Criminal Law Glossary: A Guide To The Terms You Should Know


If you’re looking for a criminal law attorney in Jefferson City, Mo, we can help. The attorneys at Bandré, Hunt & Snider specialize in criminal law in mid-Missouri.

Facing criminal charges is daunting, especially if it’s for the first time. Whether it’s you or a loved one facing criminal charges, doing your research and turning to experienced criminal law attorneys is crucial. Due to many unfamiliar terms associated with criminal law in mid-Missouri, our team of experienced criminal law attorneys have created a guide for you to use as a resource. Prepare yourself with our glossary and contact our team if you have questions about the legal process. 

Glossary of Criminal Law Terms Commonly Used in Missouri

Accessory — a person who knowingly and voluntarily assists another person in the commission of a crime. This can occur before the fact, like providing advice before the crime, or after the fact, such as helping conceal evidence. 

Accomplice— a person who helps someone commit a crime. An accomplice is usually present when the crime is committed and often receives the same sentence as the perpetrator. 

Accused— a person who has been arrested for or formally charged with a crime. 

Arraignment— the formal appearance in court of an accused person to hear the charges and 

make their plea.

Assault— oftentimes the term “assault and battery” is used to describe assault crimes, but in Missouri there are no crimes classified as “battery.” Rather, there are four degrees of assault. First, second and third degree assault in Missouri are charged as felonies, while assault in the fourth degree is punishable by a misdemeanor. 

  • First degree assault is when someone “attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person.”
  • Second degree assault is when a person: 
  • “Attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person under the influence of sudden passion arising out of adequate cause; 
  • Or attempts to cause or knowingly causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument; 
  • Or recklessly causes serious physical injury to another person;
  • Or recklessly causes physical injury to another person by means of discharge of a firearm.” 
  • Third degree assault is if the person “knowingly causes physical injury to another person.”
  • Fourth degree assault is if the person 
  • “Attempts to cause or recklessly causes physical injury, physical pain, or illness to another person; 
  • With criminal negligence the person causes physical injury to another person by means of a firearm; 
  • Or the person purposely places another person in apprehension of immediate physical injury; 
  • Or the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person; 
  • Or the person knowingly causes or attempts to cause physical contact with a person with a disability, which a reasonable person, who does not have a disability, would consider offensive or provocative; 
  • Or the person knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.”

If you’ve recently been charged with assault, contact our criminal law attorneys in Jefferson City, Mo for a consultation. 

Bail/Bond— the amount of money given to a court to release an accused person from jail before their trial. 

Charge— a formal accusation made against someone, often in criminal court. 

Circumstantial Evidence— evidence in a trial which is not directly from an eyewitness or participant. For example, physical evidence. 

Deferred Sentence— a postponed, or delayed, sentence in a criminal matter. 

Disclosure— the process of revealing evidence about a person or entity. 

Dismissal— the termination of formal charges. 

DUI vs. DWI— there is no difference between a DUI and DWI in Missouri. However, “DWI” is the preferred term in the state. DWIs in Missouri are issued to drivers operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 or higher, or drivers under 21 who are driving with a BAC of 0.02 or higher. If you’ve recently been charged with a DWI, contact our DWI attorneys in Jefferson City, Mo for legal counsel. 

Felony— a crime serious enough to be punishable by a prison term. Felonies in Missouri are classified from Class A to Class E. The most serious felonies in Missouri, or Class A felonies, include murder, first degree kidnapping and first degree robbery. Class E felonies, for example, include boating while intoxicated.

Hearing— a legal proceeding held before a judge or administrative body. This is not the same as a trial. 

Immunity— legal status granted by the court which prevents someone for facing prosecution in return for providing criminal evidence. 

Indictment— a formal accusation against someone who is suspected of committing a crime. This is presented to the individual so they may prepare a defense. 

Misdemeanor— a crime punishable by less than 12 months in jail. There are five classifications of misdemeanors in Missouri: Class A, B, C, D and “unclassified.” 

  • Class A misdemeanors can include anything from shoplifting items less than $500 to possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana. 
  • Class D misdemeanors can include anything from driving while revoked to minor visibly intoxicated (1st offense). 

No Contest— when a defendant neither admits nor denies guilt, indicating that they don’t want to take the charge to trial. A judge must agree to a no contest plea and then present the defendant with terms before holding a sentencing hearing.

Notice of Appearance— formal notification by an attorney to the court, and other parties in your case, that he or she represents you. 

Parole— the conditional release of a prison inmate who has served part of their sentence. 

Probation— an alternative to a prison sentence that allows a guilty person to stay in the community under supervision and certain conditions. 

Testimony— evidence given by a witness under oath. 

Contact Our Experienced Criminal Law Attorneys In Jefferson City, Mo

Whether you need a DWI attorney, drug possession attorney or assistance in another area of criminal law, Bandré Hunt & Snider can help.

Being charged with a crime is stressful, and the legal process can be especially intimidating. Our Jefferson City attorneys strive to educate you on the process and provide you with the knowledge you need to feel comfortable. If you’ve recently been charged with drug possession, a DWI, assault or another crime in Missouri, our attorneys are here to help. The team at Bandré Hunt & Snider is experienced in criminal law in Missouri and will work with you to achieve the best possible outcome. To discuss your case and get legal representation, contact us today.