Before Missouri was admitted as the 24th state in 1821, it was part of the much larger Missouri Territory. This was the name given to the Louisiana Purchase to avoid confusion following the admission of Louisiana as a state in 1812.
However, Missouri is still part of a no-less-confusing quirk of U.S. geography: Kansas City is mostly in Missouri and not, as one might expect, in Kansas. Missouri's other major metropolitan area, St. Louis, is known for its Gateway Arch, but has recently made headlines for the shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer in Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb.
What about Missouri's legal system? Here are 10 laws you should know if you're in Missouri:
- Death penalty. Missouri is a death penalty state. In 2014, the state executed 10 criminals, tying Texas for the most executions of any state.
- Uninsured motorists. A law passed in 2013 severely limits the ability of uninsured drivers to sue for non-economic losses arising from motor vehicle crashes involving an insured driver.
- DWI. In Missouri, drunken driving is charged as driving while intoxicated (DWI). A first-time DWI in Missouri is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500.
- Grand juries. Missouri is one of 23 states where grand jury indictments are required for certain serious crimes. In the case of Darren Wilson, the former Ferguson police officer accused of shooting teenager Michael Brown, a grand jury found no probable cause for any criminal charges against Wilson.
- Marijuana. Missouri has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country, with even possession of a small amount of marijuana possibly resulting in jail time. Possession of an ounce of more will result in a mandatory minimum one-year prison sentence.
- Minimum wage. The minimum hourly wage in Missouri is $7.50, and employees must be paid at least time-and-a half for any hours over 40 worked in a week. But employers are generally not obligated to provide employees with meal breaks, vacation, or sick leave.
- Marital property. Missouri is a marital property state, meaning that without an agreement like a prenup in place, most property acquired by either spouse during marriage is generally considered marital property and subject to division upon divorce. In dividing property, a judge will consider a number of factors, including the economic circumstances of each party and the conduct of each party during marriage.
- Lease agreements. Any lease agreement between a landlord and tenant for longer than one month must be agreed to in a writing, signed by both parties, or the tenancy will be considered month-to-month under Missouri law. Additionally, Missouri limits security deposits to the value of two months' rent.
- Corporal punishment. Missouri allows for the use of corporal punishment in public schools. Under Missouri law, spanking or the "use of reasonable force" by certified personnel against students is not against the law.
- Same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage became legal in Missouri after the state's ban on the practice was ruled unconstitutional by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last October.
Learn more about the laws in the state of Missouri at FindLaw's section on Missouri Law.