Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Criminal Defense

Q: Can a defendant be acquitted if he or she was on drugs when the crime was committed?

A: Defendants who commit crimes under the influence of drugs sometimes argue that their mental functioning was so impaired that they should not be held accountable for their conduct. Generally, however, voluntary impairment does not excuse criminal conduct, since people know or should know that drugs affect mental functioning, and they should, therefore, be held legally responsible if they commit crimes as a result of their voluntary use. An exception to this rule may exist in cases where the defendant has become involuntarily intoxicated such as if the defendant were unknowingly drugged by a third party.

Q: Can a defendant plea bargain in a drug case?

A: Plea bargaining, which involves negotiating with the prosecutor to get the charges reduced and the punishment minimized, is allowed in drug-offense cases. For example, a person charged with three separate drug charges-possession, possession for sale, and transportation of drugs may be able to negotiate the charge down to simple possession in exchange for an agreement to plead guilty to that charge. The prosecutor agrees to plea bargains in appropriate cases because the government simply does not have adequate resources to try every case, so both sides benefit from the bargain.

Q: Do I need a lawyer to represent me even if I am innocent?

A: Every criminal defendant needs an attorney. Innocent defendants are perhaps in even greater need of zealous representation throughout the criminal process to ensure that their rights are protected and that the truth prevails. Even innocent people end up in jail, so the best way to prevent that miscarriage of justice is to employ the services of a seasoned veteran of criminal defense law, particularly one with experience defending against drug charges.

Q: How does the prosecutor decide which drug cases to pursue?

A: The first thing the prosecutor looks for is a legally sound case, or one without any obvious defects that will get it thrown out of court, such as violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights or destruction of evidence crucial to the defense. The prosecutor next decides if there is enough evidence, with regard to both the quantity and the quality thereof, to make conviction probable. Finally, the prosecutor decides if prosecuting the case fits in with the office’s policy objectives, or whether a more informal disposition, like drug counseling or treatment, may be in order.

Q: If I simply intend to plead guilty, why do I need a lawyer?

A: Even if you are guilty of the drug crime with which you are charged, it is imperative that you seek the advice of experienced counsel so that you can minimize your sentence and maximize your opportunities to move ahead toward a brighter future. Criminal defense attorneys are needed to equalize the balance of power between the defendant and the prosecution and to ensure that the constitutional rights that are guaranteed to all criminal defendants, whether guilty or not, are preserved.

Q: What defenses can be raised in drug cases?

A: The most common defense raised in drug cases is to challenge the evidence that the defendant actually possessed the drugs located by police. Often people are charged with the drug possession merely because they were present in a vehicle where another passenger had drugs. The State must prove not only that you are merely in the presence of narcotics but that you knew of their presence and nature. More importantly the State must also prove that you and not some other person actually possessed or controlled the narcotics. While it is possible for two people to possess the same narcotics, just as it’s possible for two people to split a six-pack of beer, it is also possible for one person to have the six-pack while the other person has no control over it, even though he knows it’s there.

Additionally, it is common in drug cases is to challenge the search and seizure that resulted in the police finding the drugs. If the police violated the defendant’s Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights, the court will suppress, or throw out, the drugs as evidence. The prosecution will then have far less evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and the case could even be dismissed.

Q: What does a grand jury do in a drug case?

A: A grand jury is a group of people called together by the prosecutor to gather information about suspected criminal activity by listening to testimony from witnesses and examining documents and other evidence. At the end of the proceeding, the grand jury decides whether there is enough evidence to put the defendant on trial for the drug charges. Grand juries are more likely to be convened in connection with more serious and complicated drug crimes, like conducting a drug-related criminal enterprise.

Q: What is the difference between parole and probation?

A: Parole and probation are employed in the punishment phase of the criminal justice process. Parole comes into play after a person has been imprisoned and is released subject to supervision by an officer of the court. Probation, by contrast, refers to a criminal sentence separate and distinct from incarceration. Probation is the most frequent sentence imposed for less serious or first offenses and typically involves releasing the convicted offender into the community subject to a list of terms and conditions. Both parole and probation may include additional conditions, like attending drug education classes or receiving drug treatment.

For example, two people charged with and convicted of the same offense may both be given the same sentence of 10 years. However, one may serve his sentence immediately, while the other is placed on probation, with the possibility of avoiding incarceration upon successful completion. The person sent to prison may not serve the full 10 years but could be released on parole after serving some percentage of the sentence. Instead he may well be released on parole after serving some percentage of the 10 years. While on parole, he is supervised much the same as he would be on probation. However, if he violates the terms of his parole and is sent back to prison, every day he spent on parole counts towards the 10-year sentence he must serve. In contrast, the man placed on probation with a 10-year “backup” may spend 4 ½ years on probation before a Judge finally revokes his probation for some failure to comply with the conditions of probation. Although probation can be a tempting offer it is not necessarily the best result in all situations for all people.


Q: Do I have to see a doctor?

A: If you are injured in an automobile accident, you should seek medical attention. Whether or not you have a claim, you should be examined by a doctor to ensure your safety and proper care if your injury turns out to be significant. The scope of an injury is not always readily apparent to the injured person immediately after the accident after the wreck.

Q: How long will it take for me to receive money for my personal injury claim?

A: The length of time necessary to conclude your automobile accident injury case depends upon a number of factors. For example, if you received a serious injury, you do not want to settle your claim until you have received sufficient medical care so that either your physician has released you or your future medical expenses related to the accident can be determined with reasonable certainty. Therefore, the amount of time you need to heal may determine the length of time necessary to conclude your claim. The amount of time before you recover also depends on whether your case is settled or goes to trial.

Q: How soon must I bring my personal injury claim?

A: Each state sets a time period during which a person must bring a personal injury claim. Both the length of that period and the way it is measured in motor vehicle accident cases varies from state to state. Even within a state, the time period may vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, such as the plaintiff’s age, the type of personal injury claim, the particular facts giving rise to the injury, and when the injury is discovered. You must be absolutely certain that you know the time limitation period that applies to you, or you risk jeopardizing your legal rights. Regardless of how long you have to bring your particular injury claim, it is best to obtain an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney early in the process. It is not uncommon, in Missouri especially, for medical providers to give false or misleading information about who is responsible for your medical bills related to a car accident so they can collect 5 or 10 times as much money from your settlement than they are really entitled to.

Q: Should I accept a check from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company?

A: Accepting a check may be construed as a settlement that prohibits you from obtaining any additional amounts from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company. Therefore, you should not accept a check or sign a release from the at-fault driver or his or her insurance company until after you have conferred with an attorney. Typically, an attorney will encourage you to wait to accept a check until you have completed your medical treatment and have been released by a doctor, so you know you have received an amount that adequately covers your medical bills and other damages. An insurance adjuster may push you to settle the claim for the lowest possible amount and may discourage you from contacting an attorney. If so, you should ignore his or her advice, and consult an attorney immediately before accepting any payment, signing any release, or otherwise settling your claim to ensure that you are receiving fair compensation and not jeopardizing your right to a full and fair recovery.

Q: What is my auto accident case worth?

A: The value of a case depends on a variety of factors and cannot be determined without analyzing information regarding the injury, medical bills, loss of income, and permanency of the injury. There is no rule of thumb, and each set of facts results in a different amount of damages.

Q: What should I do if I can’t afford an attorney?

A: Personal injury lawyers will agree to pursue a personal injury claim for a contingency fee, which means that the law firm’s fee is subtracted from any amount that the firm collects for you. If no amount is recovered, then the firm receives no fee. Plaintiff’s law firms will front any necessary cost to prosecute the claim which would also be recovered from any eventual settlement or judgement. If you have a injury claim and an attorney wants you to pay them money to handle the claim or costs associated with the claim most likely that lawyer does not practice personal injury law regularly and/or that lawyer doesn’t believe your claim is likely to recover enough money to cover his fees and expenses.

Q: Where will the money come from to compensate me?

A: The at-fault party’s insurance typically pays for your damages in many states. If the at-fault party is not adequately insured, your own insurance policy may contain coverage that will compensate you for your injuries. Many people in Missouri have “medical pay coverage” from their own insurance company and do not even realize it. These policies typically cover a few thousand dollars of medical expenses incurred by anyone in the car as a result of an accident, regardless of who is at fault.

Q: Who can I sue to recover my damages?

A: In some cases, an accident victim may be able to sue parties other than the at-fault driver. For example, if the at-fault driver did not own the car, the car’s owner may also be liable for your damages. If the at-fault driver was impaired from consuming too much alcohol, you may be able to bring a “dram shop” complaint against a business that served alcohol to the driver even though he was visibly impaired. In some cases, you may be able to bring an action against another party, such as an automobile manufacturer or construction company, if a defect in the vehicle or the roadway caused the accident. If the accident involved a tractor-trailer, the driver’s violation of rules and regulations may be the basis for a lawsuit against the driver or his or her employer.

Q: Will I have to go to court for my injury case?

A: Not necessarily. Many motor vehicle accident cases are concluded without even filing a lawsuit. Most lawsuits are settled without an actual trial. A settlement avoids the costs and delay of a trial and may result in a greater net recovery. However, if the case cannot be settled on satisfactory terms, it may be necessary to try it in court.



A. Police misconduct includes a wide range of inappropriate actions taken by police officers, such as police brutality, corruption, racial profiling, lying to obtain charges against someone, or illegal searches and seizures. It is difficult to list all the ways that police can abuse their power or violate the rights of citizens. Police misconduct is a broad term that generally refers to anytime a police officer breaks the rules.


A: Yes, if you are a victim of civil you can potentially file a civil rights lawsuit under laws such as 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 is part of the U.S. Code that allows lawsuits against government officials, including police officers, for violations of citizens’ constitutional rights. For various reasons, courts have held that not all instances of police misconduct can be the basis of a successful lawsuit, however. One of the main protections afforded police officers from lawsuits for misconduct is known as qualified immunity.


A. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine created by federal judges that protects police officers from being held personally liable for constitutional violations under certain conditions. Broadly, courts decide if the alleged actions violated “clearly established” law. Different courts can sometimes decide what makes a right “clearly established” in radically different ways. At the extreme, some courts will hold that officers aren’t liable unless there is a previous case finding police officers liable for identical conduct.A. Your content goes here. Edit or remove this text inline or in the module Content settings. You can also style every aspect of this content in the module Design settings and even apply custom CSS to this text in the module Advanced settings.

Even if courts determine that the violated right was “clearly established” at the time the officer violated it, courts still proceed to determine if a “reasonable officer” in the same situation could have made the same mistake. Obviously, in determining whether or not some hypothetical “reasonable officer” could have done the same thing gives a large amount of discretion to trial judges to dismiss lawsuits against police officers.


A. Yes, there are time limits for filing a complaint which varies by the type of claim and jurisdiction. A “1983” action has the statute of limitations that is the same as the “general tort” statute of limitations in the state where the event occurred. In Missouri, that statute of limitations is five years. A 1983 lawsuit is often not the only way to sue police officers for misconduct, however. Depending on the facts, various claims against law enforcement in Missouri must be brought within 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, or  5 years. It is important to consult a civil rights attorney as soon as possible so that your claim can be fully investigated and so that you have all options available to you to seek relief.


A: No. To the surprise of many, there is no requirement in Missouri that police officers carry body cameras or even possess dash cameras in their vehicles. Other states, such as New Mexico, do impose that duty on their police officers. In Missouri, however, whether or not your encounter with law enforcement is recorded is up to the head of that specific police department, his or her policies, and his or her use of budget resources for body cameras.


A: Not only is it right to do so, our system depends on it. Whole we would like to think that police adequately police themselves, the reality is that bad police officers are rarely held accountable for their actions. Bad officers are often able to float from one police department short on manpower until they wear out their welcome and move on to some other department desperate for officers. This problem is so pervasive that a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center found that almost three out of four officers disagreed with the notion that “officers who consistently do a poor job are held accountable.”

While filing a lawsuit doesn’t solve the problem by itself, it does establish a public record of the officer’s misconduct. Not only does it establish a public record, the reality is that holding police officers, departments, cities and counties financially responsible for officer misconduct is often the best way to force policing practices to change.

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