Louisiana law contains criminal provisions that outlaw domestic violence, and civil provisions that make court-issued protective orders available to victims of domestic violence. The crime of domestic abuse battery carries potential jail time and fines, and violations of domestic violence protective orders may be punished by both civil contempt and criminal penalties.
Domestic Abuse Battery
Louisiana defines domestic abuse battery as one household member intentionally using force or violence against another household member.
A household member is:
- any person of the opposite sex living with the defendant as a spouse, regardless of whether they are actually married
- any person of the opposite sex who resided with the defendant as a spouse within five years of the domestic abuse battery, regardless of whether they were actually married
- any child who currently lives with the defendant or has lived with the defendant within the five years preceding the domestic abuse battery, and
- any child of the defendant, regardless of where the child resides.
A defendant convicted of domestic abuse battery faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A portion of any jail sentence may be suspended if the defendant performs community service and participates in a domestic abuse prevention program. Repeat domestic abuse batterers face increased penalties. If the offense involves strangulation, the defendant may be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14: 1- 35.3)
Law Enforcement Duties
Louisiana law also places duties on law enforcement officers who investigate domestic abuse allegations. When an officer has reason to believe the domestic abuse has occurred, the law requires that the officer take action under certain circumstances. If the officer believes that a felony has been committed, the officer must arrest the suspect, regardless of whether the offense occurred in the officer’s presence. The officer is not required to have an arrest warrant.
If the officer has reason to believe that the suspect committed a misdemeanor that endangers the victim’s physical safety, the officer must arrest the suspect; however, if there is no impending danger to the victim, the decision of whether to arrest the suspect is in the officer’s discretion.
The law also requires officers to help the victim obtain medical treatment.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 46:2140)
Protective Orders & Domestic Abuse
In Louisiana, a victim of domestic abuse may file a petition in court requesting that a judge grant the victim a protective order. Domestic abuse occurs where a person commits against a family or household member physical or sexual abuse or any offense against the person recognized by Louisiana’s Criminal Code (with the exception of negligent injury and defamation). “Family members” is defined as current spouses, former spouses, parents and children, stepparents, stepchildren, foster parents, and foster children. “Household members” refers to any person of the opposite sex currently or formerly living with the defendant as a spouse, regardless of whether they are married. The protective order provisions also apply where a parent or grandparent are being abused by an adult child, adult foster child, or adult grandchild. Louisiana’s Protection From Dating Violence Act expands the protective order system to include victims who are dating partners of their abuser.
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 46:2132, 46:2151)
Temporary Protective Orders
The court may grant a temporary restraining order where the petitioner shows that there is immediate danger of abuse. The defendant is not required to be notified that the petitioner is seeking a temporary protective order.
Temporary restraining orders may include provisions that:
- prohibit the defendant from abusing or harassing the petitioner or the petitioner’s children or interfering with the petitioner’s employment
- grant exclusive use of the home to the petitioner where the home is jointly owned, solely owned by the petitioner, or leased by the defendant where the defendant has the duty to support the petitioner
- awarding use and possession of jointly owned or jointly leased property, such as a vehicle, to either the petitioner or defendant
- prohibiting either party from transferring or disposing of jointly owned or leased property
- awarding or returning all separate and personal property of the petitioner to the petitioner and prohibiting the defendant from transferring or disposing of such property
- granting temporary child custody to either party, and
- granting exclusive possession of a pet to the petitioner.
If the judge grants the temporary protective order, a hearing is scheduled to be held within 21 days, and the defendant must be notified of both the temporary order and the upcoming hearing.
Where a temporary protective order is not issued, a hearing is scheduled at the earliest possible date, and the defendant is notified of the hearing.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 46:2135)
Final Protective Orders
After conducting a hearing where the defendant has been properly notified and given the opportunity to participate, the court may enter a final protective order to bring about an end of violence against the petitioner, a minor child, or an incompetent adult.
The order may contain the same provisions that are authorized by § 46:2135, the statute governing temporary protective orders. Additionally, the order may contain any of the following terms:
- requiring the defendant to provide temporary support or housing
- establishing temporary child custody or visitation rights, and
- ordering the defendant or the abuse victim, or both, to be evaluated by a domestic abuse expert.
If the court orders a domestic abuse evaluation, it may also order that the evaluated person receive counseling or other medical treatment. A final protective order can last no longer than 18 months, but the court can extend the order after holding a new hearing.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 46:2136)
Violating a Protective Order
A person who violates a protective order may be held in contempt of court, charged with the crime of violating a protective order, or both. A person found in contempt of court may be punished by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
A person who willfully disobeys a temporary or permanent protective order or ex parte protective order commits the crime of violation of a protective order. If the violation does not involve the commission of a battery against the person protected by the order, the offender may be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail and a $500 fine.
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:79, 46:2137)
Consult An Attorney
If you are accused of domestic abuse, you should consult with an attorney. The crime of domestic abuse battery carries serious penalties. Allegations of domestic abuse can also result in a court issuing a protective order against you, which can have far-reaching effects in your life. An attorney will provide important guidance throughout the judicial process while ensuring that your rights are safeguarded.