Criminal sentencing procedures for defendants in Missouri are not necessarily intuitively obvious. A system for sentencing those convicted of felony offenses exists to ensure fairness and consistency across the board for defendants in the state. When considering a sentence length, the judge will generally weigh three factors: the seriousness of the offense, the average sentence for the same crime and the defendant's previous criminal history.
Serious offenders who have prior felony convictions are likely to receive a prison sentence. However, those who have committed lesser offenses, even felonies, may qualify for probation or a diversion program. Criminal defendants who are convicted of a first-time, low-level felony charge may be eligible for drug programs or "institutional shock," which often involves jail terms of 120 days or less. Individuals who complete the jail-based programs are often eligible to be released and serve only probation for the remainder of their sentences.