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Missouri Criminal Law: An Overview

Missouri was once known as the methamphetamine capital of the nation in the early 2000s until around 2014. Drug crime rates in Missouri are still considerably higher than many states. Missouri also ranked ninth in the nation for violent crime rates in 2015 at a rate of 497.4 crimes per 100,000 residents.

In 2015, three Missouri cities ranked in the top 25 most dangerous cities in America. Kansas City and Springfield both ranked 10th and 11th, respectively, while St. Louis topped the list at 88.1 violent crimes per 10,000 residents.

Missouri Felonies and Misdemeanors

Crimes in Missouri are classified as felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions. Felonies are the most serious types of crimes, misdemeanors are less serious, and infractions are crimes that don't constitute a criminal offense but are still penalized with fines.

Aside from their seriousness, felonies and misdemeanors are distinguished by the extent of their penalties. Felonies are penalized with more than one year of imprisonment or, in the most serious cases, by the death penalty plus a fine of up to $5,000 for Class C or D felonies. Misdemeanors are penalized with less than one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.

Capital Punishment in Missouri

Missouri is the fifth state in the nation with the highest number of executions. Capital punishment is only sentenced to felons charged with capital homicide. Lethal injection is the primary execution method but a death row inmate may choose execution by lethal gas.

The number of executions carried out in Missouri has been in a slow decline in recent years due to shifting national opinions on the death penalty. The most recent downtrend began in 2014 when 10 executions were carried out. In 2015, only six executions were carried out and in 2016, only one execution was carried out. Only one execution is currently scheduled for 2017.

Missouri DWI Laws

In Missouri, a driver who operates a vehicle with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI). It is illegal in every state to drive intoxicated but alcohol is not the only intoxicating substance that can incriminate drivers.

Any prescription medication that inhibits a person's ability to safely operate a vehicle can earn the driver a DWI. Also, any type of drugóincluding recreational marijuana (which, along with medicinal marijuana, is illegal in Missouri)ócan inhibit a driver's ability and earn him or her a DWI.

The first DWI conviction is a Class B misdemeanor and carries up to a six-month imprisonment sentence and a maximum fine of $500. Aggravating conditions like vehicular assault or driving with a minor as a passenger can increase those penalties.

Missouri Prosecutors File Criminal Charges

Many people think that police officers decide who gets charged with a crime. The police are responsible for investigating crimes, gathering evidence and sometimes also testifying in court. But prosecutorsóincluding district attorneys, United States attorneys, states attorneys and othersóultimately decide whether a suspect is prosecuted or not. Missouri has a large network of district attorneys that prosecute state criminal laws in the state.

Contact a Missouri Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in Missouri has the right to mount a vigorous defense. A qualified Missouri Criminal Defense Attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.

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