All criminal charges are classified as an infraction, felony, or misdemeanor. While infractions are the least severe, both misdemeanor and felony charges face penalties such as steep fines, incarceration, probation, and more. The penalties for a charge are largely dependent on the circumstances surrounding the case. In the state of Louisiana, how individuals have been sentenced if they get convicted has remained the same for many years. However, following the 2017 legislative session, several historic changes came about for the criminal justice system. At the conclusion of the session, significant changes were made to Louisiana’s sentencing laws, particularly for convicted felons and repeat offenders.
Let’s take a look.
Sentencing Changes for Repeat and Violent Offenders
Some of the most severe penalties in Louisiana are for repeat and violent offenders. People charged with offenses at this level often see time in jail as well as thousands of dollars in fines. Here’s how recent sentencing changes will affect those charges in the future.
Repeat offenders: As of these changes, defendants convicted of a third felony may anticipate shortened or suspended sentences. Judges can now reduce the sentences prescribed by law for certain offenses. This change won’t affect violent criminals, those convicted of some fraud crimes, and child pornography.
First-time violent offenders: May see reduced sentences. Judges may now reconsider and shorten or suspend the sentences of first-time criminals whose offenses would typically carry a prison sentence of ten or fewer years.
Repeat DUI/ DWI offenders: With the District Attorney’s approval, a repeat DUI/ DWI offender who has had up to a fourth DUI/ DWI conviction may have the option of receiving alcohol rehabilitation rather than a prison sentence. This is only available to those offenders who were not provided the option of treatment in their previous DUI/ DWI cases.
Repeat felons: With the District Attorney’s permission, those offenders with three or four felony convictions may receive mental health counseling, drug rehabilitation, or the option of completing drug treatment in place of prison. These options will be accompanied by eight years of probation.
Overhaul of Louisiana’s Mandatory Minimum Laws
Momentous changes are in store for defendants up against mandatory minimum sentences. Since the amendments were implemented, we can expect the following to take place:
- Eliminated mandatory minimums for convictions of arson, spreading false information about arson, home invasion, theft, felony prostitution, and the possession of 2 grams or fewer of many illicit substances.
- Some mandatory minimums to include parole. A convict who is serving time for a crime like a burglary, which will continue to carry a prison term of one year, may be eligible for parole within that year.
The maximum prison sentence will also be reduced for several nonviolent offenses, including:
- Stealing from a retail shop
- Money laundering
- Taking a vehicle without the owner’s permission as a felon
- Possessing marijuana and several other illegal drugs
Additional mandatory minimum sentences will be introduced to tackle the possession of opioids. As of August 1, there is a mandatory minimum prison term of one year for illegally possessing opioids and other prescription medications.
Habitual Offender Changes
Under the old law, prosecutors could obtain extended prison terms for those with a prior felony conviction on their records. Their authority has been reduced since November 1.
- New convictions for nonviolent offenses will not subject defendants with prior convictions to life sentences.
- Repeat offenders will face shorter mandatory minimums.
- The amount of time that passes between an old felony conviction and the current conviction to prompt the habitual offender statute will be lowered.
Changes in these laws will not affect those who are already in prison for repeat offenses.
Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You
Being charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Louisiana is not something to take lightly. Furthermore, the laws surrounding criminal offenses and sentencing in Louisiana are constantly in flux. Any time you face charges, it’s extremely important to obtain a trustworthy and competent criminal defense lawyer like Eric G. Johnson immediately.
At The Eric G. Johnson Law Firm, we have decades of experience providing competent criminal defense. All of our knowledgeable attorneys work hard to stay abreast of the latest laws and changes to our laws in the state of Louisiana. If you’re in need of a criminal defense attorney, call us at 318-377-1555 or reach out to us online for a free consultation. We’re eager to help you with your case and get you back on your feet.