Assault with a Deadly Weapon in Louisiana

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Assault in Louisiana is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person—for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or to shoot someone with a gun, and missing. Assault also is any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence—such as pointing a gun at someone and threatening to shoot. 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—like the assailant with a gun—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 shooting someone with a gun or other firearm. (La. Rev. Stat. §14:33.)

Assault or battery with a firearm is a felony in Louisiana which carries various penalties, depending on the circumstances, the identity of the victim and whether the offender causes any injury to the victim(s).

Assault with a Firearm in Louisiana

The Louisiana statutes list four specific assault with firearm crimes:

  • aggravated assault with a firearm: discharge of a firearm in the course of an assault, a felony offense punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years, with or without hard labor or both. (La. Rev. Stat. §37.4)
  • assault by drive-by shooting: assault by shooting at a person from a motor vehicle on a public street or highway with the intent to kill, injure or frighten the victim, a felony punishable by one to five years imprisonment, with or without hard labor, which may not be suspended
  • aggravated assault on a police officer with a firearm: assault on a police officer in the course of his duties, either by attempting or threatening to shoot or pointing gun at the officer, is a felony punishable by $5,000 fine or imprisonment for one to ten years, with or without hard labor or both, and
  • aggravated assault: assault with a dangerous weapon, such as threatening to fire at someone  (does not require that a firearm be discharged) but, if the dangerous weapon is a firearm, the offender is subject to special punishment under Louisiana’s firearm sentencing enhancement statute. (La. Code Crim. Pro., Art. 893.3.)

Battery with a Firearm in Louisiana

Aggravated battery in Louisiana is a battery committed with a dangerous weapon. This crime is a felony and, if the dangerous weapon is a firearm, the offender is subject to special punishment under Louisiana’s firearm sentencing enhanced statute. (La. Code Crim. Pro., Art. 893.3.)

Louisiana Firearm Sentencing Enhancement Statute

If an assailant possesses, uses or discharges a firearm in the commission of a felony assault or battery or certain misdemeanors – simple battery, aggravated assault, and domestic abuse battery – Louisiana law requires the court to impose specific enhanced penalties without probation, suspension of sentence or parole, unless the court specifically finds that the sentence would be excessive. The enhancement does not apply to crimes such as assault by drive-by shooting or assault on a police officer with a firearm in which use of a firearm is a part of the definition of the crime.

Mandatory Sentences

Louisiana imposes mandatory minimum sentence in certain situations:

If the defendant had a firearm in his possession while committing a felony or the listed misdemeanors – two years in prison or the maximum sentence for the felony or misdemeanor (if the maximum is less than two years).  If the defendant used a weapon in the commission of the crime – for instance, threatened someone with a gun during an argument – five years in prison or the maximum sentence for the felony or misdemeanor (if the maximum sentence is less than five years). If the defendant discharged the weapon during commission of the crime –ten years in prison or the maximum sentence for the felony or misdemeanor (if the maximum sentence is less than ten years).

If the defendant used or discharged the weapon during commission of the crime and caused bodily injury – fifteen years  in prison or the maximum sentence for the felony or misdemeanor (if the maximum sentence is less than fifteen years).

If the defendant used or discharged the weapon during commission of a second degree sexual battery (see Assault and Battery in Louisiana) –ten years minimum sentence if a firearm was used, or twenty years minimum sentence if a firearm was discharged.

Hate Crimes

If an offender commits a battery with a firearm 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, in addition to the sentence for the crime of battery. (La. Rev. Stat. §14-107.2.)

Probation, Suspended Sentence, and Restitution

The court can impose a suspended sentence for assault or battery crimes in which a firearm is used and place the offender on supervised or unsupervised probation for all or a portion of the sentence, except for mandatory minimum sentences which must be served in their entirety without probation or early release. A judge in an assault by drive-by shooting case, for instance, can sentence a defendant to three years in prison and two years’ probation.

A person on probation must meet regularly with a probation officer and comply with conditions set by the court, such as no further arrests or convictions, attending counseling or performing community service. If a person violates a condition of probation, he can be arrested and required to serve the remainder or a remaining part of his sentence in prison.

Restitution

A person convicted of assault or battery with a firearm 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 assault or battery in Louisiana and the case involves a firearm, an attorney can investigate your 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 less time in prison and probation, in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge.

The Value of Good Representation

A felony conviction 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 cause serious problems 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 take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.

by: , Contributing Author

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