Columbia, Missouri Criminal Defense Blog

Is it really illegal to collect an eagle feather?

Whether you're a long-time resident or just passing through, most people can't help but fall in love with the beauty that many parts of Missouri has to offer. According to, our state boasts 54 state forests and 72 state wildlife areas, which offer tourists and residents alike a chance to take in nature's beauty.

Now, some of our more frequent readers in the Columbia area might be asking at this very moment: what does this have to do with criminal law? The answer lies in the scenario we are about to present to you today.

Is forensic science really as infallible as we're led to believe?

As so many of our Columbia readers know, forensic evidence can have a very significant impact on any criminal case. Many people around Missouri and across the United States consider this type of evidence to be perfect -- infallible. Oftentimes, when it is presented during trial, people take the scientist's word -- and their evidence -- at face value. Rarely ever do people question whether or not the evidence could be misleading or worse, entirely faulty.

But as a 2009 report conducted by a National Academy of Sciences committee points out, perhaps we should be taking a closer look at the techniques used to collect this type of evidence and ask ourselves a very important question: is forensic science really as infallible as we're led to believe?

Could you be convinced you committed a crime that never happened?

“You need attorney immediately” is not just a marketing tool for criminal defense lawyers. It is a warning that anyone charged with a crime must heed. The need arises well before prosecutors have filed formal charges against you. It arises the moment that you suspect you are under investigation for a crime.

The problem of false confessions is only one reason why it is so important to have an attorney on your side in any communications with police or prosecutors. It is at this point in which you are probably thinking, “I would never confess to a crime I did not commit.” It is safe to say that most be do not intend to confess, so how does it happen?

Facing a drug charge? Get help from a Missouri defense attorney

Most of you have read or heard about a criminal case in which a person received a lengthy sentence for possessing or trafficking drugs. Many times, this happens because of strict state and federal laws concerning controlled substances. In a lot of cases, a person receives a harsh sentence because of the evidence that was put forward in the case. Oftentimes, this evidence is collected over a considerable amount of time, which creates a rather damning scenario the accused must contend with.

Although it's common knowledge that everyone has the right to an attorney when facing criminal charges, some still do not assert this right. In some cases they do not seek legal representation because they're afraid the evidence against them is too extensive. In others, a person may not have the funds necessary to obtain and retain an attorney.

Federal charges levied against 2 agents for alleged crimes

Most people have an idea in the heads about what a criminal should look like. For many people, they typically think of someone who has no regard for the law and partakes in illegal activities for personal gain. Unfortunately, as our regular Missouri readers know all too well, this isn't always the case. Sometimes good people make ill-fated mistakes that can end up costing them a lot more than their reputation in the end.

Take for example the recent federal case where two agents -- one from the Secret Service and one from the Drug Enforcement Administration -- who have been charged with serious federal crimes because of their actions during a particular investigation into the black-market website known as Silk Road. According to the criminal complaint that was unsealed last month, the two agents are both accused of laundering money and committing wire fraud. In addition to these charges, one of the agents is also facing theft charges.

Were you falsely accused of a crime?

In today's society, all of us want to believe the victim when an alleged crime has occurred. However, not all accusations are true. Despite the well-known phrase, "Innocent until proven guilty," many of us will probably agree that in most cases, this simply isn't how the public or the media often view accused criminals. 

Accusations of sexually assaulting someone are taken very seriously. But when you are the person being falsely accused of this crime, do you know your rights? 

Is it a crime to fake a signature on sports memorabilia?

Say you have a jersey of your favorite sports star. As is, it's worth about as much as you paid for it. But if the jersey were to contain the signature of that player, it would be worth a lot more because it'd be considered a collectible. Knowing this, would you ever consider faking the signature of the player in order to make your jersey worth more money?

If you have, then you may want to stop before you act because doing so could be considered a criminal offense and could lead to punishment on the state and/or federal level. That's because forging a signature of sports memorabilia is considered fraud, which carries serious penalties if you are convicted of committing this white collar crime.

How false memories can lead to a wrongful conviction

Most people would consider criminal charges to be an incredibly troubling thing to face because they know that their freedom could be at stake if they are convicted of committing a crime. Most people also know that wrongful convictions do happen across the nation, oftentimes leaving a person labeled as a criminal even though they have done nothing wrong.

In many cases, wrongful convictions can occur because of confessions that are later proven false by other evidence. But this might lead you to ask: why would someone confess to committing a crime they didn't do? If you're like some of our Missouri readers, you may be thinking you would never allow yourself to be convinced into confessing to a crime you had nothing to do with. But would you be correct in making this assertion? Some psychologists say no.

Potential changes to the Missouri criminal code expected in 2017

Did you ever vote for a politician because they promised to make changes you thought would greatly benefit the community or state? Most people do. But have you ever stepped back and considered how these legislative promises affect the functionality of existing statutes? Probably not, unless you have needed to defend yourself against criminal charges.

Because our criminal statutes are so complex and subject to change over time, some crimes can become misclassified while others receive changes that increase sentencing requirements to the point where some prosecutors even start to question the fairness of the punishment. The hope though is that things will change in Missouri, especially now that changes are being suggested for the better.

Identity theft and false returns carry serious consequences

Did you know that in 2014, the average sentence for an identity theft conviction rose from 34 months to 48 months? Did you also know that the incarceration rate for such crimes also rose between 2013 and 2014 by 7.1 percent? These increases occurred because the federal government is taking a tougher stance on identity theft, a white collar crime that experts say affects thousands of Americans each year.

The reason for tougher enforcement of the law is because, as the chief of the IRS-Criminal Investigation explains, the federal government wants to "send a warning to criminals" that they can face serious prosecution and even steeper penalties if they choose to partake in criminal activities. Some say that the increase in consequences better fits the crime, which can impact identity theft victims years after the initial crime has been committed.

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Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer
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Columbia, MO 65201

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