Columbia, Missouri Criminal Defense Blog

Labor Day means more DWI patrols

For drivers in Missouri, the long Labor Day weekend may mean the end of summer, or the last big trip of the season to the lake or a cabin before fall begins. It may mean hanging out in your neighborhood and having a picnic or cookout with your friends, or driving across town to a relative's home for a BBQ.

But for the Missouri State Highway Patrol and most other law enforcement agencies throughout the state, it means "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over." This campaign actually began two weeks ago and continues through the end of the Labor Day weekend. 

Missouri traffic stop raises key questions about legal search and seizure

Police officers do not automatically have a right to search your vehicle in a routine traffic stop. There must be probable cause to conduct a search, and a traffic violation such as speeding, failure to signal or a broken tail light does not in itself constitute probable cause to search.

Still, many drug charges are based on evidence seized in unlawful searches, and any time drug charges follow a traffic stop, the legality of the stop and search should be scrutinized for errors on the part of police. With these issues in mind, consider the recent stop and arrest of two Missouri residents.

Fogle plea deal: better or worse than average?

Sex crimes involving children are different. They instantly invoke a fear in any parent, who thinks, "What if it were my child?" And that fear has fueled the draconian sentences that await anyone convicted of a sex crime involving minors.

When someone as well known as Jared Fogle, former spokesperson for Subway, is charged with sex crimes involving minors, there are concerns that cut both ways. Some fear because of his wealth, he can buy his way out of jail. Others may worry that he will be singled out for harsher treatment because of his fame and notoriety.

Is S.590 really the balanced legislation some say it is?

In the ongoing conversation about sexual assault on college campuses, two groups have risen above the others. On one side, there are those who believe that lawmakers need to do more to protect the rights of students and victims. They believe that tougher legislation is the answer as it will better address instances of sexual assault and violence by giving victims a better sense that justice has been served.

On the other side though are people who believe that tougher legislation would give colleges too much authority over criminal cases. On many campuses across the nation, including here in Missouri, campus procedures do not take into consideration a person's right to due process, oftentimes resulting in a violation of an accused person's civil rights.

Do sobriety checkpoints really deter drunk drivers?

Last week, the Columbia Police Department employed sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in an effort to stop Missouri drivers from driving while intoxicated. These types of checkpoints involve a roadblock, where officers will stop vehicles is a prescribed order, such as every third car, and ask the driver some questions.

During this questioning, the officer will be observing the driver for signs of intoxication or impairment, such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech or blood-shot eyes. If they suspect that a driver is impaired, they may then ask the driver to exit the vehicle and perform some field sobriety tests.

Springfield woman facing voter fraud charges

Here in Missouri, as well as in other states across the nation, it is a crime to misrepresent yourself in any way during the election process. Whether you're running for office or casting a vote, voter fraud is considered a serious offense in our state. Depending on the severity of the election crime committed, a person could face serious penalties including a lengthy prison sentence and a steep fine as well.

A Springfield woman is learning this the hard way this month after being accused by police of voting twice in Missouri during the April 7, 2015 election. As is explained in Section 115.631.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, it's a class one election offense to vote more than once in our state. If a person violates this law, they could face up to five years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine.

Proving a DWI case can be difficult (Cont.)

In the recent crash, he has not yet been charged with any alcohol related charges, and this may be tied to the fact that he fled after the crash.

His passenger told police that had been drinking prior to the crash. The driver turned himself in on Sunday night. The crash occurred at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, so it is unlikely that law enforcement would have been able to obtain an accurate measure of his blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of the collision after he surrendered to authorities.

Proving a DWI case can be difficult

Drunk driving has long been perceived as a significant problem on America's roads. Long gone are the days when someone leaving a restaurant or bar would "have one for the road." And much of the reduction in the nation's highway fatalities from the 1980s is the result of stricter enforcement of driving while intoxicated laws.

But it is still seen as a serious problem and more than 10,000 deaths are attributed to drivers who are intoxicated. In addition, this tends to cause the police in most jurisdictions to continue to engage in aggressive enforcement of the DWI laws.

Don’t lose your independence with a Fourth of July DUI

Before heading out for your Fourth of July plans, remember that police in Missouri will be out in full force looking for impaired drivers as part of the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

Numerous law enforcement agencies will be joining forces in effort to crack down on as many suspected drunk drivers as possible using sobriety checkpoints and extra patrols.

Racial bias in our laws lessen, still not perfect though

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from the incident in Ferguson. For many across Missouri, including here in Columbia, one of the main lessons learned was that racial bias is still prevalent in our society, perhaps even among law enforcement officers who are tasked with upholding a law that is supposed to be color blind.

For those who regularly visit our blog, you know that this isn't the first time we have talked about the possible racial bias that exists within our criminal justice system. Back in August last year we spoke about the apparent racial bias found in federal sentencing laws, particularly for non-violent drug crimes.

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