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Louisiana Court Records

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Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions in Louisiana

Like most states, offenses in Louisiana are broken down into felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. The weight and magnitude of the offense and the attached penalty are what differentiates the crimes we call felonies to those that are misdemeanors or infractions. Felonies are the most serious offenses and the carry with it the most severe punishment. Next to it in terms of the weight of punishment is misdemeanors. They are not as weighty as felonies but they do also carry some penalties. Infractions are the least-ranked offenses. They are mostly traffic tickets. The state's criminal courts handle criminal cases, and individuals can request and acquire Louisiana criminal court records from the specific court where the proceedings occurred.

What is a felony in Louisiana?

Title 14, Section 2(4) of the Revised Statutes of Louisiana defined felony as any offense with a recommended penalty that includes the offender sentenced to death or being imprisoned at hard labor. Hard labor in this sentence means spending jail time at the state prison. Any penalty that includes that any of the death penalty or imprisoned at the state prison makes the offense committed a felony. 

For a death sentence to be passed on an offender, the jury must unanimously agree to it in their judgment. If there is no unanimous agreement, the court automatically sentences the offender to life imprisonment. The death penalty has become a rarity in recent times, however. In fact, there have only been 28 executions in Louisiana since 1976 and just 3 since 2000. Pregnant offenders who get the death sentence have their executions suspended till 3 or 4 months after they have given birth before the execution is carried out. 

Louisiana, unlike some other states, does not rank felonies into different classes in order of gravity of offense and severity of punishment. Offenses are individually mentioned in the revised statutes with the recommended penalty included.

What are some examples of felonies in Louisiana?

Some examples of felony offenses in Louisiana include:

  • Murder: For the sake of sentencing, murders in Louisiana can be either first-degree or second-degree.
    • First-degree Murder: Title 14:30 of the revised statutes of Louisiana describes first-degree murder as the killing of another human being when the offender has the specific intent to kill or cause great bodily injury while committing or attempting to commit aggravated kidnapping, first-degree rape, etc. The intent to kill or cause serious bodily to any law enforcement officer in Louisiana or a witness to a crime is also first-degree murder. The recommended punishment for first-degree murder rests on whether the district attorney seeks capital punishment (death penalty) or not. If the death penalty is sought, the offender shall be punished by death or life imprisonment at the state prison without the possibility of parole or probation. If the death penalty is not sought, the recommended punishment is life imprisonment at the state prison for the offender without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. 
    • Second-degree Murder: This is described in Title 14:30.1 of the revised statutes as the killing of another human being when the offender has the intent to kill or inflict serious bodily injury. Deaths arising during the commission of crimes like terrorism, second-degree rape, aggravated arson, and armed robbery even though the offender had no intention to kill or cause bodily injury are also second-degree murder. The statutes recommend a penalty of life imprisonment with hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. 
  • Manslaughter: This is, according to Title 14.31 of the Revised Statutes, murder caused by provocation or sudden rush of blood. The statutes recommend a jail term at the state prison for a period not exceeding 40 years. If the victim killed was under the age of 10, the penalty recommended is a jail term at the state prison for a period that should not be less than 10 years but should also not exceed 40 years, without the benefit of probation or suspension of sentence.
  • Rape: Louisiana also breaks rape down into different degrees to ease sentencing. The different degrees of rape are:
    • First-degree Rape: Title 14.42 of the Revised Statutes includes the rape of a victim that is below the age of 13 or above 65 years old as one of the criteria to judge if a first-degree rape has occurred. The offender being armed with a dangerous weapon and then overcoming the resistance of the victim by threats or actual causing of serious bodily harm are also among the criteria. The statutes recommend a penalty of life imprisonment at the state prison with no possibility of parole, probation, or reduction of sentence. If the victim is below the age of 13, the district attorney is empowered to seek the maximum capital verdict (death penalty). If not sought, the recommended penalty of life imprisonment stands.
    • Second-degree Rape: This is described in Title 14.42.1 as the rape of a victim that was prevented from resisting by acts of force or threat of violence. The rape of a victim that was incapable of resisting by the influence of a narcotic or other dangerous substance that was administered by the offender without the knowledge of the victim is also a second-degree rape. The statutes punish the offense by sentencing the offender to a jail term that should not be less than 5 years and not more than 40 years. The first 2 years should be without the possibility of parole or probation.  
    • Third-degree Rape: Also known as simple rape, it is punishable by a jail term at the state prison for a period that is not more than 25 years. 
  • Kidnapping: The statutes also divides kidnappings into degrees that include:
    • Aggravated Kidnapping: Title 14:44 of the statutes describes aggravated kidnapping as the intentional and forceful seizing or imprisoning of a victim to get the victim to part with anything of value to the offender. The statute goes ahead to recommend a penalty of life imprisonment at the state prison without the benefit of parole or probation.
    • Second-degree Kidnapping: Title 14:44.1 describes second-degree kidnapping as the kidnap of a victim to be used as a shield or a hostage. Getting the victim physically injured or sexually violated will also count as a second-degree kidnapping. The recommended punishment for an offender of a second-degree kidnapping is a punishment for a period that is not less than 5 years and not more than 40 years at the state prison. At least 2 years of the sentence must be without the benefit of parole or probation. 
    • Aggravated Kidnapping of a child: The Revised Statutes in Title 14:44.2 describes this as the unlawful taking, enticing, or removing a child (a person below the age of 13) away from a location by anyone other than a parent, grandparent or legal guardian intentionally. It is recommended that the offender be imprisoned for life at the state prison without the possibility of parole or probation.
    • Simple kidnapping: Title 14:45 defines this as the intentional and forceful seizing and carrying of a person from one place to the other without the person’s consent. It is recommended that the offender be punished with jail time that should not be more than 5 years, a fine that should not be more than $5,000, or both.
  • Arson: Arson is the damaging of buildings and properties by setting them on fire or by the use of explosives. The Revised Statutes list different types of arsons as felonies. They include:
    • Aggravated Arson: Title 14:51 of the Revised Statutes defines this as the intentional damaging of any structure by the use of explosives or setting fire to it with the knowledge that human life might be endangered. The recommended penalty for committing this crime is jail time at the state prison for a period not less than 6 years and not more than 20 years. At least 2 years out of the given sentence must be without the opportunity of parole, parole, or suspension of sentence. A fine that should not be more than $25,000 should also be charged.
    • Injury by arson: As defined in the Statutes, this occurs when a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or any other human being gets serious bodily injury when an offender commits arson. The recommended penalty is the same as that of aggravated arson with a jail term of between 6 and 20 years with a fine that should not be more than $25,000 charged.
    • Simple arson: Title 14:52 of the Revised Statutes describes simple arson as the setting of a property on fire without the consent of the owner. The recommended penalty is dependent on the value of the damaged property. If the damaged property is valued at $500 or more, the offender should be fined for a fee that should not be more than $15,000 and should be imprisoned at the state prison for a period that should not be more than 15 years. For properties with values not up to $500, the recommended penalty is a fine that should not be more than $2,500 or a jail term with or without hard labor for not more than 5 years or both.
  • Armed robbery: The Revised Statutes defines this as the forceful taking of anything of value that belongs to another person while armed with a dangerous weapon. The recommended penalty for committing an armed robbery is a jail term that should not be less than 10 years and not be more than 99 years. This sentence shall be served without the benefit of parole, probation, or sentence reduction. 

Some other examples of crimes that are felonies in Louisiana include treason, third drinking with the influence of alcohol (DWI) conviction, and drug crimes.

Louisiana gives a much harsher penalty for habitual offenders. This is commonly called the three-strikes law. Any offender who gets a second felony conviction will get a minimum of half of the maximum sentence for the first offense as additional punishment. The maximum punishment for a second felony conviction is double the maximum given for the first offense. A third felony conviction will attract an extra punishment of a minimum of 2/3 of the maximum penalty given to a first time offender. The maximum punishment for a third felony conviction is double the minimum conviction given to a first time offender. However, if any of the previous felony convictions include any of violent crimes, sex crimes against a person under the age of 18, drug crimes punishable by 10 or more years in prison, or any crimes punishable by 12 or more years in prison, the offender might get life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

There are also criminal statutes of limitations in Louisiana which prevent the prosecution of some cases after a certain period has passed. For manslaughter, the time given for it to be brought before a court is 6 years. For negligent homicide, it is between 4 and 6 years. For third-degree rape, it is also 6 years. The time limit set for armed robbery is also 6 years. There is no time frame for crimes like murder, first-degree rape, and second-degree rape. It can be tried at any time after the crime has been committed.

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Louisiana?

Yes, some felony records can be expunged from court records in Louisiana. Expungements in Louisiana do not mean a total erasure of those records. It is more like sealing because it is only out of the reach of the public but law enforcement agencies and many licensing bodies still have access to those records.

Those eligible for expungement in Louisiana include those that were found not guilty, those whose convictions were set aside, and those prosecution were dismissed. An offender who was convicted for a felony may also seek expungement 10 years after the completion of the entire sentence charged for the crime. Offenders of crimes seen as violent crimes are not permitted to seek expungements. Offenders of crimes like first-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, rape, arson, kidnapping, armed robbery, terrorism, and other crimes listed in Title 14:2(b) of the Revised Statutes are not permitted to apply for expungement. 

The petitioner for expungement must approach a court in the district the offense originated from. The court will issue a universal form and the fee for expungement costs $550 which is distributed across different agencies. $250 will go to the Louisiana state police, $200 goes to the clerk of the district court, $50 is given to the district attorney of the district where the offense was committed and another $50 will be given to the parish weeks. A background check done within 30 days before filing for expungement must also be submitted alongside the petition for expungement. It may take about 60 days from the date of filing for all agencies to respond to the petition and another 30 to 60 days before a mail of certificate of compliance is sent by the Louisiana state police.

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Louisiana? 

Expungement and sealing records are almost similar in Louisiana. This is because criminal records are not entirely erased when expunged. Rather, they are just hidden from public view and may be accessed by law enforcement agencies and some licensing bodies. An expunged record may even be used as evidence of the prior conviction.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Louisiana?

Unless expunged, a felony stays on the offender’s criminal record forever. Having a felony on a criminal record may deny the offender of so many opportunities. Employment opportunities may become limited, access to some government benefits like housing may also be affected, the right to vote is taking away and parental rights may be revoked. Even an expungement may not be able to restore all the lost privileges. A very rare governor’s pardon will do more than expungement n restoring some of those lost benefits and privileges.

What is a Misdemeanor in Louisiana?

Title 14:2(6) of the Louisiana Revised Statutes defined a misdemeanor as any crime that is not a felony. Since felonies have already been defined as crimes for which the offender may be sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor (state prison), misdemeanors are lesser crimes that do not have these weighty penalties for offenses committed. Their jail terms are usually served at a parish or local jail instead of the state prison while fines charged are usually not more than $1,000. Misdemeanors are not segregated into different classes in Louisiana.

What are some examples of Misdemeanors in Louisiana?

Some examples of misdemeanors include:

  1. A First and second offense of DWI: A first and second offense of driving with the influence of alcohol is a misdemeanor in Louisiana. Title 14:98.1 of the Revised Statutes recommends a punishment of a fine that should not be less than $300 but not more than $1,000 and imprisonment for not less than 6 days and not more than 6 months for a first offense. For a second offense, the Statutes recommend a fine that should not be less than $750 but not more than $1,000 and imprisonment for not less than 30 days but not more than 6 months. 
  2. Assault: A simple assault without a dangerous weapon is a misdemeanor that attracts a penalty of a fine that should not be more than $200, or imprisonment for a period that should not exceed 90 days or both.
  3. Simple possession of marijuana: Title 40:966.C(2) of the Revised Statutes classifies the first and second convictions for the possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor. The penalty for a first conviction for possessing marijuana that weighs above 14 grams is a fine that should not be more than $500, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months or both. Possessing marijuana that weighs below 14 grams will be punished by a fine that should not be more than $300, or imprisonment at the parish jail for not more than 15 days or both. A second conviction will give the offender a punishment of a fine that will not be more than $1,000, or a jail term of not more than 6 months at the parish jail, or both.
  4. Simple criminal damage to property: The damage of property by any means other than fire (where the damage is less than $1,000) without the consent of the owner attracts a punishment of a fine that should not be more than $1,000. Alternatively, a jail term of a period not exceeding 6 months could be given in lieu or both at the same time, as the court sees fit.
  5. Domestic abuse battery (first and second conviction): Title 14:35.3(C) of the Revised Statutes stipulates that a first offender of this offense shall be sentenced to a fine that will not be less than $300 but not more than $1,000. A jail term for a period that should not be less than 30 days nor more than 6 months will also be served by the offender. A second conviction will attract a fine that will range between $750 and $1,000. A jail term for a period between 60 days and 1 year will also be served.

Other examples of misdemeanors include public drunkenness, disturbing the peace, underage drinking, public intoxication, possession of drug paraphernalia, the battery of a law enforcement officer, and cyberbullying.

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Louisiana?

Convictions for misdemeanor offenses can be expunged if certain criteria are met. Article 977 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CCRP) gives some certain conditions for any individual to be eligible for expungement. A person whose conviction was set aside and prosecution was dismissed may file for the arrest record to be expunged. A convicted misdemeanor offender also has the opportunity to file for expungement 5 years after the completion of the entire sentence has been served, or period of parole or probation has elapsed. The district attorney must also verify that there has not been any new felony conviction for the offender during the 5-year waiting period.

Misdemeanor offenders not eligible for expungement include:

  • Those whose convictions were for a sex-related offense
  • Those whose misdemeanor convictions were for domestic abuse battery
  • Those that were convicted for stalking

Can a DUI Be Expunged in Louisiana?

Yes, driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction may be expunged in Louisiana. However, a single individual has the opportunity to only expunge one DWI record within any 10-year period. Louisiana laws also present first time offenders of DWI with another way of expunging their record through Article 894 of the CCRP. This article grants the court to sentence the offender to a deferred sentence with probation. This means the offender may not serve the sentence provided the terms of the probation are strictly adhered to. 2 years after the completion of the probation, the offender may file for the expungement of the record.

What constitutes an Infraction in Louisiana?

Infractions are very minor offenses (mostly traffic offenses) which do not usually lead to jail time. As little as they are, infractions also have consequences as they may stay on the offender’s driving record for a long time which might lead to the suspension of the offender’s driving license or increase in the premium paid on insurance. Most infractions are resolved by the payment of the fine on the ticket given to the offender. If the offender is claiming not guilty, the ticket can be fought through a contested hearing at a county court in the county the offense is alleged to have occurred. Infractions may be moving or non-moving depending on the effects it will have on the offender’s driving record. They both occur when a vehicle is on the move but moving violations have more effect on the offender’s driving record. Failure to obey a traffic light and over-speeding are examples of moving violations. Driving while talking on a mobile phone and driving without a seatbelt are examples of non-moving violations.

What are some examples of Infractions in Louisiana?

Examples of some common infractions in Louisiana include:

  • Failure to use a child restraint
  • Failure to wear seatbelts
  • Failure to obey traffic signs
  • Improper U-turns
  • Improper lane usage
  • Driving against traffic
  • Failure to yield
  • Failure to obey police signal
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • No driver’s license
  • No proof of insurance
  • Over-speeding
  • Expired license
  • No inspection sticker

Can Infractions be Expunged from a Louisiana Criminal Court Record?

Traffic infractions may be expunged from an offender’s criminal record in Louisiana by participating in some court-ordered programs. After the payment of the fine, an extra fee for the applicable driving program will be paid by the offender before being considered for the program. The offender will also submit a written request along with the payment to the relevant court. Article 892.1 of the CCRP requires the offender to have an affidavit attesting to comply with the conditions set by the court. it is also required for the offender not to have any previous moving violation on record. The court may then order some driving improvement training to be undertaken by the offender. 90 days after the completion of the program and presentation of the certificate received, the court may set aside the conviction and dismiss the prosecution.

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