Assault in Louisiana is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person—for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object, and missing. Assault also is any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence. Words alone do not constitute an assault, but if an offender threatens to attack or injure another, appears to have the ability to carry out the threat, and causes the victim to reasonably believe that he is about to be struck or injured, the offender has committed an assault. (La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §14:36.)
Battery in Louisiana is the intentional infliction of violence or force against another person, such as punching another person or hitting someone with an object. (La. Rev. Stat. §14:33.)
An assault or battery can be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances and the victim of the crime.
Felony Assaults and Penalties
The following assaults are felonies, and carry the specified punishments:
- assault committed with a motor vehicle against a law enforcement officer: a fine up to $5,000 or one to ten years in prison with or without hard labor, or both (La. Rev. Stat. §14:37.6)
- assault on a school employee by an offender who is not a student: a fine up to $2,000 or one to three years in prison, with or without hard labor, or both (La. Rev. Stat. §14:38.2), and
- assault by adding a harmful or poisonous substance to food, drink, or medicine with the intent to injure the victim: a fine up to $1,000 or two years in prison with or without hard labor, or both. (La. Rev. Stat. §14:38.1.)
The following crimes are felonies, based on the methods used, the status of the victim, or the repeat nature of the offender’s act. Battery with a firearm is explained in a separate article.
Second Degree Battery
Second degree battery is a battery committed with the intent to inflict serious bodily injury. The perpetrator need not have used a weapon or firearm.
Aggravated battery is a battery committed with a dangerous weapon. A dangerous weapon is practically any object or gas, liquid, or substance that is used in a manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm. (La. Rev. Stat. §14:2.) Some objects, such as a firearm or a knife, are dangerous weapons by definition. Other objects, such as a rock or a pipe, are objects that can be used as a weapon and are likely to cause death or serious harm.
Aggravated Second Degree Battery
Aggravated second degree battery is a battery committed with a dangerous weapon and with the intent to inflict serious bodily injury. (La. Rev. Stat. §§14:34.1, 34.7.) Serious bodily injury is any injury involving serious risk of death, unconsciousness, significant physical pain, obvious disfigurement that is more than temporary, or loss or impairment of functioning in a body part, bodily organ or mental capacity that is more than temporary. (La. Rev. Stat. §14:34.1.)
Domestic Abuse Battery
Domestic abuse battery is battery against a household member. A household member includes a person of the opposite sex with whom the offender lives as a spouse or lived with at any time during the five years prior to the offense, a child with whom the offender resides or resided in the five years prior to the offense, and a child of the offender whether the child lives with the offender or elsewhere. Domestic abuse becomes a felony when it is:
- the perpetrator’s third (or greater) domestic abuse battery.
- the perpetrator’s second domestic abuse battery, the victim is pregnant and the offender knows of the pregnancy, or
- a domestic abuse battery that involves strangulation. (La. Rev. Stat. §14-35.3.)
Battery Against Special Victims
Some battery offenses in Louisiana are felonies based on the status of the victim and the circumstances of the offense. Battery against a law enforcement officer, a school employee, a child welfare worker or an adult protective services worker, for instance, is a felony if the offense causes injury to the victim that requires medical attention. (La. Rev. Stat. §§14-34.2, 34.3, 35.1.) Battery against a school employee by someone who is not a student also is a felony. Battery against a correctional facility employee by someone who is in custody is a felony. (La. Rev. Stat. §14-34.5.)
Sexual battery is intentional touching (but not penetration) of the genitals or anus of a victim, or of an offender by a victim, with a body part or instrument, if:
- the victim does not consent to touching the offender or being touched
- the act is consensual but one party is under the age of fifteen, the parties are not married, and the other party is at least three years older
- the victim is seventeen years or more years old but is unable to consent because she or he lacks the mental capacity to understand the act
- the victim is seventeen years or older, does not consent, and is unable to physically resist because of a disability such as paraplegia, or
- the victim does not consent and is sixty-five years or older.
Second Degree Sexual Battery
A sexual battery that involves intentional infliction of serious bodily injury is a second degree sexual battery and subject to more severe penalties than the offense of sexual battery.
Oral Sexual Battery
A sexual battery that involves contact with the anus or genitals by the perpetrator’s mouth or tongue is an oral sexual battery and subject to more severe penalties than the offense of sexual battery.
Penalties for Felony Battery in Louisiana
The penalties for felony battery are specific to the individual offense. They range from one year in prison with or without hard labor for a second offense of domestic abuse battery when the victim is pregnant; to a fine up to $5,000 or up to ten years in prison with or without hard labor, or both, for aggravated battery. The most severe punishments involve 25 to 99 years in prison with hard labor for oral sexual battery or sexual battery against a person 65 years old or older, a child under the age of thirteen (if the offender is seventeen years or older), or a victim who is incapable of consent or unable to physically resist.
In some cases, such as domestic abuse when a child is present or a felony battery offense involving a child victim or other “special” victim, the court may be required to impose a minimum jail sentence and may be prohibited from suspending the jail sentence. This means that the offender will have to serve time in jail without the opportunity for probation. In some sexual battery cases, the offender will be subject to electronic monitoring for the rest of the person’s life.
If an offender commits a felony battery against a victim specifically because of a particular status, such as (but not limited to) the person’s age, race, gender, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, or membership in a particular organization, the offender can be convicted of a hate crime and be sentenced to pay a fine up $5,000 or serve five years in prison with or without hard labor, or both. This sentence must be consecutive to the underlying sentence for the battery, which means it must be served after the first sentence, thereby adding prison time or additional fines to the sentence for the underlying battery. (La. Rev. Stat. §14-107.2.)
Suspended Sentence, Deferred Sentence, and Probation
The court can impose a suspended sentence for felony assault or battery in some cases and place the offender on supervised or unsupervised probation for all or a portion of the sentence. For instance, a judge in a second degree battery case can sentence a defendant to three years in prison and two years’ probation.
A person convicted of felony assault or battery in Louisiana will be required to pay restitution, which means reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling. (La. Crim. Pro. Code, Art. 883.2.)
Pleas and Pre-Trial Options
If you are facing a charge of felony assault or battery in Louisiana, an attorney can investigate the case and determine if you were wrongfully charged or there are other reasons why the case should be dismissed before trial. If the charges are not dismissed, an attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor on your behalf, or prepare a defense and represent you at trial if you believe you have been wrongly accused or if there are no reasonable plea options. Prosecutors often will negotiate and agree to let the defendant plead guilty to a different, less serious crime. Or, the prosecutor may agree to a lighter sentence, such as probation or less time in prison, in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge.
The Value of Good Representation
A conviction for a felony becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. A convicted felon loses the right to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror (for seven years) and carry or own firearms. In certain circumstances, a felony conviction also can result in loss of a professional license. A conviction for a violent felony can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment.
Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will assist you in making decisions about your case and protect your rights.