Your Baton Rouge Criminal Case: The Basics

You've been dreading this phone call. It's 2:00 a.m. and your phone rings. Your grandson is crying and you can't understand a word of what he saying. Something about a "fight" and getting arrested after hanging out with some friends he met at Baton Rouge Community College. You don't even know where to begin. You think he's being held at the East Baton Rouge Parish Jail, but you aren't really sure.

Since arrests occur in so many different situations, it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen. This article provides general information about what to expect in most Baton Rouge criminal cases.

The Cops

If you've been arrested, you'll have contact with the Baton Rouge Police Department, the Louisiana State Police, or the East Baton Rouge Sheriff.

There are several rules that the police must follow. If they neglect to follow these rules, it could jeopardize the state's case against you.

You should be read your Miranda rights. You've heard the words. "You have the right to remain silent." Then, the police have two options: take you to jail for booking or release you with a promise to appear at a later date.

Tell Me About Bail

If you want to go home, you'll either be released on your own recognizance or have to post bail or a bond. Bail is a form of security. It is an amount of money that you or a person bailing you out of jail promises to pay the court in case you fail to appear on any date set by the court. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

If you are in custody, you'll be brought before a judge within 72 hours (not counting weekends or holidays) of your arrest to be advised of your rights and for the setting of bail.

Anyone can post bail. You. Generous friends or relatives, or a commercial bail bonding company may post bail.

Do I Need A Lawyer?

The Louisiana criminal justice system is an intimidating place, particularly if this is your first time in one. Court proceedings aren't like what you see on television or in the movies. They can be very complicated and often times mind-numbing. If that's hard to believe, just spend an afternoon at any one of the Baton Rouge courthouses. However, before making any major decisions about your case, you may want to at least consider speaking to a private attorney or a Baton Rouge public defender.

Time Limit

The prosecutor has a limited amount of time to charge you with a crime. If he or she doesn't do it, they will be barred forever. This is known as a "statute of limitations."

Want to read them for yourself? Check out Articles 571 and 572 of Louisiana's Code of Criminal Procedure.

For felonies that are punishable by death or by life in prison, there is no limitation.

There is a statute of limitations of ten years for the following felonies: forcible rape, aggravated sexual battery, carnal knowledge, molestation of a juvenile, indecent behavior, or crimes involving a victim who is under the age of seventeen years.

Felonies that are punishable by hard labor have a limitation of six years, while felonies that are not punishable by labor have a limitation of four years.

Misdemeanors punishable by a fine, or imprisonment, or both have a limitations period of 2 years. Misdemeanors punishable by a fine only have a limit of 6 months.

Criminal Charges

The next step depends on whether you are accused of committing a misdemeanor or felony.

Misdemeanors

Misdemeanors in Baton Rouge are less serious than felonies, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career and your freedom. If you are a non-citizen, a misdemeanor can impact your immigration status.

Common Baton Rouge misdemeanors include driving under the influence (DUI),
public intoxication, petty theft, assault, resisting arrest, hit-and-run, and some domestic violence.

Punishment includes up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1000. Some crimes carry additional penalties such mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes.

Felony Cases

Felonies are very serious. They carry huge penalties including years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life. You can lose some of your rights such as the right to carry a gun. You can also lose the right to vote, or the right to join the military.

Baton Rouge felonies include murder, robbery, sexual assault, fraud, drugs sales, or aggravated assault.

If you are convicted of a felony crime, then you are subject to a fee of one thousand dollars or more and/or a minimum of one year in jail.

Penalties in Louisiana are very severe and are determined based on guidelines for each specific category of crime. Some crimes have more harsh penalties than others.

In addition to a prison sentence, those convicted of felony crimes may also face fines, probation, hard labor, and possibly the death penalty. Here are some options the judge has when sentencing you for a Baton Rouge felony:

  • Life Imprisonment (with or without possibility of parole)
  • Death Penalty
  • Probation
  • Hard Labor (while imprisoned)
  • Fines
  • Community Service

Baton Rouge Criminal Trial

If you go to trial, the prosecution must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You have the right to a jury trial where twelve randomly selected members of the community decide your guilt or innocence. Both the prosecutor and defense will present evidence. Remember, you can't be compelled to testify. If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will sentence you.

The Bottom Line

Baton Rouge criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. Anyone charged with an offense may want to at least consider consulting a Baton Rouge criminal law attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.