Criminal Law in Missouri

If you feel overwhelmed and uncertain of the next step because you or a loved one is being questioned by police or has been arrested in Missouri, this article was written for you. A qualified Missouri criminal defense attorney can evaluate your criminal case, create effective legal strategies, and defend you in court.

Because jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record are likely foreseeable punishments and your entire future is at stake, we'll discuss:

  • Missouri criminal laws;
  • What you need to know about criminal defense in Missouri; and
  • How to work with your Missouri criminal defense attorney.

Missouri Criminal Laws

Crime
Laws are written and applied to provide notice of what constitutes a crime and to serve both as a deterrent and as a punishment. The goal is to provide protection from harmful behavior and provide for an orderly society.

  • Missouri criminal laws are found in the Missouri Criminal Code, which is part of the Missouri Revised Statutes.
  • The Code includes all Missouri crimes such as arson, resisting arrest, assault and battery, harassment, domestic abuse, bad checks, DUI, criminal trespass, traffic violations, shoplifting, theft as well as simple and aggravated assault.

Your criminal defense attorney will explain exactly what crime you've been charged with and what that means for you.

Statute of Limitations
There is a time limit on some criminal charges; the time limit is called the "statute of limitations". If a criminal act happened too far in the past, charges may be barred. Some crimes, such as murder, have no time limit.

For example, in Missouri, the statute of limitations for:

  • Arson is either unlimited or 3 years, depending upon the circumstances of the case. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§556-036.1 or 556-036.2(1)).
  • Robbery is either unlimited or 3 years, depending upon the circumstances of the case. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§556-036.1 or 556-036.2(1)).
  • Theft is unlimited, 1 year, or 3 years, depending upon the nature and value of the property stolen. (Mo. Rev. Stat. §§556-036.1 or 556-036.2(1)) or 556-036.2(2)).

Punishment
Missouri judges have discretion when doling out punishments for those convicted of crimes in the state. Sentencing guidelines are available for judge reference.

  • If there are circumstances that make the crime more serious, these are called "aggravating circumstances". Aggravating circumstances will increase the criminal punishment.
  • If there are circumstances that make the crime less serious, these are referred to as "mitigating circumstances". Mitigating circumstances will decrease the punishment.

Your criminal defense lawyer will explain exactly what punishment you are facing after he or she analyzes the criminal charges and the circumstances surrounding the crime - this includes a full analysis of your background and criminal history.

What You Need to Know About Criminal Defense

If you are being questioned about or have been arrested for a crime in Missouri, get legal help. After all, think of everything that is at risk.

  • Ask the bar association or friends for referrals or simply Google, "How to find a Missouri Criminal Defense Attorney."
  • Asking for an attorney doesn't indicate that you've done anything wrong.
  • Regardless of whether you're innocent or guilty - or somewhere in between - you need to be represented by a defense lawyer.
  • Ask police for an attorney if you are not permitted to leave the police station or wherever you are.

Your criminal defense lawyer will explain anything else you need to know about criminal law and your individual situation.

How to Work with a Missouri Criminal Defense Lawyer

Your attorney will always be working in your best interests. Keep this in mind when you choose how to act or react to anything your attorney says or does.

In addition,

  • Follow your lawyer's advice. Your attorney has education, training, and experience that you don't have. Moreover, he or she can look at your self objectively. You cannot.
  • Explain what happened- include the details you'd rather forget. This means include specifics even if they make you look bad.
  • Return all phone calls promptly.
  • Provide all requested information promptly.
  • If your phone number or address changes, update your criminal defense attorney's office immediately.
  • It's okay for your attorney to question you, even challenge you. Remember, everything is in your best interests - and for a reason.
  • It's normal, professional, and appropriate for your attorney to be polite and cooperative with police officers and prosecutors. It's part of the process.

Bottom Line: If you have been questioned in or accused of a crime in Missouri, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. Whether innocent or guilty, you need representation. Your next step is to call a criminal defense attorney now.

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