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Mississippi Criminal Law: An Overview

Even a minor criminal charge can leave the average person anxious over what their penalties will be. Much of that anxiety comes from a lack of understanding about state criminal laws. Part of the solution to alleviating that anxiety is to learn more about the laws affecting your case and to seek professional help from an attorney.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Mississippi’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with a Mississippi criminal law attorney in Jackson, Gulfport, Southaven or elsewhere in the state.

Mississippi Capital Punishment

A capital punishment (the death penalty) sentence is reserved for capital murder, treason and aircraft piracy (hijacking) offenses in Mississippi. It’s the most serious penalty a criminal can receive in the state after life imprisonment, which is often an alternative sentence if a case doesn’t receive capital punishment. Lethal injection is the sole method of execution used in the state.

A capital murder offense (Mississippi Code Annotated § 97-3-19) is one in which the murder:

  • Resulted in the death of a firefighter or peace officer, including police officers, court officials and attorneys.
  • Resulted in the death of an elected official.
  • Resulted in the death of three or more people in a single act.
  • Was perpetrated while the criminal was serving a life imprisonment sentence.
  • Was perpetrated using an explosive device.
  • Was perpetrated for personal or capital gain.
  • Was perpetrated on property owned by an educational institute.
  • Occurred while the criminal was committing another felony offense against a minor.

Additionally, if a criminal murders more than three people within a three year period, they may be sentenced to capital punishment.

Crime Classifications in Mississippi

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Mississippi has two main criminal offense classifications: felonies and misdemeanors.

Felonies are more serious offenses than misdemeanors that incur more severe penalties. The only distinction between felonies and misdemeanors under Mississippi law is that felonies have imprisonment sentences of one year or longer while misdemeanors have sentences of less than one year.

Unlike other states, Mississippi doesn’t divide felonies and misdemeanors into sub-classifications that carry specific ranges of penalties. Instead, every offense carries its own sentence. Every criminal offense and sentence can be found under Title 97 of the Mississippi Code.

Mississippi Criminal Statute of Limitations

While the victim of a crime has the right to hold criminals accountable for their crimes, Mississippi’s laws also protect criminals’ rights. This means that criminals may not be held accountable indefinitely for certain crimes. Mississippi’s criminal statute of limitations (§ 99-1-5) sets time limits in which victims must pursue legal action against specific offenses before they’re barred from doing so.

A criminal offense’s statute of limitation “runs” immediately either after the crime is committed or as soon as the victim discovers the damages from the offense if there is a delayed reaction, such as the symptoms of a misdiagnosed disease. The statute doesn’t run if the criminal isn’t in the state or the court’s jurisdiction, or if they are on the run or in hiding from officers of the law.

All misdemeanors have a statute of limitations of two years. Many serious felonies don’t have statutes of limitations, including but not limited to:

  • Murder and manslaughter.
  • Aggravated assault and domestic violence.
  • Sexual abuse of a minor.
  • Human trafficking.
  • Burglary.
  • Arson.
  • Rape.
  • Kidnapping.

Other statutes of limitations for felony offenses include:

  • Five years for conspiracy, abuse of vulnerable persons or assistance-program fraud (such as food stamps fraud).
  • Six years for larceny (theft) of timber.
  • Two years for all other felonies.
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