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Kansas City Criminal Defense Law Blog

How are reasonable and suspicion probable cause different?

We've all been there — you're driving down the road after a long day, maybe coming home after a quick stop at the bar. Suddenly, you see the flashing lights behind you and pull over to the side of the road. In many cases, you may not even know why you're being pulled over.

Protecting our rights as citizens begins with the smallest rights, which are just as important to understand as the larger headline rights. Understanding the difference between reasonable suspicion and probable cause can help you defend your rights and the rights of those around you.

New attorney general encourages harsher drug sentencing

For decades, drug charges have carried stiff penalties for defendants, leading to many individuals facing years behind bars for non-violent offenses. However, The Obama administration took some steps to lessen the harshness of drug charges, indicating that law enforcement should ease off of enforcing the existing drug laws, especially when it comes to marijuana-related crimes. In the last fews years, public opinion on marijuana has shifted enormously, and many states have legalized its use in some circumstances, while other's have decriminalized possession. All this progress may be taking a backseat soon, if the new attorney general has his way.

Jeff Sessions, the newly appointed attorney general, made clear in a statement recently that prosecutors throughout the land are now encouraged to pursue harsher penalties for marijuana possession. Furthermore, judges will most likely be instructed to hand down sentences according to mandatory minimum guidelines.

Police want DUI arrestees to say where they had their last drink

A new law in Kansas City may spread the blame around for drivers who drink and then get behind the wheel. Law enforcement has added an element to their questionnaire when pulling over an individual who they suspect has been drinking, or even at sobriety checkpoints. Under the new policy, drivers will be asked where they were last drinking. The measure is intended to crack down on bartenders and establishments that may be regularly serving their patrons alcohol well after the point of intoxication.

The policy is in conjunction with a city ordinance that places fairly strict restraints on establishments that serve alcohol. under the local ordinance, no one may serve alcohol to those who are intoxicated, appears intoxicated, or even to "habitual drunkards."

New proposed law targets sex offenders

Facing sex offense charges is a complex and dangerous situation that should never be taken lightly. There are many kinds of convictions that can limit your behavior and rights after the fact, but sex offenses are some of the most egregious. Usually, this is because the public generally has an exceptionally poor view of sex offenders and is not troubled by impinging on the rights of those who have been convicted of a sexual offense.

This may seem reasonable for more extreme sexual offenses, but these restrictions often apply their heavy-handed approach to those who received convictions for lesser offenses that are still considered sexual offenses. The classic example is, of course, the teenagers who are dating in high school and one of them turns 18, while the other is still a minor. It is clear that such a relationship does not warrant ruining the elder teen's life indefinitely, but some particularly parties have no problem doing so.

Lawmakers claim new law will not make school fights felonies

Missouri recently passed a new law that seemingly opened the door for minors to be prosecuted for felony charges if they get into a fight in school. Now, top prosecutors are speaking out to clarify that minors will not actually be in danger of facing those felony charges. This is welcome news for students and parents throughout the state, but still a troubling precedent to have laws on the books that can be interpreted in such a way.

Several weeks ago, two separate school districts made statements expressing that school fights can now result in felony charges for students. Various news outlets pounced on this surprising turn of events, including several outlets at the national level. Many parents and civil rights groups have expressed concerns that not only is a felony an extremely harsh punishment for the crime, it increases the likelihood of students in certain areas being funneled straight from school to prison. Most schools have internal policies that dictate how they respond to fighting. However, in certain circumstances, the school must report incidents to law enforcement, which can lead to criminal charges.

New criminal code increases punishments

Long-anticipated sweeping changes and updates to the Missouri Criminal Code recently went into effect on Jan. 1, marking the culmination of 10 years of vetting and careful legislative planning. The updated code has been the point of both contention and cooperation across many sectors of the criminal justice system, hopefully in the spirit of creating a more just system in Missouri. How well justice will be granted is still to be seen.

Much of the new legal architecture focuses on creating a more granular approach to charges and sentencing. The range of charges has been increased up to five felony classes, while other areas of the law provide more nuanced ways of defining charges, while attempting to eliminate redundant or unnecessarily harsh crime definitions and recommended remedies. Under the new laws, defendants will face more incremental increases in sentencing for a variety of crimes and instances of repeated crimes.

2 medical marijuana bills headed to the legislature

As the tide of cultural opinion continues to turn, Missouri may become one of the next few states to legalize the use marijuana for general medical purposes. Two separate bills have been authored and submitted for consideration when the state legislature reconvenes for 2017, both seeking to expand the right of patients and create the basis for marijuana-based businesses to operate legally within the state.

Missouri residents may remember that only a few months ago, citizen activists came within 2,000 signatures of placing a less restrictive medical marijuana measure on the ballot for November elections. Legal gears are already turning to ensure that one is on the 2018 ballot if one bill or the other is not passed by then. As it stands, Missouri only allows the use of marijuana for very specific cases of patients with intractable epilepsy.

Man convicted of sex with a minor

Sex crimes can seem like something that only happen somewhere else, separated from us on the other side of an invisible wall, or in an episode of reality T.V. Unfortunately, sex crimes happen every day, all throughout the country. A Kansas City man has been charged with sex crimes after he repeatedly engaged in sexual acts with a 14-year-old girl that he met online.

According to federal authorities, the man claimed also be a minor when he communicated with the girl online, justifying his older appearance by saying that he was a cancer survivor and that chemotherapy and radiation therapies caused him to look older.

Kansas City fugitive receives hefty sentence

When Dorothy famously observed that she and Toto weren't in Kansas anymore, at least she wasn't looking at the prospect of returning home to face serious drug charges resulting in years of prison time. That's just what happened to a Kansas man who has just received a hefty punishment after fleeing from authorities following an arrest.

The 36-year-old had been apprehended last year in connection with a drug trafficking operation in Kansas City. Among the charges leveled at him were conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, as well as money laundering, to which he had plead guilty, admitting involvement in the local operation. According to court documents, the man had been in possession of up to 100 kilograms of cocaine, among other things. While he was waiting to receive a sentence, the man fled custody and remained at large for six years.

Engage with your local authorities before you have to

The freedom to drink responsibly is one of the great rights that America grants its citizens. Even though each state maintains its own statutes about how drinking is to be handled and by whom, alcohol is nothing to be afraid of, in and of itself. It is true that some individuals are more prone to overindulge and engage in risky behavior, but for the majority of the population it is possible to drink regularly and not to run afoul of the law. Even many police officers understand that drinking is a culturally accepted component of the coming-of-age process, as demonstrated in a recent "responsible drinking" event held for Missouri State University students by local police.

Police partnered with the Taylor Health and Wellness Center to give students an opportunity to experience various states of simulated inebriation in a controlled environment. The department hopes that by allowing students to interface directly with the department, they will have a more complete understanding of both the effects of alcohol and the department's policies on how to deal with students who are publicly inebriated.

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