would enhance penalties for anyone leaving the scene of an accident when a person is killed.
The legislation was brought forward by Rep. Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, after Matthew Stevens, 19, of Neosho died after being hit by a vehicle in the early-morning hours of Sept. 12. Oren Rae Rinehart of Neosho is charged with leaving the scene in the deadly accident, a class E felony, along Missouri Highway 59 near Malcolm Mosby Drive in south Neosho.
Kraus stated in a news release that Stacey Stevens, Matthew’s mother, was left with funeral bills at costs higher than the court was able to fine the driver. Current law for the class E felony is up to four years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. Rinehart has pleaded not guilty to the charge and is free on $10,000 bond.
At a pre-trial conference this week in Newton County Court, 40th Circuit Court Presiding Judge Timothy Perigo granted a change of venue for Rinehart’s trial to McDonald County. Perigo will preside over the proceedings at 1 p.m. Nov. 1 in Pineville. A pre-trial conference is slated for 10 a.m. Sept. 6.
“This measure will allow prosecutors to have the tools to bring appropriate charges in these kind of offenses,” Kraus said. “This bill ensures that drivers who leave the scene of a fatal accident would face tougher consequences.”
Kraus said the measure changes the penalty to a class D felony in 2016 and a class C felony in 2017, the year a criminal code overhaul takes place.
A current class D felony, associated with crimes such as fraud, resisting arrest, third-degree domestic assault and passing a bad check, is punishable by up to five years in prison or one year in jail and a fine up to $5,000 or twice the amount of financial gain to the offender up to $20,000.
The possible sentence for a class C felony in 2017 after the overhaul goes into effect is the same as the current class D. It will have a maximum of seven years in prison or one year in jail and a fine up to $10,000.
“After numerous witnesses had testified in the House, we knew this was an urgent issue that needed to be solved this session,” said Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “Sen. Kraus and I worked together on this bill to make sure this measure moved through the Senate so it can make it to the governor’s desk by May 13.”
Also included in HB 1733 is the revision of the definition of an “emergency vehicle” as it relates to traffic regulations. The definition will include any vehicle owned and operated by the Civil Support Team of the Missouri National Guard when in response to a disaster.
Also, the measure includes improvements to school bus driver endorsements, exemption of helmet laws for autocycle drivers and changes in bus length with safety bumpers.
Original provisions were contained in bills sponsored by Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City. The bill will be sent back to the House for consideration before reaching the governor’s desk.