Your Lafayette Criminal Case: The Basics

Your cousins Misty and Chastity love booze, Cajun eats, and daredevil men. They found all three at the annual Cajun Heartland State Fair. Between the never-ending fountain of dark Jamaican rum, several plates of rockin’ crawfish, and their newly acquired boyfriends, the twins Denny and Daryl, it was a night written in the stars. Or the local newspaper. The dynamic duo of Misty and Chastity ended up in the slammer for several crimes – being drunk in public, theft (a plate of jambalaya), and assault (smashing a beer bottle over the head of a rodeo clown).

The Lafayette Parish Sheriff arrested both of them and now they want you to post bail. Since arrests occur in so many different situations, it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen in a given case. This article provides general information about what to expect if you or someone you know is facing a Lafayette criminal case.

Give Me Some Details About Getting Arrested

It’s pretty simple. The police believe they have probable cause (or have a warrant) to arrest you for either a misdemeanor or a felony. You are put in handcuffs and then read your Miranda rights.

Does this sound like something you’ve seen on television or in the movies? Well, it’s sort of like that, but not as dramatic.

Cops are required to follow a certain set of rules or their actions could jeopardize the Lafayette Parish prosecutor's case against you. You have a certain group of criminal rights such as the right against illegal searches and seizures and right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

Miranda Warnings

One of the most important is your Miranda rights. The police should read them to you if you are being questioned and are under arrest.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.”

One key takeaway is that if you are concerned at all about speaking freely to a police officer, you can request that a Lafayette criminal lawyer be present.

Tell Me about Booking

Police have two options at this point: take you to jail for booking or release you with a promise to appear at a later date. If you’re taken into custody, you’ll likely become a short-term guest at the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center.

Tell Me About Bail

If you are in jail and want to go home, you’ll need to either: 1) be released on your own recognizance; or 2) post bail. Bail is money that you have to pay to the courts in order to be released from jail pending trial. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

Where Can I Go to Bail Someone Out of Jail

Bailing a friend or loved one out of jail is generally fairly straightforward. Go to The Bonding, Fines, and Commissary office located on the 4th Floor of the old Lafayette Parish Government Building. They’re open Monday thru Friday and accept Visa, MasterCard, cash, and money orders. You can post a cash bond, personal surety bond, or commercial bond.

How Long Does the District Attorney Have to Charge Me with A Crime?

Every state has a time limit in which the prosecutor must charge you for a crime or they will be prohibited from doing so forever. This is known as a “statute of limitations.”

In Louisiana, some crimes, such as murder and rape, don’t have a statute of limitations. Most felonies have between a four and six year time limit. Last, but not least, most misdemeanors have a two-year time limit.

Arraignment

Your first appearance will be for your arraignment at the Lafayette Parish courthouse for a felony and the Lafayette City courthouses for misdemeanor and traffic violations.

The judge (that person in a long, flowing robe sitting high atop a bench) will officially read the charges against you and may readjust your bail. You’ll also enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, you will have the option of hiring a Lafayette criminal defense lawyer, representing yourself, or asking for a public defender.

Lafayette Felony: The Serious Crimes

Felony Cases

There’s really no easy way to put this. If you are convicted of a felony, you’re likely facing huge penalties including possible years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for your life outside of prison.

Some Louisiana felonies include murder, robbery, sexual assault, or possession of illegal drugs for sale -- just to name a few. Then there’s alligator theft. Don’t even think of stealing one of those critters. You can get up to ten years in prison!

Louisiana sentencing laws are complicated and depend on a number of factors including nature of the crime and your prior criminal history.

Misdemeanor Cases

A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, but take note, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career, your educational opportunities, and your freedom. If you are a non-citizen, a misdemeanor can even impact your immigration status.

In Louisiana, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is up to one year in jail. Some crimes carry additional penalties such a fine, mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes.

Most misdemeanors carry fixed sentences that depend on the individual crime. Common misdemeanors include petty theft, simple assault, some domestic violence, or criminal trespass.

What about Diversion Programs?

Some people may be eligible for a diversion program that will reduce or eliminate time spent in jail. There are a number of programs available in Louisiana and Lafayette Parish with different eligibility requirements, including one known as S.T.O.P.

A Final Word about Louisiana Criminal Cases

Criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. If the State does not have sufficient evidence to prove that you committed an offense, you may be entitled to a dismissal or a reduction in your charge. Similarly, if the State violated your rights during the investigation or prosecution of your case, a judge may suppress certain evidence, meaning the State can’t use the evidence against you at trial.

However, for information and advice specific to a particular case, it may be a good idea to talk to a Lafayette criminal law attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.