Missouri’s Prior and Persistent Offender Law

Prior and persistent offender


While Missouri doesn’t have a three strikes law, it does harshly penalize prior and persistent offenders–those with prior felony convictions. Under Missouri law, prior felony convictions can be used to enhance your sentence under Prior, Persistent, and Dangerous offender Statute, RSMo Section  558.016. These sentencing enhancements harshly penalize those with a past criminal record. Accordingly, if you are facing new charges and already have a record, it is essential to hire a skilled St. Louis Criminal Defense Lawyer who can fight to minimize the consequences you face as a prior and persistent offender. St. Louis Criminal defense attorney Brian J. Cooke, has extensive experience navigating Missouri’s sentencing laws and will fight to obtain the lowest sentence possible.

What is the Legal Definition of a Prior and Persistent Offender in Missouri?

Under Missouri law a “prior offender” is defined as one who has been found guilty one felony. Being a prior offender generally does not increase the range of punishment. However, having a prior felony conviction prevents you from being eligible for jury sentencing after trial on any subsequent felony. Accordingly, if you are a prior offender, the judge will determine your sentence. This is significant because in many cases juries may be more lenient than judges in sentencing. Furthermore, because sentencing is left up to the judge, jurors will not be allowed to consider or even know the possible consequences to the defendant. TIn our experience, jurors are more likely to convict if they aren’t aware of the possible consequences to the defendant.

A “prior and persistent offender” is one who has been found guilty of two or more felonies at different times. This means that the felonies must have resulted from different acts on different occasions. The Statute requires the Court to sentence a person, who has been found to be a prior and persistent offender, and is found guilty of a class B, C, D, or E felony to the authorized term of imprisonment for the offense that is one class higher than the offense for which the person is found guilty. For example, if you are charged with Assault Second Degree, normally a class D felony, you would face a range of punishment of up to 7 years in prison. However, if you have two felony priors, you could be sentenced to the range of punishment for a class C felony, 3 to 10 years in prison.

A “dangerous offender” is one  1) who is being sentenced for a felony during the commission of which he knowingly murdered or endangered or threatened the life of another person or knowingly inflicted or attempted or threatened to inflict serious physical injury on another person; and 2) has been found guilty of a class A or B felony or a dangerous felony. As with a prior and persistent offender, the Court is required to sentence the person to a felony that is one class of felony higher than the offense for which the person is found guilty.

Legal Defenses to Prior and Persistent Offender Status

The prior and persistent offender sentencing enhancements are not automatic. the prosecuting attorney must prove the prior felony convictions prior to the trial. This is generally done on the indictment or information and with certified copies of the prior convictions. The court will then review the evidence of prior convictions and determine whether or not the defendant is prior and persistent offender under Missouri law.The prior felony convictions must be from seperate incidents and must have occured prior to the comission of the current offense. The prior felony convictions can be from other states.

In many cases, it is possible to plea bargain the prior and persistent offender status down. For instance, as part of the plea agreement, the prosecutor will agree drop the prior and persistent offender status and allow the defendant to plead the normal range of punishment for which he or she is charged. If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge as a prior and persistent offender, please do not hesitate to contact Brian J. Cooke today to discuss your options.