Crimes against children include some of the most serious charges one can face. The law, prosecutors, and the courts take each of these charges very seriously. Crimes against children range from misdemeanors, such as negligently endangering the welfare of a child, to the most serious felonies. Many include mandatory prison time. These cases require experience and knowledge of the unique processes used to prosecute them. The deck is often stacked against the accused.
Section 491, RSMo.
Commonly referred to as “491,” section 491.075 of Missouri’s statutes allow out of court statements to be used at trial. This is a specific exception to the hearsay rule, which generally prevents such statements from coming into evidence. 491 also allows certain witnesses to testify before trial, never having to appear in front of a jury. The United States Supreme Court allows these procedures, beginning with Maryland v. Craig in 1990.
Cases like Craig illustrate a serious difficulty with the procedures used to handle crimes against children. As discussed in that case, and specifically stated in 491, the witnesses are shielded from usual testimonial procedures to prevent emotional distress from facing the accused. This is basically a legal presumption that the defendant is guilty before trial.
Article I, Section 18(c)
In November of 2014, Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state constitution that overruled one hundred years of common law, and a state constitutional guarantee that a defendant is put on trial only for the crime with which he or she is charged. Ironically, this amendment that increased government power is now in our Bill of Rights.
“…in prosecutions for crimes of a sexual nature involving a victim under eighteen years of age, relevant evidence of prior criminal acts, whether charged or uncharged, is admissible for the purpose of corroborating the victim’s testimony or demonstrating the defendant’s propensity to commit the crime with which he or she is presently charged. The court may exclude relevant evidence of prior criminal acts if the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”
Simply put, this means that anyone accused of certain crimes against children can have other allegations used against them at trial. Those other allegations do not have to be prior convictions or prior charges. They do not even need to be investigated or alleged in past. You do not need a lawyer to explain the weight of this type of evidence at a trial.
Crimes against children require the best defense
“The truth will set you free” is not always applicable. Many defendants think their innocence is enough to carry the day; it is not. Not only do allegations against children carry public shame, the law works toward conviction, and the presumption of innocence is difficult to maintain. Contact our criminal defense attorneys to retain the defense team you deserve for such serious allegations.