Scientists Still Seek A Reliable DUI Test For Marijuana

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This spring, 16 state patrol officers from Colorado and Wyoming took a couple days off their usual work schedule to do something special. They assembled in a hotel conference room in Denver. As instructed, they wore street clothes for their first assignment: going shopping at nearby marijuana dispensaries.

“It’s a brave new world,” said instructor Chris Halsor, referring to the years since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.

There are now more marijuana dispensaries in Colorado than there are Starbucks shops, said Halsor, a Denver lawyer and former prosecutor. And though consuming cannabis is legal across the state, driving under its influence is not.

The cops in that conference room, with their buzz cuts and Mountain Dew, are all part of the force charged with keeping the roads safe. But first, they needed a formal pot education — to learn how to identify various marijuana products and paraphernalia when they pull over a driver they suspect is under the influence.

Here’s the rub: Despite the increasingly legal use of cannabis in many states, cops still don’t have the equivalent of a reliable alcohol breathalyzer or blood test — a chemically based way of estimating what the drug is doing in the brain. Though a blood test exists that can detect some of marijuana’s components, there is no widely accepted, standardized amount in the breath or blood that gives police or courts or anyone else a good sense of who is impaired.

Yessenia Hinojos, a budtender at a Denver cannabis dispensary called The Green Solution, describes marijuana strains to A.J. Tarantino (left) and Philip Gurley. Both men are officers with Colorado State Patrol.

Rae Ellen Bichell/NPR

A number of scientists nationally are working hard to create just such a chemical test and standard — something to replace the behavioral indicators that cops have to base their judgments on now.

“We like to know the human error and the limitations of the human opinion,” said Tara Lovestead, a chemical engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., who is working on setting standards for what a marijuana detection test might require.

It’s actually really hard for Lovestead to do this kind of research because she works in a federal lab; federally, cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 substance, “a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” So even though Lovestead is in Colorado, getting hold of a sample for research purposes is just as hard as getting hold of heroin.

“We cannot use the stuff down the street,” she said.

Aside from being a bureaucratic mess, coming up with a standardized blood or breath test is also a really tricky chemistry problem because of the properties of the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis: delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

In states like Colorado, there is a THC blood test that law enforcement can use to show “presumed” impairment. If a person has more than 5 nanograms of delta-9-THC per milliliter of blood, a court or jury can infer that they are impaired, according to Colorado law (this is called “permissible inference” in legalese).

But Lovestead and others maintain that, scientifically speaking, that cutoff doesn’t actually mean anything.

“We just don’t know whether or not that means they’re still intoxicated, or impaired or not,” she said. “There’s no quantitative measure that could stand up in a court of law.”

Turns out it can be a lot harder to chemically determine from a blood or breath test that someone is high than to determine from such a test that they’re drunk.

Ethanol, the chemical in alcoholic drinks that dulls thinking and reflexes is small and dissolves in water. Because humans are mostly water, it gets distributed fairly quickly and easily throughout the body and is usually cleared within a matter of hours. But THC, the main chemical in cannabis that produces some of the same symptoms, dissolves in fat. That means the length of time it lingers in the body can differ from person to person even more than alcohol — influenced by things like gender, amount of body fat, frequency of use, and the method and type of cannabis product consumed.

In one study, researchers had 30 frequent marijuana users stay at a research facility for a month without any access to drugs of any sort and repeatedly tested their bloodfor evidence of cannabis.

“And it shocked everyone, including ourselves, that we could measure, in some of these individuals, THC in the blood for 30 days,” says Marilyn Huestis, a toxicologist with the University of Maryland School of Medicine who recently retired from leading a lab at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The participants’ bodies had built up stores of THC that were continuing to slowly leech out, even though they had abstained from using marijuana for a full month. In some of those who regularly smoked large amounts of pot, researchers could measure blood THC above the 5-nanogram level for several days after they had stopped smoking.

Conversely, another study showed that people who weren’t regular consumers could smoke a joint right in front of researchers and yet show no evidence of cannabis in their blood.

So, in addition to being invasive and cumbersome, the blood test can be misleading and a poor indicator of whatever is happening in the brain.

Recently, some scientists have turned their attention to breath, in hopes of creating something useful.

A number of companies, like Cannabix Technologies and Hound Labs, are in the process of developing breath detection devices. Tara Lovestead is providing the data that will help relate the concentration of THC detected in the breath to what’s in the blood. Even though blood provides an incomplete and indirect inkling of what’s happening in the brain, it’s the measure law enforcement turns to as a benchmark.

That, too, is a chemist’s nightmare. THC and other cannabinoids — the chemicals that cause a high — are really squirrelly. They degrade quickly and appear only in very tiny amounts in the breath.

Luckily, Lovestead’s specialty is detecting tiny amounts of chemicals in the air. She and her colleagues have worked on methods to use tiny air samples to detect evidence of arsonburied bodies and hidden explosives. Marijuana is the next challenge.

In the future, she said, an accurate breath test would likely involve looking at a lot more than just THC — probably a whole combination of chemicals.

“One thing to look for would be metabolites — something that comes out of the breath that shows it actually went through your system,” she said. Such a test would greatly reduce the possibility that someone might test positive from inhaling secondhand smoke, she said.

In the meantime, it’s up to law enforcement officers like the ones in Chris Halsor’s class to make the call, based on circumstantial evidence and their best guess.

“The whole point of this class is to get the officers to make correct decisions,” said Halsor.

Many officers in his courses have never used marijuana — or haven’t since some exploratory puffs in high school. These officers need training, he said, to boost their confidence — “confidence that they’re making the right arrest decision and confidence that they’re letting people go who really aren’t impaired.”

The cops attending his seminar in the spring paged through Dope Magazine, chuckled at a photo of an edible called “reef jerky” and watched a video together on how to dab — heating concentrated marijuana and inhaling the vapors. In their visit to a local marijuana dispensary, they examined gold-plated blunts — hollowed-out cigars filled with marijuana.

But the real test of these officers’ ability to identify the signs of cannabis impairment faced them outside the hotel, in a parked RV that was plastered with bumper stickers.

A chemical test that reliably detects cannabis use — let alone intoxication — has been elusive.

Rae Ellen Bichell/NPR

Four volunteers for the project were inside the RV, legally getting as high as they wanted to, from a big plastic tub full of pot products.

“Good music, good company, good weed. It all goes together,” said Eugene Butler, one of the four volunteers.

Butler and the three others had never met before. They had volunteered to get high and then interact with cops to help the officers learn the signs of cannabis impairment.

“We’re going to willfully smell like pot around a bunch of cops,” said Sharica Clark, laughing.

Inside the hotel, the officers practiced roadside sobriety tests on the four volunteers — determining each time if, in real life, they would have arrested these people for a DUI.

All the volunteers had smoked a lot of pot inside the RV. But in the sobriety tests, they performed differently.

A volunteer named Christine, for example, did well on math, quickly calculating how many quarters are in $1.75. But she didn’t do well on other things, like balancing, remembering instructions and estimating time. (She was concerned about recrimination at work, and NPR agreed to use only her first name).

Christine, the officers all decided, would be a danger behind the wheel. In real life, they would have arrested her.

“Yeah, she’d be going to jail,” said Rich Armstrong, an officer with Colorado State Patrol.

But things weren’t so clear with the other volunteers. A lot of the officers had decided they wouldn’t arrest Eugene Butler or a volunteer named John (who also asked that we not use his last name); both men aced the same roadside tests Christine flunked, even though they, too, had just smoked a lot in the RV.

And when it came to Sharica Clark, the officers decided it was essentially a toss-up as to whether they would have arrested her, based on her performance on the roadside tests. Yes, her pupils were huge, and she had a tough time touching her finger to the tip of her nose while her eyes were closed. But her balance, counting and recitation of the alphabet were, as Colorado State Patrol Officer Philip Gurley put it, “spot on.”

“It was a tough one,” said Tom Davis, another officer with Colorado State Patrol.

Volunteer Sharica Clark counts 30 seconds with her eyes closed, as officers with Colorado State Patrol check her balance and counting skills after using cannabis. It was part of a simulated roadside sobriety test in the officers’ training seminar.

Rae Ellen Bichell/NPR

Right now, these officer’s opinions loom large. If they decide you’re driving high, you’re going to jail. But at the end of the day, they’re just making educated guesses. Two different officers could watch the same person doing the same sobriety test and make different decisions on whether to arrest. In previous courses, officers had decided that a volunteer was impaired when in fact the volunteer hadn’t smoked at all.

So, just like the THC blood test, the judgments officers make can also yield false positives and negatives.

“This is one of those subjective areas,” said Armstrong.

“It’s too subjective,” said Lovestead.

She recently published a paper in the journal Forensic Chemistry where she found the vapor pressure of THC — one of its fundamental physical properties. Lovestead believes finding and standardizing that measurement is a small but significant steptoward a more objective route for evaluating intoxicated drivers.

In the meantime, courses like Halsor’s are the best resource for officers. And at least now the class participants know what pot strains like Skunk Dawg, Hippie Chicken and Chunky Diesel actually smell like.

“Yeah,” said Gurley. “It smells like the bottom side of a rock.”

 

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Man Arrested for Possession Surprised to Find State Didn’t Legalize Marijuana

Ignorance of the law — and election news — wasn’t a valid excuse for an aging Arizona toker arrested this week in Golden Valley.

After allegedly resisting arrest, Lon Victor Post, 54, told deputies early Wednesday morning that he thought the state had legalized marijuana, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies took him to jail anyway.

Possession of any amount of marijuana remains a felony in Arizona after voters rejected Prop 205 in November by a ratio of about 52 percent to 48 percent. Perhaps Post was confused by the fact that roughly 100 miles to the west and north of him, thanks to successful legalization elections in California and Nevada, adults 21 and older now have the freedom to use marijuana without legal penalty. Maine and Massachusetts also legalized weed for all adults, making Arizona the only one of five states that turned down the opportunity.

The deputies noticed he was having trouble standing upright as he turned down the music and chatted with them. They also noticed a baggie of pot sticking out of his shirt pocket and soon determined that he wasn’t one of the roughly 100,000 Arizonans registered under the state’s medical-marijuana program. But Post, apparently thinking he was being hassled unfairly, “jerked away” as the deputies tried to take him into custody, Carter writes.

Post pulled away a second time, seemed to square up for a fight, and took a menacing step forward. Deputies hit him with a Taser blast, which calmed him down. He then asked why he was being arrested.

“Further conversations with Post, he said that he thought marijuana was legal,” Carter writes. “The deputy advised Post that marijuana is illegal without a prescription and medical-marijuana card.”

That last part isn’t quite right: Qualified patients need to obtain a recommendation, not a federally regulated prescription, in order to register for a card.

Deputies booked him on suspicion of resisting arrest, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia — all felonies.

Had Post been savvier, he could have obtained a card easily and possibly avoided the possession and paraphernalia charges.

But even under the voter-approved 2010 medical-marijuana law, smoking in public remains illegal.

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New Groups of Prior Sex Offenders Tagged for Lifetime Supervision and Monitoring

In a new law that took effect January 1, 2017, around a dozen different types of sex offenders are now required to be supervised by the State Board of Probation and Parole for the rest of their natural lives.  Along with the lifetime supervision, they are also subject to mandatory electronic monitoring through the use of an ankle bracelet, at the expense of the prior sex offender.  Adding additional fuel to the inevitable legal battle regarding the Constitutionality of the new bill, the state legislature made the law retroactive to August 28, 2006.  What this means is that anyone who plead guilty to the roughly 12 types of sex crimes, even all the way back in 2006, now suddenly have this new obligation regardless of how well they did on probation or how productive and law abiding they have been in life following their arrest.  Many of these crimes that require the lifetime registry and electronic monitor are non-contact offenses.

Understandably, sex offenders are not a group of people who are going to garner a lot of sympathy.  However, this new bill seems far over-reaching even in today’s society which treats sex offenses as a modern day scarlet letter.  The new law, RSMo. 217.735, includes offenses such as sexual misconduct involving a child.  Although titles of all sex offenses sound incredibly dangerous to most, sexual misconduct involving a child could include behavior such as urinating in public when a person less than 15 accidentally observes the act.  It is hard to imagine a scenario in which that crime should lead to lifetime supervision and lifetime electronic ankle monitor.

This bill is highly likely to be challenged in short order.  The Missouri Constitution forbids laws that ex post facto in nature, meaning laws that require a new obligation based on a prior act.  Appellate Courts across Missouri and across the country have made exceptions in the case of sex crimes, calling the new obligations civil in nature, rather than punitive.  Either way, this new bill is certain to be appealed an the Missouri Supreme Court is likely going to have to settle the debate as to whether or not these new requirements are Constitutional.

Teen Driving Curfews Could Cut Crime, But At What Cost?

Male teen laughing and driving car with two other laughing passengers

Research out of the University of Texas at Dallas say that teen driving curfews can not only curb car crashes, but they could also reduce juvenile crime. That said, should be really we limiting individual freedoms in order potentially reduce crime?

Before we delve into the ethics of the curfew, let’s take a look at the data. For their study, researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas analyzed national FBI data from 1995 to 2011 involving teenage drivers and drivers with an imposed curfew. According to researchers, arrests of teens fell between 4 and 6 percent in states that placed a driving curfew on new and inexperienced drivers. In the strictest states, arrests were down between 5 and 8 percent.

Other findings from the study include:

  • The largest declines in arrests were in states that had graduated license programs (GDLs) in place the longest.
  • The biggest drops in arrests were from crimes like murder or manslaughter (11 percent), larceny (5 percent) and aggravated assault (4 percent).

Researchers say GDL programs and driving restrictions have been shown to reduce the risk of a crash, but this was the first study to examine how these restrictions affect youth crime.

“Being able to drive or having friends who can drive is the difference between going out and staying home on a Saturday night,” said study author Monica Deza, an assistant professor of economics. “It seemed intuitive to us that having a curfew on driving hours affected the probability that teenagers would get themselves into trouble.”

Researchers stopped short of saying the study proves a cause-and-effect link, rather, they just noted that there was an association between teen driving curfews and reduced juvenile crime rates.

Balancing Restrictions and Freedoms

Everyone knows that getting your license is seen as one of the biggest steps towards adulthood a teen can make, but each state handles the provisional license differently. Some states don’t let new drivers hit the road after midnight or before 5 a.m., while other states restrict cell phone privileges while in the car.

The issue arises when we take the association at face value and jump to the notion that there should be a widespread driving curfew to reduce teen crime. While that may be true, there would also be a reduction in crime if we had a mandatory curfew that required all adults to be home by 9 p.m. We can’t use the guise of safety as a blanket rule to inhibit personal freedoms. Ben Franklin said so himself when he wrote “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

We can go back and forth arguing whether or not driving at night is an “essential liberty,” but it speaks to the larger idea that we can’t just restrict personal freedoms in order to feel a little safer. Some checks and balances certainly need to be put in place for new drivers, but I’m not certain a nationwide curfew is the optimal route.

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Researching Your Attorney – Why Credentials Matter

Deciding which attorney to hire is perhaps the biggest decision people face when defending themselves against criminal prosecution.  Hiring the right attorney may seem like a daunting task given the number of attorneys out there.  Many lawyers claim to be criminal defense attorneys, but also claim to practice family law, personal injury, estates and trusts, and virtually every other kind of law there is.  This is a red herring for, “I am not an expert in any one area, so I’ll try to do a little bit of everything”.  Other attorneys claim to do only criminal defense, but in all candor, don’t have a clue what they are doing and offer a cheap price tag to offset their deficiencies.  Hiring an attorney obviously falls into the “buyer beware” category, but there are things you can do to ensure that you’re hiring a criminal defense attorney who is competent, experienced, and will give you the strong defense for which you’re entitled.

RESEARCH YOUR ATTORNEY.  We can’t say it enough.  Just because someone is listed online claiming to be a criminal defense attorney by no means ensures that they know what they are doing in the courtroom.  Even more concerning are the lawyers who send you solicitation letters in the mail.  Someone who simply claims to do criminal defense is not the same as someone who does criminal defense well.  The key is to research the attorney before hiring and to look for certain credentials to ensure successful, competent representation.

CREDENTIALS TO LOOK FOR: There are many groups and so-called “awards” that attorneys can join or win by simply paying money.  Realistically, those are not awards at all.  Awards that are most credible are those that are peer nominated (ie. attorneys nominating attorneys for awards), followed by independent third party research, and then voted on by credentialed panels.  Awards that fall into this category include Superlawyers, Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Martindale-Hubbell, and Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

Additionally, certification and expertise in a specific area of law is a huge plus.  Although the Missouri Bar does not recognize outside certification organizations, and offer no specialty certification of its own, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers certification in specialized areas of practice that are recognized by the American Bar Association.  For example, Criminal Trial Practice is a specialty area of certification that the NBTA offers and is recognized by the American Bar Association.  In order to be certified by NBTA to ensure specialized knowledge and experience in Criminal Trial Practice, an attorney must go through a rigorous application process, demonstrate adequate experience across dozens of key practice areas, and finally complete a bar style exam solely in criminal law.  It is a scary thought, but many people who practice criminal defense in Missouri likely could not pass this exam.  That is why certification by your attorney is something to look for to ensure competency and specialized knowledge to protect you against government prosecution.

IS THE ATTORNEY DEDICATED TO CRIMINAL DEFENSE?  Finally, one key in hiring a good criminal defense lawyer is to look for whether the attorney you hire is dedicated to his or her profession of criminal defense and to his or her clients.  Many defense attorneys tout the fact that they used to be prosecutors.  I’m not so sure this is a positive.  You want an attorney who is going to be loyal to you without the concern of them playing both sides.  Additionally, you want to see your attorney have specialized education in criminal defense and specific involvement in criminal defense only groups, such as the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  These organizations provide criminal defense specific training throughout the country to better equip defense lawyers for the rigors of providing the best representation possible for their clients.

Attorney Adam Woody has the among the most combined experience, credentials, and courtroom success of any criminal defense attorney in Southwest, Missouri.  He has never practiced any area of law other than criminal defense, and has been perfecting his craft for over a decade.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, as well as the National Criminal Defense College in Macon, Georgia.  He is a general member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the treasurer of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, an organization for which he is on track to be president of in two years.  He has been named to the Superlawyers Rising Stars list in 2016, he has won the Missouri Lawyers Weekly Up and Coming Attorney award in 2011, and he has been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer in the country in 2013 through 2016.  He is board certified in the area of Criminal Trial Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and is the only attorney in Southwest, Missouri to achieve such specialty certification.  He has achieved an AV rating by the lawyer rating resource, Martindale-Hubbell, which indicates a Preeminent rating, the highest rating available, based on peer and client reviews and independent panelist research.  He is a member of the invitation only group, National College for DUI Defense, and he has received the same certification in standardized field sobriety testing as police officers receive in their academy.  Adam has achieved hundreds of dismissals for clients accused of crimes, as well as dozens of not guilty verdicts, including for the most egregious of charges such as first degree murder.  He is a criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to that profession alone, and he is ready to step into the courtroom and provide you the best defense available in the region.

When researching an attorney to determine whether you will get the most experienced, most competent, and most prepared defense available, look no further than attorney Adam Woody.  He’s ready to fight the battle with you as your advocate in the courtroom.

Understanding Vandalism Charges

The word vandalism spray painted on a cement wall

If you or a loved one is charged with vandalism in Missouri, whether it be tagging or graffiti or defacing property, the result can be serious charges and severe penalties. If damage resulting from the vandalism is bad enough, you can face steep fines, a criminal record, jail time and even time in state prison.

Many do not realize that parents of minors are financially responsible for the damage that their children cause.  Parents of minors charged with vandalism or tagging need to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle their case.

Types of Vandalism
  • Carving into a piece of glass or wood such as a table, chair, desk or bench with a knife or any other tool
  • Breaking windows or doors
  • Tagging with markers or paint
  • Damaging somebody else’s property including mailboxes, cars, plants, lawn or other personal property with intent
Difference Between Misdemeanor & Felony Vandalism

For a person to be found guilty of vandalism prosecutors must prove that they maliciously intended to damage or deface personal property of another person.

Charges of Misdemeanor or Felony depend of the severity of the damage caused. Typically damage under the amount of $750 is considered a misdemeanor while damage of $750 and over is considered a felony.

Acts of vandalism will automatically be felonies if they are proved to be “hate crimes.”

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your case as well as help you get the best possible result in court. In some cases, your case may even be dropped if there is not enough evidence.

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Will People Be Able to See My Criminal Case Online?

Look, I get it, you are embarrassed about what you are going through. You do not want people to know about that DWI that you are dealing with. Or that Misdemeanor Assault. You do not want your employer to find out about it and you certainly do not want your mom finding it. So, will they see it?

Believe it or not this is a simple and complicated question at the same time. In the practice of law there are a lot of moving parts. Some of those moving parts are easy to predict and some are much more difficult. I am going to start with some broad statements that are generally true and then move into the specifics on what my experience has shown.

 

The first undeniable truth that you will need to accept is that we live in a digital age. Everything is recorded and placed on the web. Some things are easy to find and some things are very very hard to find, but they are out there. So, the first thing that you will need to consider is who is looking and how hard are they trying to find something. There is a FBI list called the NCIC. This is the National Crime Information Center which is a computerized database of documented criminal justice information available to virtually every law enforcement agency nationwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If a cop pulls you over, this is one of the things he or she is checking on back at their car. That list shows every arrest, plea and conviction on your record. So if you have been arrested for an assault on law enforcement officer in the past, even if that charge never went anywhere, the cop IS going to treat you different. But Grandma is going to have a hard time finding you on the NCIC.

 

The second issue is Casenet. You can find that here: Casenet. This is going to be where every person charged with a STATE offense will be shown. (example: State of Missouri v. John Doe). Whether it is a speeding ticket to a DUI to a murder charge, you are going to be on here. People get confused about this in regard to being charged in Greene County. This is considered a State Charge. Some municipal charges are on Casenet as well. That depends on the City. For instance, Springfield Municipal is NOT on Casenet, but the City of Nixa is on there. You may eventually come off of Casenet if you receive a SIS or you win your case at trial. Additionally, there is a very rare thing that can be done at the discretion of the Court which would change the clearance level of those that can see you on Casenet. That rarely happens in Criminal Cases and is more likely in the Family Court setting.

 

The third issue is all the mugshot websites. This is a hard one. Every time you pull one down it seems that a new one pops up. If money is not an issue, go ahead and spend away to have these pictures pulled down. I have a hard time telling my clients to do it because your picture will roll off the front page in a few hours. After that, you can look people up by their last name, but the websites are so bad it takes forever to even pull up the picture. It is your money and you can spend it how you want. I DO know that if I call as an attorney to pull your picture down they charge me more than they would charge you to do it yourself.

 

The fourth issue is going to be your driving record. Anyone with $8 and clearance through the State of Missouri can order your driving record and find every speeding ticket and DUI and administrative action you have. There is no protecting against this, but know that Grandma will likely not have that ability. Jobs on the other hand will…

 

Will your employer see the criminal charge? I do not know for sure. Why are they looking? Are they looking for a reason to let you go? Then they will find one and it does not have to be for this. Are they looking because their insurance needs an update on your driving record? They will find any driving offense (including a DUI) with a driving record.

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What is a Class A Felony in Missouri?

The Class A Felony is the highest level of classification of crime in the State of Missouri. This is the highest of the high, the most serious level of crime.

This includes cases like Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, Robbery in the First Degree and some drug crimes like Trafficking in the First Degree.

From a lawyer’s point of view these big cases are what the big time lawyers live for. Can they be technical? Yes, but rarely so. It is a common saying that from a legal point of view a DWI can be more difficult to try in a technical point of view than a homicide. There is a lot more science and need for precision in analyzing Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, Breathalyzers and the expert witnesses the officers are holding themselves out to be. Robberies cases do not tend to be scientific in nature. They tend to be more fact base. That makes it less likely to find a technicality to get you or your loved one out of hot water. You need good lawyering more in these high end cases than a routine DWI.

Why do the big time lawyers want these big cases? These cases can be true life changers. These cases are the ones that decide if you are going to be there for your family for the next 10, 20 or 30 years; if you are going to be able to see your five-year-old graduate from high school, or get married, or have kids of their own. These are big time stakes. Big time players want the ball.

You need to be looking for the right kind of attorney to deal with these high end cases. Some of the things you should be looking for in an attorney if you or a family member has been charged with this sort of crime.

Having the compassion to deal with the client and their family. Taking time to explain the situation to them. To talk about the facts. Do they take phone calls and return phone calls?

  • Having the knowledge to deal with the legal issue. To be able to spot where the prosecutor went too far or the detective asked one too many questions. Are they straight out of law school? Are they looking at 1970 law? You need someone up to date but still having the experience.
  • Having the experience to know how the Judge is likely to rule. To be able to predict what is going to happen.
  • Do they try cases? Winning is good, but trying cases is the important part. I once worked for an attorney that said there are two types of attorneys: Cryers and Tryers. If you have a Tryer on your side, you will always beat the Cryer. Being able to stand up and hold the line is an important part of our legal system. Make sure you hire someone that is not afraid to hold that line for you.

Why do you need this kind of lawyer? Because the Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri (RSMo) states that a Class A Felony shall have the punishment as follows:

558.011. 1. The authorized terms of imprisonment, including both prison and conditional release terms, are:

 For a class A felony, a term of years not less than ten years and not to exceed thirty years, or life imprisonment;

Additionally, if you are charged with Murder in the First Degree, the death penalty is also on the table. The stakes do not get higher than this.

Class A felonies will determine the way you live your life for a very long time to come. Do not leave it up to chance.

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