Your St. Louis Criminal Case: The Basics

You're looking for legal information about criminal cases in Saint Louis, but you don't know where to turn. Last weekend your mom was arrested by the Metropolitan Police for running a "shifty" operation out of her garage near the Botanical Gardens. Yep, your mother is accused of being the ringleader of a chop shop operation. There, you said it. Now that you're over the initial shock, let's get down to business.

We understand that criminal cases in Saint Louis or anywhere else can be extremely intimidating, especially when you aren't sure what to expect.

Here at FindLaw, we've put together some basic information to help you get acquainted with the misdemeanor and felony laws in Missouri should you (or your mother) get arrested.

Tell me About the Cops

If you've been arrested, it was likely by one of the following law enforcement agencies: the Metropolitan Police, the Sheriff's Department, or the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

How Does An Arrest Occur?

It's relatively simple, really. If the police believe they have probable cause to believe you've committed a crime, they may place you under arrest for either a misdemeanor or a felony (whatever the crime is). They place a shiny pair of handcuffs upon your wrists, and then you're read your Miranda rights, hopefully.

Sounds familiar? Like a scene out from a Hollywood cop movie, perhaps? Films and media often portray cops protecting the innocent, loosely upholding the law, and often trampling on citizens' rights. But that's the movies and this is real life.

The cops are required to follow a certain set of rules or their actions could jeopardize the St. Louis prosecutor's case against you. You have a certain set of criminal rights, such as the right against illegal searches and seizures, and the right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Tell Me More About My Miranda Rights

Some of the most important protections afforded in the criminal justice system are your Miranda rights. The police need to tell you these warnings anytime you are in custody and the subject of interrogation -- You have the right to remain silent; Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law; You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during the interrogation; If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you.

How Do I Get Out of Jail?

What? You don't like hanging out in a jail cell? We don't blame you. Most people don't prefer to spend their time at the Saint Louis County Jail.

If the cops took you to jail, you'll have been booked and either released with a promise to appear at a later date or you had to post a bond.

If you are posting a bond for another person, you'll go to the Bonds/Cashier window at the St. Louis County Justice Center. The cashier is open 24/7. Even on Christmas, Easter, and Super Bowl Sunday.

How Can I Find a Lawyer?

Since you'll be dealing with the Saint Louis courts, you might consider speaking to a lawyer. You can hire a Saint Louis criminal defense lawyer or ask for the public defender.

Missouri Criminal Laws and Penalties

Missouri's Penal Code is long. There's a crime for just about everything you can think of. Criminal offenses are broken down into the following categories, ranked from most serious to less serious:

  • Felonies (Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D)
  • Misdemeanors (Class A, Class B, Class C)

Saint Louis Felony Cases

Getting convicted for a felony is the last thing you want. Seriously. In Saint Louis, the penalties are enormous -- years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life. Examples of Saint Louis felonies include murder, drug dealing, aggravated assault, burglary, fraud, and robbery.

Murder obviously carries the highest penalty -- the death penalty, life imprisonment, or a fixed term between 10 and 30 years in prison.

  • Class A felonies also carry a penalty of between 10 and 30 years in prison.
  • Class B felonies carry a maximum penalty of between 5 and 15 years in prison.
  • Class C felonies carry a penalty of up to 7 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.
  • Finally, a Class D felony is the lowest level of felony crime in Missouri. A Class D felony conviction carries a penalty of up to 4 years in prison, a fine of $5,000 or twice the amount of the offender's gain, up to $20,000.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career and your freedom. If you're a non-citizen, a misdemeanor conviction can impact your immigration status.

Missouri misdemeanors are classified by 3 categories, with Class A being the most serious and Class C being the least. Here's the breakdown of potential penalties:

  • Class A Misdemeanors - Up to 1 year in jail, plus fines up to $1,000.
  • Class B Misdemeanors - Up to 30 days in jail, plus fines up to $500.
  • Class C Misdemeanors - Up to 15 days in jail, plus fines up to $300.

Saint Louis misdemeanors range from driving while intoxicated (DWI) to something as serious as fraudulently using another person's credit card. Some crimes carry additional penalties, such as mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes. In some instances, you won't be able to own a gun.

A Final Word About Saint Louis Criminal Cases

Remember that criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. Anyone charged with an offense may want to at least consider consulting with a Saint Louis criminal defense attorney to get more information.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.