Understanding Misdemeanors and Felonies Under Louisiana Law

Sep 15, 2023 by Lacie Dauzat

Understanding Misdemeanors and Felonies Under Louisiana Law
When it comes to criminal law, misdemeanors and felonies are the two main catergories of criminal charges. In Louisiana, both misdemeanors and felonies have a significant impact on one's life, from financial penalties to possible jail time. Understanding the differences between a misdeanor and a felony can help one prepare for defending against such charges, should the need arise. In this blog, we will go over the difference between misdemeanors and felonies in Louisiana. 

Misdemeanors are considered to be less serious crimes and are punishable by fines, community service, or a maximum of 6 months in jail. Misdemeanor offense sentences are often served on probation, i.e., where a sentence is suspended by a Judge and the individual is permitted to remain free while under the supervision of the court.  If a sentence of incarceration is required, the individual will be confined in the local parish jail. Examples of misdemeanors include minor traffic violations, theft, Simple Battery, Disturbing the Peace, Criminal Mischief, and Simple Assault. Although they may appear to be traffic offenses, an individual charged with a DWI is charged as a criminal misdemeanor offense.

Felonies are considered more serious crimes and carry much steeper penalties. Louisiana's criminal laws define a felony as any crime for which an offender may be sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor. These may include any crime that carries a possible sentence of more than one year in prison. In Louisiana, there are certain felonies that can be divided into different categories, such as capital, first degree, second degree, and third degree. Under Louisiana's criminal code, certain felonies may be punishable with or without "hard labor." Hard labor means serving extensive time with Louisiana's Department of Corrections ("DOC"). A DOC sentence is often served within one of Louisiana's state prisons, such as the Louisiana State Penitentiary (often referred to as "Angola"), the Dixon Correctional Institute ("DCI"), or Elayn Hunt Correctional Center ("Hunt"). Some individuals may remain in the custody of DOC but might serve out their hard labor sentence at a local parish facility. Although these parish facilities are often referred to as "parish prisons," they are akin to a county jail.
Criminal Record Consequences
Another major difference between misdemeanors and felonies is their consequences on one's criminal record. A person convicted of a misdemeanor may have their record expunged after a period has passed without further convictions, and they have paid all fines and completed all community service sentences. Certain felony convictions may also be expunged; however, eligible felony convictions require an individual to wait much longer than someone convicted of a misdemeanor. This can make it significantly harder for convicted individuals to obtain employment, housing, and loans. Some individuals convicted of a criminal offense may request that the Court sentence them under a Louisiana statute which would permit them to pursue an expungement immediately upon completion of their sentence rather than having to wait for the statutorily required waiting periods.

Obtaining favorable outcomes requires the assistance and counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney such as our team at Rozas and Associates. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case at (225) 478-1111.

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