The Louisiana Senate committee voted to forward a bill that would designate possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony as a “crime of violence.” The proposal—labeled Senate Bill 188—still needs to be approved by the full Senate and the House and signed by the governor to become law.
As it stands, the penalty for possessing a firearm as a felon includes hard labor, parole, imprisonment for between 5–20 years without the benefit of probation, and a fine of no less than $1,000. If passed, the new law would entail even harsher penalties and lengthier prison sentences.
What is a “Crime of Violence” in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, certain crimes are designated as “crimes of violence.” These offenses are not expungeable and a person with a prior conviction for a crime of violence would not be eligible for good-time credit on a second conviction. Crimes of violence, according to Senate Bill 188, are defined as:
“…an offense that has, as an element, the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, and that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense or an offense that involves the possession or use of a dangerous weapon.”
If passed, SB188 would affect a long list of violent crimes, including:
- Human trafficking
- Home invasion
- Domestic violence
With some very limited exceptions, a sentence for a crime of violence cannot be suspended or probated. If you’re an ex-felon who’s been arrested for possessing a firearm, it’s imperative that you have expert representation at all stages of the proceeding to avoid such harsh penalties.
When Owning a Gun is a Crime in Louisiana
Though Louisiana is generally considered a gun-friendly state, there are two main categories of people who cannot legally own a firearm. The first, as discussed, is a person who’s been convicted of certain felony crimes including crimes of violence, sex crimes, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, and felony drug charges.
Under the current law, Louisiana felons can reclaim their firearm ownership rights after their record is expunged if 10 years have passed. Likewise, in very rare instances, instant restoration of firearm ownership occurs following the completion of a felony sentence. Additionally, a governor’s pardon, though rare, can ensure the complete restoration of a felon’s constitutional rights.
Those convicted of domestic abuse battery, even if it’s a misdemeanor, are also barred from legally owning a gun in Louisiana. This restriction also applies for 10 years after the sentence is complete. Those found in violation of this constraint face a prison sentence of one to five years and a fine of between $500 and $1,000.
How to Defend Against Criminal Gun Possession Charges in Louisiana
There are a few possible defense strategies that your lawyer can utilize depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, the state must prove that the gun belonged to you and that you exercised possession and control of it. This means that you knew where the gun was and had access to it. This kind of knowledge can be inferred based on circumstantial evidence. For instance, if the gun was found on your living room table, it can be concluded that you were aware of its presence.
Proving dominion and control is trickier to substantiate and can vary depending on the circumstances of your case. Proximity alone is not enough to convict you. However, if the gun was found inside the confines of your own property, it’s logical to assume that you had both control over and access to it. So, if you own something (a house, a safe, a car, a boat, etc.) you will probably be held responsible for the items within.
The first step after your arrest for any gun charge is to get in touch with a violent crime attorney who can help you produce a concrete defense against your allegations and avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
Get Representation for Weapons Charges in Louisiana
If you’re caught with a firearm and have a felony conviction, consider discussing your options with the experienced criminal defense lawyers at The John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm. Over his 25-year career, Attorney Eric Johnson has pursued hundreds of cases involving the illegal application of firearms and other weapons in Louisiana. He can formulate an iron-clad defense to protect your rights.
Eric is a problem solver who’s committed to thoroughly investigating your case and devising a successful defense strategy. He’ll launch a legal investigation into your case and the circumstances leading up to your arrest in order to present the strongest possible argument in court. To schedule a free consultation, call (318) 377-1555 or complete our online contact form.