Columbia, Missouri Criminal Defense Blog

Medical marijuana in Missouri-a legal no-man's land

Medical marijuana has been a difficult issue for parents in many states. For those with children who suffer from medical conditions such as autism or seizures, there is anecdotal evidence that such children can be helped by the active ingredients in marijuana.

States like Missouri passed laws that permit the use of cannabidiol (CBD). The CBD drugs have been decriminalized by these laws because they are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary chemical component of the "high" users experience when smoking or ingesting marijuana.

Missouri and the 'ban the box' movement

If one of the goals of the criminal justice system is to stop people convicted of a crime from doing it again, it makes sense that the system should be set up to encourage people to find jobs after paying their debt to society. But when a job application asks about your criminal record, you can bet the chances of you landing the job are slim if you have one.

This is such a common practice that it can virtually block someone with a criminal history from having a career. Civil rights groups have long campaigned to “Ban the Box,” referring to the box on job applications that applicants are supposed to check if they have ever been convicted of a crime.

The application of justice may not be just

The symbol of the court system is often the figure of Justice, depicted as an enrobed woman wearing a blindfold, holding scales in her hand. Justice is blind because she is supposed to dispense justice without regard to position or power. Said another way, if you do the crime, you'll do the time.

That is how it is supposed to be. A recent study from the Pew Charitable Trusts suggests that there is a significant variation in the types of punishment that are handed out depending on the states where you are arrested and convicted.

Is 2.5 percent a success?

Earlier this month, police in Springfield and the Missouri Highway Patrol operated a sobriety checkpoint in that city for four hours on a Friday night. Friday and Saturday evening are viewed as a prime time for drivers in the state to attempt to try their luck at drinking and driving, so law enforcement often chooses those evenings as the time to set up a sobriety checkpoint.

These checkpoints are designed to capture drivers who are intoxicated and to deter those who may be going out for the evening. This checkpoint nabbed 15 drivers on charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) and another 13 on various other charges. If you look at it from a statistical percentage, it works out to about 2.5 percent of the approximately 600 drivers stopped.

It sounds funny, until someone is charged with a sixth DWI

A man in Fulton was arrested last month on suspicion of a DWI. Not that remarkable, since Missouri experiences almost 30,000 DWI arrests in a year, which works out to about 80 per day. This case warranted news coverage because the man arrested was driving a lawn mower.

According to the report, he was driving the lawn mower "recklessly" and when police stopped him, resisted his arrest, getting into a scuffle with the police officers. This was probably not a good idea, as it added to his charges of driving while intoxicated/chronic offender, tampering with physical evidence and assaulting a law officer. They also reported this was his sixth DWI.

On the Supreme Court, no one for the defense

Half a century has passed since the last Supreme Court justice who had experience as a defense attorney was named to the court in 1967. Justice Marshall remained on the court until 1991. He had tried numerous cases as a criminal defense attorney and had experienced the harshest aspects of last century's justice system as it played out on his clients.

The court currently has two former prosecutors and the lack of a perspective from the defense side during the last 25 years has had consequences.

You have the right to remain silent. Use it.

An odd feature concerning the courts. They are responsible for the administration of justice. But that "justice" may be limited. They are as much about the incarceration of individuals and assisting law enforcement in that task.

For instance, the Missouri Court of Appeals has reversed a trial court's ruling on the suppression of statements made by a man accused of murder. He claims his wife shot and wounded him during an argument and he shot her in self-defense, killing her. When police arrived, they asked him to sign a consent form that would allow them to search the home. He told them: "I ain't signing s--- without my attorney."

Have you ever been really angry?

People use stereotypes because they are easy. When it comes to crime and the criminal justice system, many people in Columbia probably use some stereotypes when it comes to thinking about who causes crime in the city. Of course, it is criminals.

The reality is that it may be easier than most believe  to become entangled with the Columbia Police Department and be arrested. Whether you are a day laborer, doctor, a professor at the university, there is always the risk when you drink any type of alcohol.

Scientific fact or one person's opinion?

Criminal courts have to deal with the use of scientific evidence all of the time. Numerous tests are employed. A breath test used to assert a DUI charge, a drug test designed to identify potential illegal drugs or a test that claims a hair follicle or tire tracks are connected to the accused.

In a disturbing circumstance of "That's how it's always been done," experts were permitted to testify that marks on a gun casing match those of a gun in the possession of a suspect, based on little more than their own asserted expertise.

Judge in DWI manslaughter case recues self

The criminal case involving a Columbia woman who was convicted of manslaughter in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 70 in 2012 will receive a new judge after the judge who presided over the original trial voluntarily recused himself.

The woman was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the death of another driver whom she struck. The Missouri State Highway Patrol produced evidence at trial that she had a 0.085 blood-alcohol content at the time of the crash.

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