Criminal Law in Mississippi

Chris Holt, your Mississippi Lawyer, can help you when you’re faced with a criminal offense.

Criminal law considers a crime an act against society rather than an individual. Therefore, the government brings legal action against a person for committing a crime.

What can happen if I'm found guilty?

If found guilty, the defendant may have to pay a fine, serve time in jail or prison, or be placed on probation.

Because the stakes are so much higher for a defendant in a criminal case than between two parties in a civil case, the justice system also includes safeguards to protect a defendant’s rights. These include the presumption of innocence, or that the person is innocent until proven guilty. Instead of the defendant having to prove his or her innocence, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

What rights do I have in a criminal case?

Defendants in criminal cases have constitutionally guaranteed rights. These include the right to an attorney, whether privately hired or appointed by the court; the right not to be forced to incriminate themselves, the right to compel witnesses to testify in their defense, and the right to confront through cross-examination witnesses who testify against them.

What kind of sentence could I face if found guilty?

Infractions, which can also be called violations, are the least serious crimes and include minor offenses such as jaywalking and motor vehicle offenses that result in a simple traffic ticket. Infractions are generally punishable by a fine. or alternative sentencing such as traffic school.

Misdemeanors can be punishable by jail time, a fine, or alternative sentencing like probation, rehabilitation, or community service.

Felonies are the most serious crimes. Depending on the jurisdiction and the crime, the sentence could be execution, prison time, a fine, or alternative sentencing such as probation, rehabilitation, and home confinement. Potential consequences of a felony conviction also include the inability to vote, own a weapon, or even participate in certain careers.

Who is defined as a Juvenile?

Juveniles, defined as young people under the age of 18, have adult rights plus others under Mississippi Youth Court laws.

Youth court laws divide misdeeds by juveniles into three categories. Status offenses, actions by someone between the ages of 7 and 18, include being habitually disobedient to a parent or guardian; willfully and habitually violating school rules or being absent, and running away from home without good reason.

Criminal offenses are the most serious crimes which carry a penalty of life imprisonment or death, like murder or armed robbery. A juvenile over the age of 13 charged with such a crime stands trial as an adult in criminal court.

Aside from the criminal offenses mentioned above, a delinquent act is an action by a juvenile that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult. A youth court judge hears the case, which is a civil proceeding, although he may choose to transfer the case to adult criminal court. Youth court is closed to the public and held without a jury.

What is the implied consent law for DUI?

Mississippi’s Implied Consent, or DUI, Law declares it illegal for any person to operate a motor vehicle who is under the influence of liquor or other substance that impairs his or her driving ability. The law defines intoxication as a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 percent for adults, .04 percent for commercial drivers, and .02 percent for minors (under 21 years of age).

Adult first offenders face a fine of $250 to $1,000, imprisonment for up to 48 hours, or both. The court may replace jail with attendance at a victim impact panel. Attendance and completion of the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program (MASEP) is mandatory.

Minors found guilty of DUI with a blood-alcohol level between .02 and .08 percent also face fines, imprisonment, and license suspension. If a minor’s level registers more than .08 percent, the adult conviction penalties apply.

Can I be compensated if I'm a victim of a crime?

Along with the fright and danger, being a crime victim can include injury or even death. A Mississippi law enables a victim to receive compensation from the state for the expenses and economic loss suffered.

Two major conditions exist in the victim’s compensation law. It prohibits recovery from the state if the victim can receive compensation from another source, and it places maximum levels on benefits awarded.

The law’s two compensation categories have maximum levels. Economic loss, the monetary loss the victim suffers if unable to work, allows for reimbursement of up to $150 per week for 52 weeks, not to exceed $10,000. Allowable victim expenses, including medical care, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation, must be a reasonable amount. The law allows reimbursement of funeral, cremation, or burial expenses up to $3,500.

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