Columbia, Missouri Criminal Defense Blog

Supreme Court to weigh in on what constitutes a routine stop

As we have said before on this blog, we here at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer are avid followers of criminal defense cases. That's because we, just like our more frequent readers, understand the importance of staying up-to-date on the changing landscape of the law. We see it as necessary in order to successfully put forward the best criminal defense and protect the rights of our clients.

One right we have seen violated and nearly violated time and again is a person's Fourth Amendment right. As we explained in a December post on the topic, law enforcement agencies must have at least reasonable suspicion in order to request the necessary search order from the courts. Without this, law enforcement risk violating a person's civil rights, jeopardizing the validity of the case later on.

House bill on electronic tracking: where is it now?

Back in March, we wrote a post about HB 1388. For those who did not read the post or hear about this piece of legislation on the news, HB 1388's aim is to bolster everyone's constitutional rights by requiring law enforcement agencies in Missouri to obtain a warrant before activating the GPS tracking systems found on many electronic devices.

A bipartisan measure, HB 1388's goal is to please both law enforcement agencies, who want to utilize technology to prevent crime, and civil rights advocates, who want to make sure citizens are properly protected from police who try to overreach their power.

Multiple DWIs can lead to a felony, but you do have rights

Seeing red and blue flashing lights in your rear view mirror can be a scary sight. That's because most people aren't entirely familiar with the subtle nuances of a traffic stop or the laws surrounding them. More to the point, it's this lack of understanding that can lead to missteps on the road to justice, perhaps even leading to an undeserved conviction.

One way to protect yourself from a wrongful conviction is to seek the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Their expertise has been cited in a number of cases as the reason why charges were dropped or a person's innocence was effectively proven. Although obtaining an attorney is an added expense, they are considered by most to be a necessary but welcomed expense, especially because they can make all the difference in some cases.

Those caught by red-light cameras issued a refund

Although most drivers in Missouri would rather see a resolution in the case of Tupper v. the City of St. Louis, which challenges the enforcement of red-light cameras in certain municipalities, good news was delivered to the nearly 900,000 drivers who received tickets due to the automated ticketing system.

The good news was that a settlement had been reached with American Traffic Solutions, the company that is operating the cameras. The settlement grants a 20 percent refund to drivers who had received tickets from the system. Although many alleged violators would like to see all of their ticket refunded -- especially in cases where the traffic violation was issued in error -- some are glad that there has at least been some progress on the issue of red-light cameras in the state.

Mistakenly receiving drugs in the mail and the question it raises

Even with the passage of HB 2238, which will eventually legalize the possession of hemp extract for certain people, Missouri still has some rather strict marijuana laws when compared to other states. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana can result in serious criminal charges that can lead to fines and even jail time.

It's because of our strict drug possession laws that we wanted to present an out-of-state case to our Boone County readers in which a package containing marijuana was mislabeled and sent to the wrong recipient. Although this particular case did not result in criminal charges, it raises an important question: could the accidental delivery of marijuana lead to criminal charges? Let's take a look at the case and our own state's laws to find the answer.

U.S. Supreme Court case weighs in on search and seizure laws

If you're a follower of criminal defense cases like we are, then you know how often disputes arise in the courtroom about the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. As many of you know, the Fourth Amendment "protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government." A violation of this right precludes evidence from being used at a criminal trial.

But as many court cases have pointed out over the years, the difference between a violation of a person's constitutional rights and a lawful search depends heavily on whether the search was considered reasonable or not. This was the crux of the U.S. Supreme Court case of Heien v. North Carolina.

How technology could help you avoid multiple DWIs

Here in Missouri, as is the case in many other states, any DWI conviction after your first becomes increasingly harsher, oftentimes leading to longer sentences and more severe penalties. Most drivers do not want to incur subsequent DWIs after their first because they know that these DWIs become felonies on their record, affecting everything from their freedom to their ability to drive.

This becomes a major problem for people who are living with a substance-abuse condition. Even though they may not want to incur multiple DWIs and the penalties that follow, their condition makes this goal very difficult to achieve. For these people, as well as anyone else who has multiple DWIs on their record, technology may be the answer to this issue.

Legal issues of inventing a breath test to detect drugs - Part II

In one of our blog posts last week we brought to our Missouri readers' attention the fact that scientists are currently looking into a new way of detecting if a driver is impaired by drugs.  As you may remember from the post, a chemistry professor from Washington State University believes that it's possible to adapt a Breathalyzer device to detect THC rather than alcohol.  And if researchers are successful, then this device could become a regular tool for law enforcement across the nation.

But as we mentioned last week, such a test may create some legal issues for residents here in Missouri, which is a concern not just for our readers here in Boone County but across the state.

State's high court hears arguments in three traffic camera cases

Every motorist dreads the moment when they glance in their rearview mirror only to be greeted by the sight of a squad car's flashing lights. 

Here, just a momentary lapse in judgment behind the wheel can result in the officer issuing you a traffic violation that is not only costly, but which will also see penalty points added to your driver's license.

As frustrating as this scenario can be, it takes on a whole new level of frustration when the traffic violation isn't issued by a police officer, but rather through the mail via a traffic camera.

Not surprisingly, these traffic cameras -- the bane of many Missouri motorists -- have been at the epicenter of several bitter legal disputes across the state, with proponents arguing they can make the roads and highways safer and critics arguing that they are nothing more than a revenue stream for local governments.

Legal issues of inventing a breath test to detect drugs - Part I

News of a new breath test that could detect the presence of THC, the chemical found in marijuana that causes impairment, is spreading across national news outlets, causing law enforcement agencies and criminal defense advocates to consider what impact this could have on the nation, especially when it comes to criminal charges for driving under the influence of drugs.

As some of our Boone County readers know, there are existing tests, commonly used by TSA agents at airports, that detect the presence of drugs in real time. According to a chemistry professor at Washington State University, these tests could be altered and adapted for use in the field by law enforcement across the nation. Presently, the chemistry professor and a doctoral student at the university are working on a prototype device that could mean big changes to traffic stops and the law.

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