An offense, commonly known as a crime, is the act of breaking a rule or the law. When a case is filed against a person, the offense is then called a charge. Crimes or charges are broken down into classifications.
Classification of Offenses
Felonies are defined as a serious offense and punishable by either death or term in state prison of one year or longer. Felonies are further classified by the amount of incarceration time in prison which can be imposed by a judge. Felony classifications:
- Class A = a term of years not less than 10 years and not to exceed 30 years, or life imprisonment, for example, Murder charge
- Class B = a term of years not less than five years and not to exceed 15 years, for example, Manslaughter charge
- Class C = a term of years not to exceed seven years, for example, 2nd Degree Domestic Assault charge
- Class D = a term of years not to exceed four years, for example, 3rd Degree Domestic Assault charge
Misdemeanors are offenses defined by statute and punishable by a fine and/or county jail time for up to one year. Misdemeanors are further classified by the amount of incarceration time which can be imposed by a judge. Misdemeanor classifications:
- Class A = a term not to exceed one year, for example, Driving While Intoxicated charge 2nd offense
- Class B = a term not to exceed six months, for example, Driving While Intoxicated charge 1st offense
- Class C = a term not to exceed fifteen days, for example, Attempt to Drive While Intoxicated charge
Infractions are offenses where the only sentence authorized by statute is a fine or a fine and forfeiture, for example, fine and/or other civil penalty.
Ordinances are rules, laws or regulations as enacted by a county, city, or town. Punishable by a fine or a fine and forfeiture of a privilege, or other civil penalty, for example, community service.
Role of the Prosecutor
A prosecutor is a legal officer who represents the government in criminal proceedings. The prosecutor is called the circuit attorney in the city of St. Louis. The prosecutor is responsible for:
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- Providing a link between law enforcement and the courts.
- Determining if enough evidence is available to file charges with the court.
- Determining what offense will be filed with the court. He/she may file different charges than what law enforcement originally indicated.
- Providing the court with the necessary information to process the case, for example, the defendant's name and personal information, date and location of the offense, an OCN and/or ticket number.
- Making the decision to dismiss charges filed with the court.