Here is another example of a criminal charge often accompanying a divorce or other family law case: Harassment.
The previous statute was lengthy, and specific. You had to threaten to commit a felony, use such extreme language as to put another person in fear of physical harm, recklessly frighten a minor. Do it once and it was a Class A Misdemeanor. Do it again and it could be a Class D Felony.
Under the new law which begins January 1, 2017, the language is quite vague: “A person commits the offense of harassment in the second degree if he or she, without good cause, engages in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person.” § 565.091.1 RSMo.That is 2 Degree Harassment and a Class A Misdemeanor. It has transformed into an “intent” or inchoate crime. No need to prove damages.
The Class E Felony is just as vague and simply adds: “..., and such act does cause such person to suffer emotional distress.” § 565.090.1 RSMo. Not severe emotional distress. Just emotional distress. I won't repeat here the litany of things you can't do if you are a convicted felon. (See the domestic assault entry).
Words used to have meaning. The term “felony” evolved from the common law and means a serious crime. The word originates from English common law (from the French medieval word "félonie"), where felonies were originally crimes that involved confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods. There have been considerable changes over time, but the word “felony” has always referred to a crime of gravity, seriousness, while a misdemeanor did not.
Unlike Missouri's new criminal code, the U.S. Federal government still defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. If punishable by exactly one year or less, it is classified as a misdemeanor.
The basic truth applies, however: A PERSON WHO HAS COMMITTED A FELONY IS A FELON, and upon conviction of a felony in a court of law is known as a convicted felon or a convict. After January 1, 2017, in Missouri, a person can easily be convicted of a Class E Felony for the same conduct that once was a Class B or maybe Class A Misdemeanor. That felony will affect parental custody and visitation, will appear on your employment applications, negate your right to own and carry a firearm, potentially affect your voting rights and a myriad of other public aid or social benefits.
If you have a family law or criminal matter I will be happy to sit with you in a complimentary consultation. Within 20-30 minutes you'll know what you can do for yourself and what you would be better off having an experienced attorney handle.
Gordon K. Rea
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