Kelly, Symonds & Reed, LLC

Free Initial Consultation

We Try Cases And We Win Them

We try cases and we win them

Kansas City Criminal Defense Law Blog

The legal definition of first degree murder in Missouri

Not all incidents that lead to death in Kansas City are going to fall under the umbrella of first degree murder. There are varying degrees of murder that could be used, and there are also related charges, such as manslaughter, which show that a person may have been responsible for a death without the intent to kill. All people who are facing charges after a death deserve fair legal counsel, and one of the first things they should look into is what technically counts as first degree murder and what does not.

The first element that needs to be present, as mentioned above, is intent. If the person who has been accused of the killing did so accidentally and with no desire to cause the other person's death, it is not going to be first degree murder.

Drug court helps drug crimes defendants kick habit

Did you know that there is a special type of court for those Missouri residents who have been accused of non-violent drug violations? These criminal defendants -- many of whom are facing only minor drug charges -- do not necessarily need to be sent through the traditional court system. In fact, the Jackson County Drug Court can provide a variety of feasible alternatives to traditional penalties such as jail time.

Non-violent, lower-level offenders should not have to face serious consequences for their first-time violations. That concept spurred the development of the drug court program, which is designed to help defendants achieve sobriety, improve their health and even gain the education they need to become productive, engaged members of society. If you are facing minor drug offenses, you may be eligible for participation in the Jackson County Drug Court.

Why you need an experienced attorney to handle your DUI case

Did you know that your DUI conviction can have a major impact on your quality of life and your finances? Imagine every future employer finding out about your criminal violation. Sometimes, you may be unable to rent a home or even obtain a student loan, depending on the nature of the DWI offense. It is for this reason that DUI defense is far more critical than most people would expect; a conviction for drunk driving can follow you throughout the rest of your personal and professional life. Defendants need aggressive defense attorneys to protect their rights in criminal court.

Kansas defendants deserve an attorney with years of experience in the field. A team of qualified lawyers can ask the critical questions that can poke holes in law enforcement officers' attempts to pin you with drunk driving. For example, what if there was never a valid reason for stopping your vehicle in the first place? Your drunk driving charges could be dismissed if the officer made a misstep at that stage of the investigation. Other mistakes in police procedure or failures in the breath testing equipment may also lead to a similar outcome.

Changes to state law could alter sex crimes defendants' rights

Missouri officials are promoting the use of a new amendment to the state constitution, which would allow prior criminal acts to be used as evidence in certain sex crimes proceedings. The legal changes, which are supported by groups such as Protect Missouri Children, could compromise defendants' rights by releasing additional information about their criminal pasts during sex crime trials. Missouri is currently one of the most restrictive states when it comes to defendants' rights, protecting nearly all alleged child predators from having to reveal their prior convictions or arrests.

Officials say they are supporting the changes, largely because they believe that perpetrators should not have the right to legal protections if they are accused of assaulting several children. Those accused of multiple instances of child sexual abuse may be acquitted in one case, even as they are convicted in another concurrent case, sometimes because of a lack of evidence. This would seal the legal loophole that allows that to happen, according to legislators.

How does a judge determine the length of a criminal sentence?

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.

Probation rates for murder, assault higher in Jackson County

In Jackson County, Missouri, you are more likely to get away with murder -- or at least with a lighter sentence for committing murder. New statistics show that 15 convicts in the past five years have received only probation after they were found guilty of second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. It appears that Jackson County is the most lenient jurisdiction in the region when it comes to convictions for this type of deadly crime.

Experts say that the statistics are simply indicative of the way in which Jackson County tends to handle most of its criminal convictions. Violent criminals convicted of assault crimes also tend to avoid jail time altogether, with even those accused of the worst robbery crimes never spending time behind bars. In fact, many offenders in the area are given second, third and even fourth opportunities to straighten up before they are finally sentenced to hard time.

Procedural error with warrant leads to dismissal of drug charges

A Missouri professor is taking a deep breath of relief -- and potentially something else -- after his drug case was dismissed because of a procedural error. The man, a professor at Northwest Missouri State, had reportedly been targeted by law enforcement officials after he posted a threatening comment on a social media site. Officers were able to obtain a warrant to search the man's home, where they only found a pellet gun; however, they also found a marijuana-growing operation during that search. The man was taken into custody and hit with a series of drug charges after officers found the illegal plants at his home.

However, a judge ruled that the search warrant should have been quashed and the evidence suppressed in the drug offense case. The reason: Officers should never have sought a search warrant in the first place, as the professor was clearly joking in the Facebook post. Reports show that the man had said that he was optimistic about the beginning of the semester, but he hypothesized that he would want to climb to the top of a bell tower with a high-powered rifle by October.

Kansas City area man, woman arrested on multiple drug charges

A 31-year-old woman and a 37-year-old man are in the Stone County, Missouri, jail after being arrested on charges of trafficking in drugs and distributing controlled substances. The pair was arrested on July 1 after deputies with the Stone County Sheriff’s Office responded to a Table Rock Lake resort. The initial call for law enforcement came because someone believed the two were allegedly using fake identification.

The deputies allegedly found the fake identifications and later obtained a search warrant for two vehicles and a cabin. According to the Stone County sheriff, over 500 OxyContin pills, marijuana and three-quarters of a pound of methamphetamine were found. In addition, about $7,500 was seized.

Missouri man faces life sentence for sex crimes against child

A Missouri man is facing a mandatory life sentence after being convicted of the sexual abuse of a child. The man, age 50, will be sentenced under a relatively unknown provision in Missouri law, which is designed to characterize defendants as predatory sexual offenders. The defendant was convicted of sex crimes against an 8-year-old child after a recent criminal trial.

Authorities say that the "predatory sexual offender" tag was applied in this case because the man apparently had an extensive history of sexually abusing children. The defendant revealed some of this information during the second phase of his criminal trial, when he admitted under oath that he assaulted a 5-year-old girl when he was 15 years old. Those previous acts are not considered as additional convictions; instead, they are used to inform the sentencing decisions that will determine the man's future in custody. He will be formally sentenced in August, at which time a judge will determine the length of the man's actual stay in prison before he can be paroled.

Driver accused of felony offenses after police chase, fatal crash

A Missouri man is facing murder charges after he allegedly killed his girlfriend in a car accident as he was evading police. Authorities report that the 31-year-old woman died in the wreck in Raytown, Missouri, as she was riding as a passenger in her partner's vehicle. The defendant will have to mount a felony defense against charges of murder, though an alternate charge is also being considered: involuntary manslaughter due to a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit.

Authorities say that the collision threw the woman from the vehicle. The couple's infant son was also ejected from the car, though he did not suffer life-threatening injuries. The crash occurred after the man was seen speeding by a local police officer. That officer attempted to stop the vehicle, but he abandoned the effort after realizing that a dangerous high-speed chase could ensue.

FindLaw Network