kansas city criminal defense attorneys

Kansas City Criminal Defense Attorneys

Are you Accused of Committing a Crime?

We can help if you have been charged with a crime in Kansas City, Cass County or Johnson County, MO.  We resolve felony cases, D.W.I. (driving while intoxicated), D.U.I. (driving under the influence), drug and traffic charges.  The criminal lawyers at Hamilton & Associates are the most experienced criminal lawyers available.  We will be by your side each step of the criminal trial process.

We are an aggressive law firm with decades of criminal experience in your court.  We know the Judges, Clerks, Prosecutors and court personnel so we can address their concerns.  You will benefit from our hard work for your criminal defense.

We will work to:

  • Keep you out of prison.
  • Keep criminal charges off your record.
  • Limit the amount of money you’ll pay for fines and
  • Avoid probation violation troubles.
  • Save your Missouri driver’s license from being
  • Reinstate or limit the time period of already suspended Missouri licenses.

With Hamilton & Associates, you’ll have top-notch legal advice every step of the way.

The sooner you contact and hire a criminal defense attorney, the better off you will be.  We take the time to get the evidence and thoroughly examine the facts and legal defenses you have.  Our diligence and attention to detail is often what helps us succeed when defending criminal cases.

The lawyers at Hamilton & Associates understand the criminal laws of Kansas City and we know how to prepare for trial. We utilize all available resources including private investigators, toxicologists, psychologists, forensic experts, drunk driving and drug evaluation and rehabilitation facilities. Being charged with a crime can send you to prison and is something you should never take lightly.

Save Your Driver License from Suspension

Are you facing a loss of your driver’s license because of being charged with intoxicated driving, possession of drugs, driving while suspended, speeding or reckless driving? Hamilton & Associates can help you through the administrative hearing process. Most people do not realize how long they can lose their license to drive. They will be going before an Administrative Law Judge who has the power to keep them from driving. Can you afford not to drive? Will you lose your job? We can help.

Frequently Asked Kansas City Criminal Lawyer Questions:

Whether you are an adult citizen or non-citizen, you have certain rights if you are arrested by either a police officer, Sheriff or the Missouri Highway Patrol. Before the law enforcement officer questions you, the officer should inform you of your “Miranda” rights, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. If you are not given these warnings, your lawyer can ask that any statements you made to the police be excluded from evidence.  This is an important distinction. Failure to “read you your rights” ONLY deals with admissibility of statements made by you to the police.  Otherwise, it is irrelevant.

You also have a number of rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the Missouri Constitution, the laws of the State of Missouri and the ordinances of the city. Whether these laws apply and how they apply will depend on the facts of your particular case.  These issues should be discussed with one of our attorneys.

You can be questioned by an officer, even if they do not “read you your rights.”  An Officer can question you without a lawyer present, only if you voluntarily give up your rights and if you understand what you are giving up.

If you agree to the questioning, then change your mind, questioning must stop as soon as you say that you want an attorney.

If the questioning continues after you request a lawyer and you continue to talk, your answers can be used against you if you testify to something different.

You may be required to give certain evidence (physical things they want). For example, if you are suspected of driving under the influence (DUI), they’ll want you to take a Breathalyzer test to measure how much alcohol in your system (if any).

If they think you are “high” on drugs, they’ll try to persuade you to give a urinalysis test.  If you refuse to take their test, they will tell you that your driver’s license will be suspended and the refusal may be used against you in court.

So yes, you can be arrested, questioned, convicted, and put in jail even if the police do not read you your rights.

As a general concept, it is nearly always better NOT to speak with the police.  Just politely tell the police officer that discussing the matter without your lawyer makes you nervous but you would be happy to cooperate once we are there with you.  Remember, it is their job to get you to talk.

Physical Evidence: If you are given a court date for Municipal Court or Circuit Court, you need to see us, the sooner the better!  First, physical evidence tends to get lost, disappear, and change over time.  The sooner we gather the evidence, the better your criminal defense will be.

Witnesses: The memories of witnesses do not improve with time.  Worse, the Cass County Prosecutor’s office or the Johnson County, Missouri Prosecutor’s Office (unintentionally) may cause the witness to become biased against you.  The sooner we can interview the witnesses, the more evidence we can get to assist your criminal defense; the more likely they will be on your side.

Peace of Mind: You need to contact us as soon as possible for your own peace of mind.  You’ll need to know the range of punishment for your case.  You’ll need to know the typical result for cases like yours.  We know what is typical out of Municipal Courts.  We know what is typical out of County Circuit Court.  Wouldn’t it help you to know as well?

If for no other reason, you’ll need this information to make your financial and personal plans to assist you in your criminal defense. There is no substitute for a good criminal defense lawyer who starts early in the process.

All law enforcement officers – such as Harrisonville police officers, Cass County sheriff’s deputies and Missouri state highway patrol officers – can arrest you whether they are on or off duty, in most cases.

A probation or parole officer also can arrest you. Do not expect this to happen.  In all the years we have practiced as the best Kansas City Criminal lawyers, we have never witnessed a probation officer arrest anyone. Rather, probation officers file a report, recommending revocation, and an arrest warrant is generated by the Sheriff’s office or Municipal Police Department.

Specifically, your probation or parole officer will report the perceived violation of either your probation or parole violation to the court.  Then the Court will issue an arrest warrant.  Then, the police will arrest you when you next encounter them.

Probable Cause: The test of whether an officer can arrest you is “probable cause.”  This is defined as “reason to believe you committed a criminal offense.”

Can you be arrested for a traffic offense in Missouri?  Absolutely.  One typically will not see an actual “arrest” (where they take you to jail) unless the traffic ticket is driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, driving while suspended, driving while revoked, or a felony.

What if you don’t sign your ticket?  Then, the police officer can arrest you and take you to jail.  Signing the traffic citation is not an admission of anything.  It will not be held against you.  It is simply your promise to either pay the ticket or show in court. The signature on the ticket is often referred to as an ROR bond (own recognizance) or “signature bond.”

Can they?  Yes, technically in some instances.  Should they?  No.

Any person, such as a private security guard or a regular person, can make a “citizen’s arrest” if they see a misdemeanor being attempted or committed. (A misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by less than one year in jail) They also can make a legal arrest for a felony as long as it actually was committed and they have good reason to believe you did it.

The person making the citizen’s arrest must take you to a police officer or Municipal Court Judge to consider whether to take the person into custody.

Making a “citizen’s arrest” in Missouri is foolish in nearly all circumstances.  Stopping a violent crime for a short period of time before the police arrive can be heroic.  That is one thing.  Taking on the mantle of a police officer and making an arrest because the person thinks the person “should” be arrested is another.  This can be a crime in and of itself (impersonating a law enforcement officer, assault, kidnapping, etc.).

A warrant is typically required before a Cass County police officer you take a person into custody. However, one can be arrested without a warrant if the police officer personally sees a crime being committed (watch those windows!) or if fast action is needed to prevent the person from escaping, destroying evidence, endangering someone’s life or seriously damaging property.

Warrants need to be signed by a Cass County Circuit Court Judge or a Johnson County, Missouri Circuit Court Judge.  That judge must find that there is “probable cause.”  (reason to believe that given the evidence as it exists at the time, a crime has been committed)

If the defendant’s name is unknown, “John Doe” is typically used on the Cass County warrant – along with the person’s description. Once the arrest warrant is issued, the law enforcement officer that asked for the warrant typically tracks down the person (they usually already know where they are) and arrests them.

The officer does not have to possess a copy of the warrant. Generally, there is no time limit on how long the warrant will remain in effect before the arrest.

Before entering the suspect’s home, a law enforcement officer must knock.  They must also identify themselves.  Third, they must state that they are there for purposes of making an arrest.

If the person refuses to open the door – or if no one answers – or if there is another good reason – the officers can and typically will break in through a door or window.

If the Harrisonville police have a physical arrest warrant, you should be allowed to see it. If they don’t have the warrant with them, you can ask to be allowed to see it as soon as practical.

The police and Sheriff’s Office have the authority to search the area within the arrestee’s reach. If the person is arrested outdoors, they may not go inside and search the arrestee’s home or car. That would be beyond the scope of the arrest warrant (such evidence could later be excluded and not held against the person).

There are several ways to be released from jail in Missouri.  First, you may be detained because of an active warrant.  If this is the case, there will likely be a “bond.”  This is money put down as your guarantee that you will show for your court date.

The Cash Bond:  In this case, one simply needs to put down the money Circuit Court is asking for and you will be released.

The Surety Bond: If you don’t have the amount of money the Court is asking for, then you need to check whether your bond says “surety.”  In that case, you can hire a bail bondsman to loan you the money (for a price) so you can be released from jail.

The Bond Reduction: A third way to be released from jail is to ask your Circuit Court Judge to reduce your bond to a lower amount of money or to a signature bond (often called an “R.O.R.” or “O.R.” bond).  You’ll only get one judge assigned to you.  Getting released from Cass County jail in this manner is unlikely, but still a possibility.

Complete the Sentence: The fourth way to be released from jail is to complete your sentence.  There are statutory limits on the amount of time any individual can be incarcerated in any jurisdiction for any particular offense. For example, misdemeanor crimes, the limit is one year. Naturally, the criminal defense lawyers at Hamilton & Associates do our best to see that you get no jail time at all, thus avoiding this problem.

The amount of bail in Court (money deposited with court to insure that you will appear) is set either by the Municipal Police, County Sheriff, or by Circuit Court judge. Ultimately, the judge decides how much bail will be.

Is it possible to not have bail at all?  YES. This is called an “ROR” or “OR” bond, which stands for Release upon their Own Recognizance.  The most recognizable example of this is a City police, Sheriff’s, or Missouri State Highway Patrol traffic ticket.  The police officer asks you to sign the back of your ticket and then you can go on your own way.  It’s not an admission of anything.  It can’t be held against you.  It is simply your promise to show for court.

Local City Courts: Local police departments keep your records from Municipal Court violations, regardless if they occur in Belton, Raymore, Harrisonville, or another city.  Both court records and arrest records are kept.

National Databases: Your past criminal record may also be in a state and national data bank, such as the ALERT system. The arrest record includes when and why you were arrested, whether the charges against you were dropped or whether you were convicted of the charges, and the subsequent sentence imposed. Both pleading guilty and being found guilty after a trial count as convictions.

State Databases: Missouri also has its own arrest data bank.  The Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (M.U.L.E.S.) computer system keeps nearly all law enforcement information about Missouri residents and is for law enforcement purposes only.

 

Don’t worry about your criminal arrest records in either the ALERT system or in MULES.  Only law enforcement can access those records.

The Municipal Courts have their own computer system with a paper back up.  They contain your court documents.  They show what charge you were accused of committing, whether that charge was changed to some other offense, what you promised to do (stay on probation), whether you are still on probation, whether you complied with probation (if applicable), whether you were convicted and what punishment you received.  The records of Belton, Raymore and Harrisonville Municipal Court are for the use of court personnel only.  Regular folks do not have access to them.

Case.Net – An Unsolved Problem:  www.case.net is a computer system operated by the Missouri government (Office of State Court Administrators).  It shows all Missouri State Court records (more or less).  It also shows SOME municipal court records.  Pleasant Hill Municipal Court does not submit its court record information to Case.Net.  Neither does Peculiar.  You’ll generally only find state court records there (such as Cass County and Johnson County Circuit Court).

Your Record at The D.O.C.: The Missouri Department of Corrections and the Missouri Secretary of State’s office maintain your criminal record.  A conviction in Harrisonville Municipal Court will be reported to and will be reflected in these records.  These records are available to the public and can be accessed by regular (non-law enforcement) citizens.  If you are charged in Municipal Court or Circuit Court, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to keep any conviction off of these records.

Your Driving Record: The Missouri Department of Revenue keeps your Missouri Driver’s Record.  This record will show any conviction from any Municipal Court traffic ticket.  It will also show any driver’s license suspension from a Municipal Court charge.  Remember, this also applies to any other court in Missouri (or other state).  These records are easily accessible to the public.  One can even call the Missouri Department of Revenue over the phone and get this information at 1-573-751-4475. This is the record you will most want to keep clean and free of either convictions or driver’s license suspensions.

An arraignment in either Municipal Court or Circuit Court is a simple process:

  1. The Judge will ask whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty.
  2. The Judge will ask whether you want to be shown the charges (in case you are deaf but want to read them).
  3. The Judge will ask whether you want the charges against you read to you (in case you can hear but not read).
  4. If you plead guilty the judge will sentence you.
  5. If you plead not guilty, the Judge will set the matter over to another date.

That is what happens in a Missouri arraignment.

You have certain rights at an arraignment.  The arraignment must occur without unnecessary delay – usually within a short period of time- after being arrested. An attorney may be appointed for you at the arraignment if you cannot afford one AND if you are facing jail time AND if you did not bail out of jail (otherwise, no free attorney).

Bail can be raised or lowered at a Court arraignment. You can plead nolo contendere at an arraignment.  It is very unusual for this to happen.  This means you will not contest to the charges. Legally this is the same as a guilty plea, but it cannot be used against you in a non-criminal case (unless the charge can be punished as a felony).

You will want an attorney whenever court happens if at all possible.  There are many ways to mess up one’s own court case and only one way to do it right.

Do not expect a preliminary hearing either in Municipal Court in Cass or Johnson County, Missouri.  Belton, Raymore, Pleasant Hill, and Harrisonville criminal cases do not qualify.

Cass County criminal cases will be handled through a grand jury.  (though there is recent controversy on this and is no longer a certainty). Grand Juries skip the preliminary hearing process.

If the Cass or Johnson County Prosecutor did not use a grand jury in your case, and if you then ask for a preliminary hearing, expect for the Cass County Prosecutor to hold the preliminary hearing.

 

In essence, the County Judge will hear evidence from the prosecuting attorney and your criminal defense attorney.  That evidence will revolve around whether the arresting police officer had “probable cause” to arrest you.

Specifically, the judge has to determine whether, based upon the evidence presented, there is reason to believe you committed the crime.

The standard for a preliminary hearing in Missouri criminal cases is very low.  During the preliminary inquiry or hearing, usually within a short period after arrest, the (local) Missouri Prosecuting Attorney’s office must present evidence showing a reasonable suspicion that the crime was committed and that you did it. This hearing is often waived by the criminal defense attorney for strategic purposes.

REMEMBER! THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE HIRE. THE BEST KANSAS CITY CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER!

You could be sentenced to time in jail for driving while intoxicated, possession of drugs or reckless driving. It is important to contact the best criminal defense lawyer prior to your court date.

The police arrested me!  A Missouri Sheriff arrested me!  What should I do?

  1. Do NOT make any statements to the police.  The vast majority of criminal defense cases are made by people making statements to the police.  Remember, you are under arrest; it is already too late for you to talk your way out of trouble.  Further, Municipal police, Sheriff’s deputies and Missouri State Highway Patrolmen are highly trained in taking statements.  They know how to get evidence from defendants.  They calls your statement a “confession.” This is BAD. Let your criminal defense attorney do the talking.
  2. Bail out of jail. It does you no good to stay in jail.  This reduces the time you have to meet with your criminal defense lawyer.  This reduces the time you have to get the money for fines, court costs, and yes. . .  your criminal defense attorney.  Further, staying in jail does not benefit plea negotiations.  A criminal defense attorney cannot effectively negotiate for jail time that has already been served.  This is just like going to a car dealership, handing them all your money, then asking to negotiate on price.  Life does not work that way.
  3. Call your criminal defense lawyer. The sooner the process of building your defense starts, the fresher the evidence will be, the more options you and your Lee’s Summit attorney will have.