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The Missouri State Highway Patrol has predicted that crime rates in most of the state for 2012 will be lower than 2011. In a recent report, at which time about a month's worth of data still needed to be compiled, Missouri law enforcement officials said that crime rates are down overall.

One exception is an increase in the number of murders in some counties. However, statewide the number fell to 335 from 368 in 2011. Rapes, robberies and other crimes also fell. Overall the state's crime index came in at approximately 2 million in 2012, down from 2.3 million.

These numbers surprise some experts who traditionally associate a weak economy with an increase in crime. The economic struggles faced by many people in the state did not appear to translate into higher crime rates.

Some crimes that garnered widespread attention this year included hate crime charges brought against a 17-year-old girl who was certified as an adult. The state also saw high-profile burglary sprees and cases of nursing home abuse.

Criminal charges can come with penalties ranging from fines to jail time. In addition to traditional criminal consequences, those charged may face a loss of employment, future job opportunities or any professional licenses. Students may face expulsion or loss of scholarships.

In addition, a criminal record can haunt you for years with significant effects. Everyone makes mistakes but it is important to do everything in your power to make sure one mistake doesn't dictate the rest of your life. If you are facing criminal charges, consider working with a criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights, fight your charges and represent your best interests in and out of court.

Source: The Southeast Missourian, "2012 crime rates expected to show slight drop for the year," Scott Moyers, Dec. 30, 2012

To learn more about criminal charges in Missouri, please visit our website.

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