104 West Main, Suite E
Warrenton, MO 63383
When a crime is reported, the police are responsible for conducting an investigation and completing their reports. When needed, the prosecuting attorney also assists with investigations. Next, the police may submit their reports to the prosecuting attorney, who then reviews the reports and decides whether further investigation is needed and whether to charge an individual with a crime.
To check the status of a case, visit www.courts.mo.gov/casenet. You may search by party name, case number, or schedule court date. You may also contact the Warren County Prosecuting Attorney to inquire about the status of any case.
There are many steps in the investigation and prosecution of crimes. Below you will find a brief overview of this process:
Law enforcement officers investigate reports of criminal activity, gather evidence, make arrests, and present the evidence to the prosecuting attorney.
Any person arrested must be released within twenty-four hours unless a warrant is issued by a judge for an arrest.
If law enforcement determines the evidence constitutes an offense and identifies a suspect, the matter is taken to the prosecuting attorney. As the legal representative for the state, the prosecuting attorney must then determine whether and what formal charges to file.
Once a felony charge has been filed, usually in the form of a complaint, the prosecutor will seek an arrest warrant. The Court issues the warrant if he/she deems there are sufficient facts to show probable cause that a felony has been committed by the defendant. This warrant will allow local law enforcement officials to make an arrest.
If a misdemeanor is filed, it is usually filed by Information and a summons will be issued commanding the defendant to appear in court.
(Not held for misdemeanor cases)
Felony cases begin with a prelimary hearing - a proceeding in which testimony is taken under oath. The defendant may waive a preliminary hearing, and the case will be sent directly to the Circuit Court for trial.
If the defendant chooses to proceed with a preliminary hearing, the judge, defendant, defendant's attorney, prosecutor, and any victims or witnesses subpoenaed will attend.
This is the first formal presentation of charges to the defendant, who must enter a plea. The arraignment is open to the public. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the Court may continue the case to a later date or set a trial date. The trial date may change because of requests for continuances or because of other cases on the trial docket for that day. The Court may also readdress the defendant's bail or bond at the time of arraignment.
Discovery is the process in which the state and defense can obtain information from each other about witnesses and evidence before trial. The discovery rules provide the defendant with sufficient information to make an informed plea and to prepare for trial. The discovery rules also conserve resources and expedite case processing.
In addition to disclosing the evidence the state intends to introduce at trial, under the U.S. Constitution, the State must disclose exculpatory evidence to the defendant - that is, the State must disclose evidence to the defendant if there is a reasonable probability that the trial outcome would have been different if the evidence had been disclosed.
A majority of criminal cases result in a guilty plea. Plea bargaining is the process in which the prosecution makes charging and sentencing agreements in exchange for a guilty plea. The trial court is not required to accept a plea agreement, but if the court rejects the agreement, the defendant may withdraw his guilty plea. To be valid, the guilty plea must be entered by the defendant "knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily."
In all criminal cases, a trial may be held before a jury or, if the defendant does not want a jury trial, before a judge. Most misdemeanor cases are tried to an associate circuit judge, but at the request of the defendant the case can be tried to a jury.
In all criminal trials the State has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is presumed innocent and cannot be found guilty until the jury unanimously agrees on the defendant’s guilt.
In cases where a plea agreement has been reached, the defendant is typically sentenced the same day as his or her guilty plea. If an agreement is not reached, or if the defendant is found guilty following a trial, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing approximately eight weeks after the plea date.
After formal sentencing a defendant has an absolute right of appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals. On felony convictions, the Office of the Attorney General, in Jefferson City, represents the State of Missouri. The Warren County Prosecuting Attorney's Office represents the State in appeals from misdemeanor convictions. If the defendant is acquitted, the State is not permitted to appeal. The time it takes for the Court of Appeals to decide an appeal varies considerably, depending upon the number of issues raised and the complexity of the case.
The party that loses before the Court of Appeals may petition the Missouri Supreme Court for a review. The Missouri Supreme Court has discretion whether to accept a case for review or not. It only accepts a handful of the cases presented for its consideration each year.
MISSOURI REVISED STATUTES, Chapter 558, provides for these terms of imprisonment:
NOTE: These penalties do not apply in cases where the statutes outline fines for a specific offense
Murder in the first degree:
Death or life imprisonment without the possibility of probation or parole. For offenders younger than sixteen at the time of the offense, the penalty is life without the possibility of probation or parole.
Class A felony:
10-30 years in prison, or life imprisonment
Class B felony:
5-15 years in prison
Class C felony:
Up to one year in the County Jail, or two to seven years in prison; and/or maximum $5,000 fine
Class D felony:
Up to one year in the County Jail, or up to four years in prison; and/or maximum $5,000 fine
Class A misdemeanor:
Up to one year in the County Jail and/or maximum $1,000 fine
Class B misdemeanor:
Up to six months in the County Jail and/or maximum $500 fine
Class C misdemeanor:
Up to 15 days in the County Jail and/or maximum $300 fine
Infraction: Up to $200
104 West Main, Suite E
Warrenton, MO 63383