When a crime is committed against a resident of the state or the country, it is considered a violation of Missouri laws and as such the state is obligated to interfere in the matter and try the culprit who is responsible for commissioning the nefarious act. A specific process is followed when handling the prosecution of adult criminals and this is known as the criminal procedure of the state. Everything from the issue of Missouri arrest warrants to the eventual sentencing of the offender form a part of this process.
The role of the state and the defense in criminal matters
When the case in question is criminal in nature, the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant has indeed committed the crime that he is being accused of beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, the defense has it easy because they simply need to create an element of doubt towards the culpability of the accused without actually proving innocence
Furthermore, all defendants are presumed innocent until the court delivers a guilty verdict in the matter. Also, offenders are entitled to receive legal representation. If they cannot afford the services of an attorney, the state is bound to appoint an attorney to defend the rights of the accused.
The arrest and the complaint
Usually the complaint against a criminal incident is filed by the police as soon as somebody reports a crime; this is followed by an investigation. However, civilians can also file the complaint; this particularly holds true in case of domestic abuse, stalking, threatening and harassment cases.
The police can make arrests with or without active warrants. When an arrest warrant is needed a petition has to be filed for it with the local tribunal which will release the order on the basis of probable cause.
The bail hearing
After the arrestee is booked for a criminal matter, he just has to wait his turn to go to the courthouse for a bail hearing. If the charges filed against the accused are misdemeanor related and petty, the bail amount may be mentioned on the outstanding warrant used to effect the arrest. This bond can be paid to secure release.
This court session is used to deliberate on the evidence available against the accused. It is only held for felonies and the defense has the right to waive this session and request that the case be forwarded to a circuit court. This is a sort of mini-trial in which all the evidence is carefully studied to determine if the case and the charges framed by the prosecution hold merit.
Witnesses are called in at this point and defense is given the opportunity to cross examine them. If it can be proved that there is clear probable cause to hold the accused responsible for the criminal act in question, the case will be bound over for trial. If prosecution cannot show reasonable cause, the case is dismissed at this point although another complaint can be filed in the matter by the state. However, additional evidence will have to be presented for the court to reconsider the case. The non-availability of witnesses can also lead to case dismissal. At any point through this session, the prosecution can voluntarily pull back the charges.
The grand jury hearing
There are two ways to initiate criminal proceedings in Missouri, the police can either approach the court for an arrest warrant or a grand jury hearing can be held to deliberate on the evidence. This is a 12 member jury panel that hears arguments from the prosecuting attorney. If it is found that the evidence presented is enough to make the charges stick, the jurors will return the indictment and at this point a MO active warrant will be issued to order the capture of the accused if he is not already being held in custody.
Arraignment and trial
During arraignment the accused is expected to enter a plea and the formal charges being brought against him are presented for the first time. If a plea bargain is not entered into, the case goes to trial. However, if the defense does choose a plea agreement, the matter goes to sentencing.
At the trial, the first day is spent in voir dire or jury selection, the prosecution as well as the defense work together to select the panel of jurors.The prosecution opens the case by making an opening argument; this is followed by an opening statement from the defense. The state also gets the chance to present its evidence and witnesses first. Defense can cross examine these witnesses and present their own once the prosecution has had its say.
The closing statements from both sides mark the end of the trial. At this point, the jurors are given written instructions by the judge pertaining to the state laws that apply to the crime in question. After this, the jury has time to deliberate on the case. It is imperative to understand that the any decision coming from the jurors has to be unanimous. If some of the jurors do not agree with the other members of the panel, the trial ends in a hung jury and it may be retried. However, if the defendant is found not guilty, the state is barred from bringing the case up again.