Crimes are generally categorized as misdemeanors or as felonies. Felonies are the more serious crimes, and if you’re charged with a felony in Missouri, you are going to need sound legal advice and aggressive defense representation from a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney.
Generally speaking, misdemeanors are the crimes that may be penalized with up to a year in jail, and felonies are the crimes that may be penalized with a year or more in a Missouri state prison, although some persons convicted of felonies may receive lesser penalties for some convictions.
How are felonies categorized in Missouri? Can you appeal a felony conviction? Can a felony conviction be expunged? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn what steps to take if you’re charged with a felony in the state of Missouri.
What are the Five Classes of Felonies in Missouri?
Missouri categorizes felonies into five classes, from Class A, the most serious felonies, to Class E, the least serious category of felonies. Missouri law provides the death penalty for the following Class A felonies: first-degree murder, treason, and placing a bomb near a bus terminal.
Unless specified by law, a felony conviction may be penalized with either probation or a prison sentence. Apart from first-degree murder, treason, and placing a bomb near a bus terminal, all other felonies in this state are included in this list of the five classes of felonies in Missouri:
- Class A felony convictions result in the most serious penalties: ten to thirty years or life in prison. A life sentence in this state is defined as a thirty-year sentence unless the sentence was life imprisonment for first-degree murder, in which case life means life.
- Class B felony convictions result in penalties of not less than five years and not more than fifteen years in state prison. Class B felonies range from voluntary manslaughter and assault in the first degree to the “failure to obtain a horse racing track license.”
- A conviction for a Class C felony may be penalized with three to ten years in prison. The court may also order someone who is convicted of a Class C felony to pay a fine of up to $10,000.00. Class C felonies include theft and the possession of a controlled substance.
- A conviction for a Class D felony may be penalized with up to seven years in prison. If the sentence is longer than one year, it must be served in state prison. The court may also order someone who is convicted of a Class D felony to pay a fine of up to $10,000.00.
- A Class E felony conviction may be penalized with up to four years in prison. Class E felonies include boating while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident. A court may impose a fine of up to $10,000 or twice the amount of the offender’s financial gain.
How are Persistent and Dangerous Felons Handled?
A conviction for a felony will become a part of your permanent criminal record. If you are subsequently convicted on a second felony charge, a Missouri court may consider your previous felony conviction and impose a harsher sentence than it would impose for a first offense.
A “persistent offender” is someone who has been convicted of two or more felonies committed at different times. A “dangerous offender” has been convicted of a Class A or B felony and knowingly murdered, endangered the life, or inflicted serious physical injury on someone else.
If you are deemed a “persistent offender” or a “dangerous offender” in Missouri, state law provides that if you are convicted of a Class B, C, or D felony, you may receive the sentence that would normally be imposed for a conviction for the next highest class of felony.
For example, if you are convicted of first-degree sexual abuse, it is a Class C felony punishable with three to ten years in prison. But a persistent or dangerous offender convicted of first-degree sexual abuse may be sentenced to five to fifteen years, as if the crime were a Class B felony.
Can You “Get Rid” of a Felony Conviction?
Any felony conviction can hurt you when you are seeking employment or when you apply to rent a house or an apartment in Missouri. A felony conviction can also result in you losing your right to vote, to own or carry a firearm, or to hold particular professional licenses in this state.
There are three methods for eliminating a felony conviction in the State of Missouri:
- Pursue a criminal appeal and have the original felony conviction overturned.
- Have the felony conviction expunged with a criminal defense lawyer’s help.
- Apply for and receive a pardon from the Governor of Missouri.
In 2018, Missouri expanded its expungement law, making the expungement option available to many more of the persons in Missouri who have previous felony convictions. However, convictions for sex crimes and crimes of violence do not qualify for expungement in this state.
What Steps Should You Take if You Face a Felony Charge?
If you are taken into police custody and charged with committing a felony in Missouri:
- Politely exercise your constitutional right to remain silent.
- Remember that anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
- Politely insist on your right to have your attorney present during any questioning.
How Will a Defense Lawyer Work on Your Behalf?
If you are charged with a felony in this state, you must be represented by the right Missouri criminal defense attorney – an attorney who has a reputation for excellence and a track record of success. A good criminal defense lawyer will protect your rights and:
- carefully scrutinize and review the prosecution’s evidence against you
- move to have the charge or charges against you reduced or entirely dismissed
- question witnesses and gather evidence in your defense
- bring the case against you to its best possible outcome
If you are charged with any felony in Missouri – or even with a misdemeanor – you must reach out at once to a Jefferson County criminal defense attorney for the sound legal guidance and effective defense representation that you will very much need. Your future will depend on it.