Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center at the Benjamin Law Firm, LLC
Phone: 816-318-7943
Offices in Kansas City and Belton, Missouri

Belton Missouri Criminal Defense Law Blog

Cannabis breath test aims to measure intoxication

As cannabis becomes decriminalized or legalized for recreational or medical use in Missouri and many other states, questions have been raised about driving under the influence of marijuana. Drunk driving charges are based on blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, and the legal limit of 0.08 was established after lengthy studies examining the effect of alcohol on driving. It is relatively easy for police to test BAC without invasive devices by making use of roadside or in-station breath tests. The driver blows into the device, which measures BAC through assessing alcohol in the breath. While the breath test is now standard and widely accepted, it was initially controversial and heavily disputed.

However, no similar test exists for cannabis. Drivers are accused of driving under the influence of cannabis and face DWI charges in court, bearing the same hefty penalties as a drunk driving conviction. At the same time, there is little clear scientific evidence to indicate how cannabis use influences driving behavior or how much cannabis could impair a driver's decision-making and judgment. In addition, blood and urine tests used to detect cannabis may pick up compounds that are days old with no impact on driving ability.

Prisoners say how often wrongful conviction happens

While there are high-profile and sensational stories involving wrongful convictions that make national news, there was little data about the total amount of people incarcerated for crimes they did not commit. One study sought to change this, and Missouri residents might like to know the results of the study.

In a study surveying 3,000 incoming prisoners in Pennsylvania, six percent reported a wrongful conviction. This is the first research that looked at convictions for charges that range from serious to minor and included charges of drug possession, armed robbery and theft. The false conviction rate of rape, murder and other capital crimes is thought to be at around 3-5 percent of cases.

Why do police officers stop some drivers to check for impairment?

Police officers look for specific signs that a driver is under the influence of alcohol, but not all of these occur after the vehicle has been stopped. Sometimes, officers spot things that indicate that a driver might not be able to drive safely, so they will initiate a traffic stop. This enables them to evaluate the driver to determine what is going on.

To pull a vehicle over, the officer only needs to have reasonable suspicion that the driver is impaired, which means they only think that it is possible based on observations. This is a much lower standard than probable cause, so even small signs of a problem can lead to the stop. Probable cause means the officer has evidence that suggests a person committed a crime.

Despite mounting evidence, Missouri man remains behind bars

The wrongly convicted often experience extensive challenges when trying to clear their names and gain freedom. One such example of false incarceration may have happened to a Missouri man who has spent nearly 25 years in prison. The struggles Lamar Johnson faces are particularly interesting because he may have little hope of being released even though people in the prosecutor's office are not convinced of his guilt.

Johnson, a 45-year-old man from St. Louis, was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of Marcus Boyd in 1994. Perhaps due to a dispute about drugs, two masked men shot and killed Boyd on the porch at his apartment. Since Johnson's conviction, two other men have signed sworn affidavits stating that they killed Boyd without Johnson's involvement.

Traffic stop leads to a murder charge for Missouri man

A 43-year-old Missouri man has been charged with murder in the second degree in connection with an Aug. 24 accident in Crawford County that claimed the life of a motorcyclist. The Washington resident also faces felony counts of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest. He is being held at the Crawford County Jail, and his bond has been set at $250,000.

According to media reports, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper pulled the man's pickup truck over for exceeding the posted speed limit on Highway H at approximately 6 p.m. The deputy claims that the man fled the scene when he was asked to exit his vehicle. During the ensuing pursuit, the man's pickup truck allegedly crossed the center line and struck an oncoming motorcycle head-on. The motorcycle's 25-year-old male rider was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.

Missouri woman sentenced to life in prison for 2016 slaying

A Missouri woman was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole on Aug. 12 for the 2016 slaying of mentally handicapped man in St. Charles County. The woman could have faced the death penalty if she had been convicted after a trial, but she avoided that fate by entering what is known as an Alford plea in 2017. When a defendant enters an Alford plea, they maintain their innocence but accept that prosecutors have enough evidence to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Prosecutors say that the woman lured the victim to her O'Fallon residence and then shot him when he arrived. She initially told police that the man had broken into her home and she killed him in self-defense. Police believe that the woman killed the man to frame another individual who was convicted and then acquitted of killing his wife in 2011.

A look at what's behind wrongful convictions

Missouri residents may be interested in a study that shows that some wrongful convictions involve more than just misconduct by the prosecutors or police. One example of this is a man who spent almost three decades in prison for a murder of which he said he was innocent. The conviction was based on the testimony of supposed eyewitnesses who were later said to have been coerced by prosecutors.

It is not uncommon for wrongful conviction cases to involve some wrongdoing by the police and prosecutors. However, recent studies show that the problem runs deeper. A Texas State University criminologist found that a mixture of group thinking and confirmation bias along with a desire to quickly identify the perpetrator has led to some innocent people being sent to prison.

Missouri woman charged with murder in overdose case

A Missouri woman is facing murder charges in connection with a man's drug overdose in late July. The defendant, who is a resident of Eldon, was arrested on Aug. 1.

According to a probable cause statement by the Eldon Police Department, officers were called to the defendant's home on July 27. When they arrived, they found an unresponsive man lying on the floor. The Miller County coroner was called to the scene and pronounced the man dead. Autopsy results have not yet been released, but the man is believed to have died of a heroin overdose.

Why hire an attorney to fight DWI charges?

DWI charges are nothing to take lightly, as a conviction has the potential to impact your personal, professional and financial life in a number of ways.

While you're not required to hire an attorney to fight your charges, there are many reasons to consider this.

Asset forfeiture does not improve police effectiveness, study says

Asset forfeiture is a serious civil liberties concern for many people in Kentucky, especially as it is a form of punishment that can be applied despite the absence of a criminal conviction or even criminal charges in some cases. The policy, which escalated in use during the "war on drugs" in the 1980s, allows law enforcement agencies to seize assets that they believe to be linked to criminal activity. While the policy is promoted with references to large-scale raids on major drug traffickers, a significant number of asset forfeiture cases involve relatively small sums being collected from people who cannot afford to lose them.

One study conducted by a libertarian-oriented law firm, the Institute for Justice, found that civil asset forfeiture has little influence on reducing drug use or increasing police effectiveness in solving crimes. The study examined the effects of funds gathered through the Department of Justice's federal forfeiture program and shared with various local and state law enforcement agencies. They found no correlation between increased proceeds from asset forfeiture and rates of drug use. In addition, there was little connection between asset forfeiture and solving crimes other than additional money entering the police department.

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Benjamin Law Firm

Belton Office
8427 Clint Drive
Belton, Missouri 64012

Phone: 816-318-7943
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701 East 63rd Street
Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64110

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