What’s the Difference Between a Felony and Misdemeanor in Missouri?
Are you facing criminal charges in Missouri and wondering if it’s a felony or misdemeanor? Understanding the difference is crucial – felonies carry more severe penalties than misdemeanors. This guide will explain everything you need to know about felonies, misdemeanors, infractions, and how criminal offenses are classified in Missouri.
Understanding Felony and Misdemeanor
A felony is the most serious type of criminal offense, punishable by over one year in prison. Felonies include serious crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. A misdemeanor is a less severe crime, usually punishable by up to one year in jail. Common misdemeanors include DUI, simple assault, shoplifting, and possessing small amounts of drugs. Infractions like traffic tickets are the least serious offenses.
Crime classification depends on three main factors – the type of offense, the circumstances, and your criminal history. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help analyze the charges against you and build the strongest defense. If you’re facing criminal charges, contact is criminal defense law firm like Rose Legal Service for assistance.
How are Crimes Classified as Felonies or Misdemeanors in Missouri?
In Missouri, criminal offenses are divided into three categories:
- Felonies – Crimes punishable by over one year in prison
- Misdemeanors – Less serious crimes punishable by up to one year in jail
- Infractions – Minor offenses like traffic tickets are punishable by fines
Several factors determine whether a crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony:
- The type of offense
- The circumstances of the crime
- A defendant’s criminal history
For example, assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the defendant’s injuries, weapon used, and record. Prosecutors have discretion in filing charges.
Felonies in Missouri
Felony crimes are the most severe criminal offenses. Felonies are further divided into five classes in Missouri:
- Class A – Murder, rape, robbery – 10-30 years or life imprisonment
- Class B – Voluntary manslaughter, sex offenses – 5-15 years imprisonment
- Class C – Involuntary manslaughter, assault, burglary – Up to 7 years imprisonment
- Class D – Possession of controlled substances, stealing – Up to 4 years imprisonment
- Class E – Minor drug possession, false checks – Up to 4 years imprisonment
Penalties increase for repeat felony offenders under Missouri’s prior and persistent offender laws. A felony conviction also results in losing civil rights like voting and jury eligibility.
Misdemeanors in Missouri
Misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies. Jail sentences are one year or less. Fines, probation, and community service may also be imposed. Some common misdemeanors in Missouri include:
- Possession of small amounts of marijuana
- Petit larceny (minor theft)
- Domestic assault
Depending on seriousness, misdemeanors are designated as Class A, B, C, or D. Class A misdemeanors carry up to one year in jail.
Infractions like minor traffic offenses are the least serious type of crime, with fines as the only punishment.
What Is an Infraction and How Does It Differ from a Misdemeanor and a Felony?
An infraction is the least severe type of offense and differs significantly from a felony and a misdemeanor. Infractions typically involve nonviolent crimes such as shoplifting or minor traffic violations. They usually result in a fine and do not lead to jail time or probation. Importantly, infractions are not considered a criminal offense and thus, do not result in a criminal record.
Why is it Important to Understand the Difference?
The penalties for a felony conviction are severe. Just being charged with a felony can negatively impact your life and future. That’s why it’s critical to understand the differences between felonies and misdemeanors in Missouri.
The most serious consequences of a felony conviction include:
- Long prison sentences – Felonies carry sentences over one year. Certain felonies have minimum mandatory sentences.
- Fines – Felony fines start at $5,000 and have no upper limit. Fines for misdemeanors cannot exceed $2,000.
- Impact on civil rights – Felons lose voting rights, ability to run for office, possess firearms, and serve on a jury.
- Difficulty finding jobs – Many employers conduct background checks and don’t hire felons.
- Immigration consequences – Felonies can lead to deportation for non-citizens.
Also, a felony conviction stays on your criminal record for life. If you’re convicted of another felony later, penalties elevate significantly under Missouri’s repeat offender laws.
What Should You Do if Facing Felony or Misdemeanor Charges?
Don’t wait to act if you’ve been charged with a crime in Missouri. For felony charges especially, contact an experienced local criminal justice attorney immediately. An attorney can analyze the strength of the prosecutor’s case and advise on the best defense options.
Here are some tips if you’re facing criminal charges:
- Don’t speak to police without an attorney
- Gather evidence, find witnesses to support your case
- Consider diversion programs to avoid conviction
- Negotiate with prosecutors for charge reduction or dismissal
- Explore plea agreements to lessen penalties
- File motions contesting unlawful police procedures
An aggressive defense may lead to charges being dropped or reduced to a misdemeanor. This saves you from devastating felony penalties. With a knowledgeable legal team on your side, you can achieve the most positive outcome in your case.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: What are the different classes of felonies in Missouri?
A: Felonies in Missouri are divided into 5 classes – Class A, B, C, D, and E. Class A felonies are the most serious like murder. Class E felonies are the least serious like minor drug possession. The classes determine how much prison time a felony conviction carries.
Q: What happens if I’m convicted of a felony in Missouri?
A: A felony conviction results in over 1 year in prison, massive fines, and losing civil rights like voting and firearm ownership. Felony convictions stay on your record for life and can impact jobs, housing, and other opportunities. Reach out to a felony defense lawyer as soon as possible for help navigating these charges.
Q: How is a misdemeanor different from a felony in Missouri?
A: The main difference is the punishment. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes punishable by up to 1 year in jail versus felonies punishable by over 1 year in prison. The type of offense also differs – felonies are serious crimes.
Q: What types of crimes can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies?
A: Some crimes like assault, theft, and drug possession can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances. Prosecutors have discretion on whether to file misdemeanor or felony charges.
Q: When does a misdemeanor charge become a felony charge in Missouri?
A: Factors like the violence used, weapon possession, and dollar value stolen can turn a misdemeanor charge into a more serious felony. Also, repeated misdemeanor offenses can sometimes be elevated to felonies with harsher punishment.
- A felony is a serious crime that’s punishable by more than one year in prison, while a misdemeanor is less serious and typically results in less than one year in jail or probation.
- An infraction is the least serious offense, typically resulting in a fine and no criminal record.
- Missouri classifies felonies and misdemeanors into different classes with varying degrees of punishment.
- Common felonies in Missouri include crimes like robbery and murder, while misdemeanors involve less serious offenses like petty theft and minor traffic violations.
- Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney when charged with a felony or a misdemeanor can significantly impact the outcome of your case.
Remember, no matter the severity of the crime, understanding the charges against you is vital. Whether it’s a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction, each charge carries its unique implications and potential penalties. Always consult with a legal professional to ensure your rights are protected. If you’re facing criminal charges in Missouri, don’t hesitate to contact the law office of an experienced criminal defense attorney.