Louisiana Domestic Violence Criminal Charges
Domestic abuse crimes are handled differently than assault and battery charges against people who are not family or household members. The penalties are greater and there are special requirements that must be fulfilled if the defendant is convicted of the charge. Louisiana has recently changed its criminal code to make the penalties even harsher. If you have been charged with domestic abuse battery, knowledgeable and experienced legal help is a must. A successful outcome can make a huge difference for your rights and freedom.
Laws about Domestic Abuse Crimes in Louisiana
Louisiana defines domestic abuse battery as “the intentional use of force or violence committed by one household member or family member upon the person of another household member or family member.” The key words are “family member” and “household member.” There are special rules and stiffer penalties for battery against family or household members than for assault and battery against other types of people. It is therefore important to know who is considered to be family or a household member under Louisiana law.
Under Louisiana law, family members are “spouses, former spouses, parents, children, stepparents, stepchildren, foster parents, and foster children.” Household members are “any person of the opposite sex presently or formerly living in the same residence with the offender as a spouse, whether married or not, or any child presently or formerly living in the same residence with the offender, or any child of the offender regardless of where the child resides“
So what that means is a family or household member would be any of the following:
1) Present or former spouse, parents and stepparents, biological children, stepchildren and foster children
2) A person of the opposite sex that the defendant is living with or has lived with at some point within the last five years. The relationship should be “spousal” but the couple do not need to be married.
3) A child who the defendant is living with or has lived with within the last five years. This does not have to be the defendant’s own child.
4) The defendant’s child regardless of where they live.
Recent Changes to Louisiana Domestic Abuse Battery Laws
In 2014, the legislature made some changes to the domestic violence law in an effort to strengthen penalties for this type of crime. A big change was the loss of the ability to own or carry a gun for 10 years after completion of the sentence for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic abuse battery charge. For more information about this change, please see our blog post “When Owning a Gun is a Crime in Louisiana.”
Possible Penalties for Conviction of Domestic Violence
Domestic abuse battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony. The following is a general outline of prison sentences, required conditions and fines for first, second third and fourth or more convictions of domestic violence. Penalties will generally be stiffer when 1) the abuse involves strangulation or burning, 2) is considered to cause “significant bodily injury”, 3) if a young child is present, or 4) if the defendant knows the victim is pregnant. But if those conditions are not factors, then these are the legal guidelines for convictions of domestic battery in Louisiana:
- For a first domestic battery abuse conviction, the penalty is a fine of $300 – $1,000 and jail time of 30 days to six months with a required 48 hours of imprisonment. The actual penalty is up to the discretion of the judge, but conviction of a first time domestic abuse battery charge requires at least two days in jail. In addition, there will a required probation period and participation in a domestic abuse intervention program and loss of gun rights for 10 years after the duration of the sentence.
- For a second charge, penalties increase to a fine of $750-$1,000 and prison time for 60 days to a year. 14 days of the sentence must be served, but the rest of the sentence would not have to be served if there is participation in a domestic abuse intervention program, a probationary period and the loss of gun rights for 10 years after the entire sentence period.
- A third domestic abuse battery conviction carries a $2,000 fine and 1-5 years in prison, with at least 1 year required prison time. In addition, there is the loss of gun rights for 10 years after the sentence is completed.
- A fourth or more conviction increases the penalty significantly, with a fine of $5,000 and 10 to 30 years in prison and 3 years must be served. And, as with all domestic battery convictions, there is the loss of gun ownership for 10 years after the sentence and parole is complete.
Prior Domestic Abuse Convictions
It is important to note that prior convictions in other states than Louisiana will be held against the defendant. However, if it has been 10 years since a prior conviction for domestic abuse battery in Louisiana or elsewhere, Louisiana does not consider the charge a second conviction. Louisiana prosecutors will treat the charge as a first conviction since there have been no new convictions for ten years. Any time the defendant has spent in prison does not count towards the 10 year “cleansing period.”
Experienced Legal Help
If you are facing a domestic abuse charge, you need experienced legal representation to prepare a strong defense. Louisiana penalties are harsher for assault and battery on family members or people living in your house. Required prison time, large fines and loss of gun rights can be the result of a conviction. We will use over 25 years of criminal defense and courtroom experience to guide you through the legal process to obtain the best possible result. Call us for a free initial consultation to discuss your defense options at (337) 704-2615. We represent people charged with domestic abuse battery and related charges in Lafayette, Acadiana and all areas of Louisiana.