Missouri, like most states, has a complex criminal law system. The Missouri criminal statutes are found in Chapters 556-578 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri. There are a large number of criminal charges that can be filed, from simple traffic violations, all the way through felony charges that carry death, or life without parole, as punishment. The criminal justice system is not the place to represent yourself. The criminal defense lawyers of Kennedy, Kennedy, Robbins & Yarbro, LC, can guide you through the process and fight to preserve your legal and constitutional rights.
Both the federal and state constitutions require that a criminal defendant be afforded due process of law. The court, prosecution and defense lawyer work together to make sure that the rules of criminal procedure are observed. Due process includes reasonable notice of proceedings, the right to an attorney and impartial hearings.
A typical criminal case begins with an investigation by the police, county sheriff or other law enforcement department or organization. Once the law enforcement official believes sufficient information is in place to support a search or arrest warrant, the information is presented to a judge to determine if the case may proceed. Once a warrant is signed, an arrest or search may occur.
A criminal defendant, after arrest, is first arraigned. Arraignment is the process by which the individual is advised of the charges pending against him or her. Typically, arraignment is waived and the case is set for additional action on a later date. At this initial hearing, your criminal attorney can seek to have a bond, if any, reduced or removed in its entirety.
Under Missouri law, there are infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions typically involve only a monetary fine. Misdemeanors may involve a fine of up to $1,000.00, a year in the county jail, or a combination of said fine and jail time. Felony cases involve fines and jail time in excess of those imposed in misdemeanors. In a felony case, the prosecution must present evidence at a preliminary hearing. The judge must find that there is “sufficient probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed” to allow the case to go forward. If the case goes forward, it is “bound over” to the Circuit Court for additional proceedings.
At any stage prior to trial, the criminal defendant and the prosecution can reach a plea agreement or “bargain”. Usually, these negotiations include the amendment of charges or an agreement to accept a fine in lieu of jail time. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be of great assistance in negotiating an acceptable plea.
Sometimes, it is simply not possible to reach a plea agreement. In these instances, a trial occurs. At trial, both sides are allowed to present evidence and question witnesses. A criminal trial may be to the judge only, but most often is to a twelve person jury. For a criminal defendant to be found guilty, he or she must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by all twelve jurors. The judge will then impose a sentence, which may include jail time, community service, fines, court costs, restitution and/or probation.
If you need legal assistance, or for further information about criminal law, please contact us or call Kennedy, Kennedy, Robbins & Yarbro, LC, at (573) 686-2459. Our commitment is to earn your confidence by answering all questions and providing quality representation.