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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Pot Breathalyzers are Being Tested By Law Enforcement

With the number of states that have passed recreational marijuana laws, the need to detect stoned drivers has increased. Technology companies have come to the rescue, creating devices to detect whether an individual has recently smoked or ingested marijuana. While the devices are still undergoing testing, one researcher, who happens to be a volunteer officer, has begun field testing. Like the alcohol breathalyzers that are commonplace, the marijuana breathalyzer detects the active ingredient, THC, in an individual’s breath. Based on the reading provided, an officer will be able to tell if a person has recently ingested or smoked marijuana. However, unlike alcohol, where there have been countless studies regarding the point of impairment, the research in regards to marijuana is lacking.

Why Does Law Enforcement Need a Pot Breathalyzer?

Marijuana, unlike alcohol, cannot be as accurately detected in urine, saliva, or blood tests. While it will show up in all three tests, the problem is that it can show up for days, weeks, or even months after the last consumption. The breathalyzer serves to bridge the gap in evidence an officer would need, not just to make an arrest, but also to make a court conviction more probable. The pot breathalyzer would allow officers to premise an arrest for DUI on marijuana based not only on a field sobriety test, but also on a breathalyzer reading that shows the driver has consumed marijuana within the last few hours. The device cannot detect marijuana use beyond a few hours.

When Will Device Go to Market?

While nearly half the country now allows either medical or recreational marijuana, the pot breathalyzers are not set to be publicly available for some time. The manufacturers are trying to rush the product to market, but more time is still needed. The devices still need to go through rigorous testing for accuracy, as well as the development of a standardized scale for when a person should be considered inebriated by marijuana. Just like many states have adopted the 0.08% BAC standard, a similar standard will need to be developed for marijuana before these devices can actually be effective.

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Castle Doctrine Revision – Springfield, Mo. Criminal Defense Attorney Adam Woody

Just last week, the Springfield ABC affiliate, KSPR, did a story featuring Springfield, Mo. criminal defense attorney Adam Woody on potential revisions to the Castle Doctrine.  That article and news segment can be found here.  We posted a previous blog article regarding the Castle Doctrine in Missouri on July 16, 2014.  The Missouri Legislature is yet again hoping to expand upon the provisions of the Castle Doctrine, adding others who may use deadly force.  Currently, the homeowner or vehicle owner can use deadly force to protect against a person who is attempting to unlawfully enter.  The current revision to the law is aiming to allow people who are not necessarily the home owner, but anyone else who is legally there, to use deadly force against another.

Although protecting the home is a critically important liberty in a freedom seeking country, we have to be mindful that this could be a slippery slope.  It seems every year we are allowing the use of deadly force in more and more situations.  This could tend to create confusion, even with generally law abiding people, as to when deadly force may or may not be used.  It is sad to say that we are seeing an increased amount of gun violence on the streets of Springfield, perhaps due in part to people not understanding how or in what circumstances a weapon can be used in defense.

Our advice is that when you have a weapon in your home or vehicle, be aware of the laws governing self-defense, justification, and the Castle Doctrine, and have a thorough understanding of how those principles are applied in Missouri.  It could certainly keep you from being caught on the wrong side of the law.

Breathalyzer Results in Missouri DWI Cases May be Thrown Out

All Driving While Intoxicated cases have two separate aspects: the administrative portion of the case and the criminal portion of the case.  As we all know, the breathalyzer result (BAC) can be an important part of DWI cases and can impact both the administrative and criminal aspects.  On the criminal side, state or city prosecutors will always attempt to get the BAC result into evidence if it is over .08%.  If admitted into evidence a legal presumption of impairment on behalf of the defendant is created, and the government is already well on it’s way to winning the case.  The state or city can of course prove it’s case with evidence other than the BAC, but if over .08%, that alone is very strong evidence of impairment and it makes their job much easier.  As far as the administrative side, the Department of Revenue is going to attempt to take a suspects driver’s license as a result of a BAC that is .08% or greater.  The administrative license suspension in that case would be for 90 days in the event of a first offense, and one year if it is a second offense within 5 years.

In order for the state and municipal prosecutor or the Department of Revenue to use a BAC result, very strict protocol must be followed by the agency that performs routine maintenance on the breathalyzer machines.  The police agencies themselves have a designated officer, known as a Type III, who maintains and calibrates the breathalyzers.  The Missouri Breath Test Program, as it is known to legislators and DWI practitioners, is governed by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.  Specifically, the program is codified in the Code of State Regulations at 19 CSR 25-30.  In those regulations, the breathalyzer must be maintained once every 35 days and it must be tested against a standard simulator solution from approved suppliers.  Under 19 CSR 25-30.051, as it is now written, the standard simulator solution must have a vapor concentration of .10%, .08%, or .04%.  Since the beginning of the Breath Test Program, the agencies who maintain the machines have historically tested them against one of those vapor concentrations rather than all three.  However, on November 30, 2012 the regulations were changed to read that the machines must be tested against a standard simulator solution of .10%, .08%, and .04%.  On January 29 of this year, the “and” was quietly removed and replaced once again with “or”.

As most people know, in the legislative and legal world, the significance of the words “and” as well as “or” can not be understated.  In Missouri, there are approximately 30,000 DWI arrests per year.  In the vast majority of those arrests a BAC result is obtained.  From November 30, 2012 through January 29, 2014, it is safe to assume there were well over 30,000 DWI arrests.  It is also safe to assume that no agency anywhere in the state actually followed the Code of State Regulations as they were written during that time and tested the breathalyzers every 35 days against a solution of .10%, .08%, and .04%.  They most likely tested the machines against one of the three, but as one tiny three letter words makes clear, one test may not have been enough.  It may, however, be enough to get tens of thousands of BAC results thrown out of criminal prosecutions and administrative license suspension cases across the state.  It has already started in the St. Louis area, where an associate judge reinstated several license suspensions as a result of the mistake.  It will be interesting to see how it is handled in Greene County and Southwest, Missouri.  I, for one, am anxious to get the process started.  Stay tuned!