A crime committed against a person violates state law and thus is a crime against the state. For crimes
committed in Greene County, the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney usually handles the case.
In a criminal case, the state has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the alleged crime. Under the United States Constitution, defendants are presumed innocent and never have the burden of proving their innocence.
Law enforcement officers investigate reports of criminal activity, gather evidence, make arrests, and present the evidence to the prosecuting attorney. Based on the investigation, the police or the sheriff may decide that:
Any person arrested must be released within 24 hours unless a warrant is issued by a judge for an arrest.
If police determine the evidence constitutes an offense and identify a suspect, the matter is taken to the prosecuting attorney. As the legal representative for the state, the prosecuting attorney must then determine whether and what formal charges to file.
Once a felony charge has been filed, usually in the form of a complaint, the prosecutor can go to a judge to obtain an arrest warrant. The court issues the warrant if there are sufficient facts to show probable cause that a felony has been committed by the defendant. This warrant will allow local law enforcement officials to make an arrest. (If a misdemeanor is filed, it is usually filed by Information and a summons issued commanding the defendant to appear in court).
A person charged with a bailable offense may be released pending trial on personal recognizance if the judge is assured the person will show up for court and the person does not pose a danger to victims, witnesses or the community. The judge may release the person on bail by imposing any number of conditions as specified under state law. These conditions may include the posting of a surety bond and other conditions to protect victims and the community and ensure the appearance of the person. The amount of bond and conditions of release are initially set by the judge issuing the arrest warrant. The amount of bond and conditions of release may be modified by the court during later proceedings.
During a felony case, victims and witnesses might have to testify at one or more of these occasions:
(Not held for misdemeanor cases)
Felony cases begin with a preliminary hearing - a proceeding in which testimony is taken under oath. The defendant may waive a preliminary hearing, and the case usually will be sent directly to circuit court for trial.
If the defendant chooses to proceed with a preliminary hearing, the judge, defendant, defendant's attorney, prosecutor, and any victims or witnesses subpoenaed will attend.
The prosecutor presents evidence to show the judge that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and that it was committed by the defendant.
The defense attorney can cross-examine the state's witnesses and produce evidence. If probable cause is established, the judge will order the defendant to be bound over to circuit court for trial.
If the judge decides that probable cause has not been established, the court dismisses the case and the defendant is released. This also may occur if witnesses fail to appear to testify. In some cases the prosecutor can later file another complaint against the defendant, based on the same crime.
At any time, the prosecutor may decide to voluntarily dismiss the charges - called nolle prosequi.
A grand jury sometimes replaces the preliminary hearing as a method by which criminal charges can be filed. A grand jury is composed of a panel of private citizens, chosen similarly to trial juries, whose job is to look into allegations of criminal activity. Greene County does not have a standing grand jury but empanels one from time to time. The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jurors who decide whether there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and if the defendant committed it. The grand jury has the power to issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to testify or to produce documents and other evidence. As with a preliminary hearing, the case is bound over to the circuit court or the defendant is freed.
This is the first formal presentation of charges to the defendant, who must enter a plea. The arraignment is open to the public. The court sets a trial date, a pretrial conference date to monitor the case's progress and may set hearing dates on pretrial motions. The trial date may change because of requests for continuances or because of other cases on the trial docket for that day. The court may readdress the defendant's bail or bond at the time of arraignment.
To avoid further trauma to victims, such as a child who was sexually assaulted.
The victim, though prepared to testify, would prefer to end the case.
Evidence will support a conviction but other factors, such as issues of credibility and witness availability favor entering into a plea.
The defendant agrees to cooperate with the state in the prosecution of another matter.
The agreement sufficiently holds the offender accountable and, to the extent possible, adequately restores the victim making a trial unnecessary.
Under Missouri law, the prosecutor may agree to:
Dismiss other charges.
Recommend or agree not to oppose the defendant's request for a particular sentence.
Agree that a particular sentence is appropriate.
Recommend or agree on another case disposition.
The trial court is not required to accept a plea agreement, but if the court rejects the agreement, the defendant may withdraw his guilty plea. To be valid, the guilty plea must be entered by the defendant "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily."
A criminal proceeding may be continued (or pushed to a later date) for what is referred to as "good cause shown." Good cause may include issues of witness availability, the status of laboratory reports, etc.
The Pretrial Conference is a hearing during which the Judge works with the prosecution and the defense to determine the status of the case and to attempt to resolve the case. Defendants may enter a guilty plea and on occasion are also sentenced during pretrial conferences. The judge may also continue the case to another pretrial conference setting if there is more work to be done by the prosecution or defense to either prepare the case for trial or guilty plea or the judge may set the case on a trial docket. If you are a victim and have received a post card informing you that your case has been set for pretrial conference and have questions about the status of your case or the possibility of a guilty please during the pretrial conference, please contact your Victim Witness Advocate.
|During the trial, don't talk to the defendant or jurors. It is your decision whether you discuss the case with the defense attorneys. If you wish you may ask to have a prosecutor present any time you discuss the case with the defense attorneys.|
State law sets prison terms and fines. Multiple sentences run concurrently (at the same time) unless the court specifies them to run consecutively (one after the other). But for multiple offenses including rape, forcible rape, sodomy, forcible sodomy, or an attempt to commit any of those felonies, the sentence on the sexual offense must run consecutive to the other offense.
The violation of the constitution and laws of Missouri or the U.S. Constitution,
The sentence exceeds the statutory maximum, or
The court imposing sentence did not have jurisdiction.
Rule 24.035 applies to guilty pleas, Rule 29.15 applies to guilty verdicts.
If a direct appeal is brought, the postconviction motion must be filed within 90 days after the appellate court issued its mandate; otherwise the motion must be filed within 90 days after the defendant entered the prison system.
An appeal from the denial of a postconviction motion may also be brought before the state Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals, and must be filed within 10 days of the final judgment (40 days from denial of the motion).
A petition for writ of certiorari also may be filed in the U.S. Supreme Court following affirmation of the denial of the postconviction motion. Again, review is discretionary.
Federal habeas corpus proceedings
Under federal law, a state offender may seek relief by filing a federal writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court. A federal habeas petition must raise the ground that the petitioner's imprisonment violates the U.S. Constitution or U.S. laws or treaties. The Missouri attorney general defends the state against habeas challenges.
A habeas petitioner generally is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on claims for relief. If a hearing is granted, it focuses on allegations that the conviction and/or sentence are in violation of the Constitution.
If the district court grants the writ, the inmate is not automatically released from prison. Generally the court issues an order directing that the state either begin trial proceedings against the inmate within 60 days, or release him.
When a writ is granted, the state can request the district court to reconsider its opinion. If that request is denied, the state can ask that the writ be stayed, suspending the court order. An appeal challenging the district court's decision is then taken to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a review by a three-judge panel.
If the 8th Circuit affirms the decision of the district court, the state may request that the panel rehear the appeal or that the entire court hear it. If these requests are denied, the state may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case by filing a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court has the discretion on whether to hear a case.
If the district court denies the writ, the inmate must obtain the permission of the district court or federal appeals court to proceed. If permission is granted, the habeas petition then would proceed through the same steps as above.
Inmates sentenced to two or more years of incarceration must serve a set amount of months before they are scheduled for a parole hearing. The length of sentences and required months to be served before a parole hearing can be held:
|Years of Sentence||Months served before hearing|
MISSOURI REVISED STATUTES, Chapter 558, provides for these terms of imprisonment:
Murder in the first degree:
Death or life imprisonment without the possibility of probation or parole. For offenders younger than 16 at the time of the offense, the penalty is life without the possibility of probation or parole.
Class A felony:
10-30 years or life imprisonment. Examples: Second-degree murder; first-degree robbery.
Class B felony:
5-15 years. Examples: Voluntary manslaughter; second-degree robbery; first degree burglary.
Class C felony:
Up to seven years. Examples: Involuntary manslaughter; second-degree assault; deviate sexual assault; second-degree statutory rape; stealing a car; third stealing offense; forgery.
Class D felony:
Up to four years. Examples: Passing bad check with no account; second-degree odometer fraud; parental kidnapping.
Class A misdemeanor:
Up to one year. Examples: Fraudulent use of a credit device, value of property or services is less than $500; false advertising; reckless burning; passing bad checks worth less than $500.
Class B misdemeanor:
Up to six months. Examples: First DWI offense; first-degree trespass; removing plants from highways and roadways.
Class C misdemeanor:
Up to 15 days. Examples: Driving with excessive blood alcohol content, first offense; library theft of less than $500.
CHAPTER 560, RSMo, allows for persons convicted of crimes to be sentenced these fines:
Class C or D felony:
Up to $5,000, or up to twice the amount of the offender's gain from the crime, not to exceed $20,000.
Class A misdemeanor:
Up to $1,000.
Class B misdemeanor:
Up to $500.
Class C misdemeanor:
Up to $300.
Up to $200.
These penalties do not apply in cases where the statutes outline fines for a specific offense.
In lieu of the fines listed above, a person convicted of a misdemeanor or infraction may be fined up to twice the amount of the offender's gain from the offense, not to exceed $20,000.