House approves bill to ease some criminal penalties

Photo source: WAPT-TV

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi House members are supporting a plan to ease penalties on people accused or convicted of crimes.

The House voted 109-4 Thursday to pass House Bill 1352, sending it to the Senate for more work.

Republican Rep. Jason White of West, the bill's sponsor, says it takes "baby steps" but is still worthwhile.

The measure would expand the state's drug courts to also handle people with mental illnesses and military veterans. It would stop automatic suspension of driver's licenses for non-payment of fines or for simple drug possession. White says such penalties make it harder for many struggling people.

The House proposal would also allow people to ask a judge to wipe more crimes from their records.

A Senate bill that would have made broader changes failed to pass committee.