Criminal Defense Legal Terms

If you have been charged with a crime, you have the right to be represented by a criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights, interests, record and freedom. You will likely have many questions about your case and the criminal legal process.

At Allen & Nelson, P.C., we can help you find experienced criminal defense representation in the Columbia, Missouri, area that represents individuals charged with both misdemeanors and felonies. Contact the firm today to have the knowledgeable staff help you schedule an appointment with a reputable Columbia, Missouri, criminal defense attorney for a consultation about your case.

Some Common Legal Terms in Criminal Cases

Arrest: An arrest occurs when a person is taken into police custody. Sometimes citations are issued instead of an arrest — traffic offenses are a common example of this.

Defendant: In a criminal case, the defendant is the person charged with a crime.

Arraignment: An arraignment is a defendant's first court appearance after an arrest. During an arraignment, the formal criminal charge is read to the defendant. The defendant is given a chance to request a court-appointed attorney if he or she cannot afford to hire an attorney and is given an opportunity to plead either guilty or not guilty to the crime.

Misdemeanor: Misdemeanors are divided into three categories in Missouri, Class A, B and C. In Missouri, a Class A misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor offense and carries a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and/or a term in the county jail not to exceed one year. Class B misdemeanors carry a fine of up to $500 and/or a term in the county jail not to exceed six months. Class C misdemeanors carry a fine of up to $300 and/or a term in the county jail not to exceed 15 days.

Felony: A felony is a more serious type of crime than a misdemeanor. In Missouri, felonies are divided into four categories, Class A, B, C and D. In Missouri, a Class A felony carries a term of imprisonment of 10 to 30 years, or life imprisonment. Class B felonies carry a term of imprisonment of five to 15 years. A Class C felony carries a term of imprisonment not to exceed seven years and/or a fine of not more than $5,000. A Class D felony carries a term of imprisonment not to exceed four years and/or a fine of not more than $5,000.

Bail: The amount of money a defendant must pay to the court before he or she is released from police custody before his or her trial. The judge considers many factors when setting the bail amount, including the severity of the crime he or she is accused of, past criminal history, and the defendant's flight risk. The judge may also release a defendant on his or her "own recognizance" (or, simply on the defendant's promise to appear for trial) in some cases.

Plea Bargain: Sometimes a prosecutor will make certain concessions in exchange for a guilty plea. One of our Columbia, Missouri, criminal defense attorneys can guide you through the process of making a decision about whether a plea bargain is right for you.

Preliminary Hearing: Preliminary hearings are only held in felony cases. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is for a judge to determine if the prosecution has enough evidence to continue on with a charge against a defendant. The prosecutor presents evidence to a judge and the judge decides if there is probable cause to believe the crime has been committed.