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LOUISIANA’S 2017 CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM PACKAGE

Louisiana holds the unfortunate title of having the highest incarceration rate per capita in the world.¹  Being the number one incarcerator takes a toll on the state’s resources; Louisiana spent $625 million on adult corrections in 2017.²  With the hope of shedding that ranking and its associated costs, the Louisiana legislature passed a sweeping criminal justice reform package, which Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law.  The amended criminal laws aim to decrease our prison population and government spending, primarily by:

  • Reducing sentences and probationary periods for certain crimes
  • Easing eligibility requirements for drug court, reentry programs, probation, or suspension of sentence
  • Reducing sentencing enhancements for habitual offenders
  • Changing the calculation of “good time” credit for prisoners

Sentencing Guidelines

The justice reform package changed the sentencing guidelines for many non-violent felonies.³  Several of the maximum sentences were reduced and some mandatory minimum sentences were eliminated.  A few examples:

  • The mandatory minimum sentence for “Felon in possession of a firearm” was reduced from 10 years to 5 years.
  • “Money laundering” more than $100,000 was reduced from a 5 – 99 year sentence to 2 – 50 years.
  • The maximum sentence for “Unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” was reduced from 10 years to 2 years.
  • Simple arson no longer has a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years, with a new sentencing range of 0 – 15 years.

Louisiana’s “Theft” statute bases the severity of punishment on the value of the property stolen. The new law adjusted the dollar value ranges, making some of the penalties more lenient.⁸  For example, a theft under $750 formerly resulted in a zero to six month sentence (misdemeanor) and anything more than that amount was a felony.  Now, the misdemeanor/theft threshold has been raised to $1,000.  Other similar statutes that use this dollar amount threshold followed the same pattern: issuing worthless checks, residential contractor fraud10, access device fraud11, and organized retail theft12, to name a few.

Probation, “Good Time,” and Parole

The changes to the criminal code expanded the ability of judges to suspend a sentence for certain crimes, placing the defendant on probation rather than in prison.13  Defendants charged with drug-related crimes are now eligible for substance abuse probation programs.  Also, entry into the drug division probation program was expanded to permit defendants charged with a crime of violence, as long as the crime was not against a family member or dating partner and does not carry a maximum sentence over 10 years.

Inmates will now earn “good time” more easily, which is a way for them to earn credit toward an earlier release from prison.  For non-violent and non-sex offenses, the new changes increase “good time” to a rate of 13 days for every 7 served, or an extra 130 days annually shaved off their sentence.  Certain inmates can reduce their prison time by participating in educational programs, drug programs, and work programs.

The new law changes the time the defendant must serve prior to becoming eligible for parole. Now, for non-violent crimes and non-sex offense crimes, defendants are parole eligible once 25 percent of their sentence has been served, including those sentenced as a non violent habitual offender.  Upon a first conviction for a crime of violence, a defendant with no prior sex crime convictions will be eligible for parole once 65 percent of the sentence is served.

Sentencing Enhancements for Habitual Offenders

Due to Louisiana’s habitual offender statute, a defendant convicted of a felony can receive a significantly enhanced sentence if they have a prior felony conviction.  Those enhancements are no longer quite as harsh.14  The mandatory minimum sentences have been reduced.  Also, for certain felonies, the “cleansing period” has been shortened from 10 years to 5 years.  The “cleansing period” means that after a certain amount of time has passed, prosecutors can no longer use a defendant’s previous convictions against him.

Conclusion

This article is merely a brief overview of what Louisiana’s criminal justice reform package entails.  The changes made to our criminal statutes were vast, but also highly specific depending on the crime. The date when certain aspects begin to take effect and to whom they apply will also vary person to person.  If you believe these changes may affect the charges you or a loved one face, or if they may affect your sentence or probation, do not hesitate to contact the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm.  As former federal prosecutors, these experienced attorneys understand the nuances of the changes to our criminal law and will provide you with a tailored analysis of your situation.

 


[1] http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/05/louisiana_incarceration_rate.html

[2] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/mar/16/louisiana-has-the-highest-incarceration-rate-in-th/

[3] Act 281/S.B. 220, 2017 Regular Session – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1051860

[4] (La. R.S. 14:95.1) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78740

[5] (La. R.S. 14:230) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78382

[6] (La. R.S. 14:68.4) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78631

[7] (La. R.S. 14:52) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78556

[8] (La. R.S. 14:67) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78605

[9]  (La. R.S. 14:71) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78645

[10] (La. R.S. 14:202.1) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=508538

[11] (La. R.S. 14:70.4) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78642

[12] (La. R.S. 14:67.25) – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=451833

[13] Act 280/S.B. 139, 2017 Regular Session – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1051859

[14] Act 282/S.B. 221, 2017 Regular Session – http://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=1051861

 


Partial fault in catastrophic accidents

You may still be able to recover partial compensation for your pain and suffering if you were found to be partially at fault for the accident. Since Louisiana determines liability under a pure comparative system, you may recover compensation from any other party that was found to be responsible for the accident; however, the amount of compensation you will be able to recover will be reduced by the amount of responsibility a judge determines you to share for the accident. In more practical terms, you would only be able to recover 60% of the total damages awarded for your claim if you were found to be 40% responsible for the accident.

If you or a loved one was injured in a catastrophic accident, you should consult with a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney at the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm about the amount of compensation you may be able to recover for your pain and suffering, even if you were found to be partially at fault for the accident. To speak with a personal injury attorney in Baton Rouge about the particulars of your accident, please call our offices at (225) 650-7400 today.


Determining negligence in cases involving catastrophic injury

The financial burdens that often come to be associated with catastrophic accidents can quickly become overwhelming for victims and their families. While it may be possible for victims to recover compensation from the party responsible for the accident, these claims can hinge upon the victim’s ability to establish that some negligent action or inaction caused the accident itself. Bearing that in mind, it will be necessary to establish that the following basic aspects were true of the party believed to be responsible for the accident:

  • That the party had some duty to fulfill —for instance, not to drive while under the influence;
  • That this duty was disregarded—for instance, he or she drove while drunk;
  • That this breach of duty actually led to the accident—for instance, the wreck was caused by impairment;
  • That the accident should have been an obvious consequence of breaching this duty—for instance, it would be obvious that impairment could cause an accident; and
  • That this breach of duty resulted in actual harm—for instance, you or a loved one was hurt by a drunk driver.

If you believe that your catastrophic injury was the result of another’s negligence, you should consult with a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney at the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm about what legal action may now be available to you and your family. To speak with a Baton Rouge personal injury attorney about the particulars of your circumstances, please call our Baton Rouge offices at (225) 650-7400 today.


Father of seven dies after Baton Rouge shooting

Kendrick Ross, a 37-year-old resident of Baton Rouge, was found in his vehicle with a gunshot wound to his head last Saturday, September 19. He died at the hospital next morning.

According to Baton Rouge police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely, Ross was shot at around 5:45 p.m. at the 9400 block of Avis Avenue. The case is still under investigation and the motive and suspect remain unknown.

Ross’ widow, Kristin, said that she has no idea as to why her husband was shot dead. Kristin remembered the last time she talked to Ross. He said to her, “I’ll be home before it gets dark.” The widow also said that everything they did together revolved around their children. “Me and him had finally said we were gonna do something by ourselves, so we were gonna go on a cruise in three weeks,” she later said.

The personal injury lawyers at Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm send their deepest condolences to Kendrick Ross’ family and friends.

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