Louisiana law contains criminal provisions that penalize acts of domestic violence, as well as criminal and civil provisions that make court-issued protective orders available to victims of domestic violence. This article will provide a brief overview of Louisiana's assault and battery laws that apply to crimes against family and household members and dating partners.
Louisiana law defines what constitutes domestic violence—what acts and by whom. A person commits domestic abuse by hurting, trying to harm, or threatening a person in their family or household or a dating partner.
Household members include:
Family member means:
Dating partner includes any person who is involved or has been involved in an intimate or sexual relationship. This definition excludes casual relationships.
Domestic abuse aggravated assault occurs when one household or family member assaults another with a dangerous weapon. If the victim and the offender are in an intimate or sexual relationship, the charged crime is aggravated assault of a dating partner.
Assault includes a defendant's attempt to commit a battery or to intentionally place the victim in reasonable apprehension of being harmed. A dangerous weapon can be any object, substance, gas, or liquid the offender uses to cause great bodily harm or death to someone else.
Penalties for these offenses include one to five years' imprisonment with hard labor and a $5,000 fine. If a child age 13 or younger was present at the scene when the crime occurred, the defendant faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison with hard labor.
Louisiana defines domestic abuse battery as one household or family member intentionally using force or violence against another household or family member. Domestic abuse battery carries misdemeanor penalties of up six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Battery of a dating partner is the intentional use of force or violence committed by one dating partner on another one. This offense subjects a guilty defendant to 30 days to 6 months in jail and a fine of $300 to $1,000.
Repeat batterers face increased penalties, including felony penalties for third and subsequent convictions. If the unlawful conduct involves strangulation or a pregnant victim, the defendant can get up to three years in prison with hard labor. Felony penalties also apply if an offender causes serious bodily injuries to a victim, uses a dangerous weapon, or burns the victim—with sentences ranging from 8 to 50 years in prison, depending on the circumstances.
A victim of domestic violence can seek an order prohibiting the abuser from contacting or harming them. Violating a domestic abuse protective order constitutes a criminal offense. If no battery is involved, a first violation carries up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Subsequent violations subject a guilty defendant to 14 days to 2 years of incarceration and a $1,000 fine.
When the violation of the order includes a battery or other crime of violence or the offender takes a gun to the victim's house, residence, or job, the range of penalties increases to three months to two years' incarceration, with or without hard labor, and a $1,000 fine. A repeat offense carries one to five years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
For repeat offenses and violent offenses, a defendant must serve part of the sentence behind bars. A judge may also order the defendant to participate in a domestic abuse intervention program.
Gwen's Law—named after a victim who was killed by her husband while he was out on bail for a domestic violence crime—lays out pretrial release conditions in domestic abuse cases. Among the specified restrictions, the law requires that a defendant arrested on a domestic violence charge must go in front of a judge before being released on bail.
At the bail hearing, the judge considers the defendant's criminal history, threat level, substance abuse needs, past use of force, and any documented applicable past incidences involving the offender and victim (such as police reports). A judge may deny bail if it finds clear and convincing evidence that the defendant might flee or harm someone.
If released on bail, the judge may order the offender to stay away from and not contact the victim, abide by a curfew, maintain sobriety, be subject to electronic monitoring, and participate in treatment.
If you've been arrested for or charged with a crime of domestic abuse, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A conviction for domestic violence can have serious, long-lasting consequences. A lawyer can help you navigate the court system and discuss potential outcomes in your case based on your unique set of circumstances.
(La. Code Crim. Proc. arts. 313, 320; La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:2, 14:33, 14:34.9, 14:34.9.1, 14:35.3, 14:36, 14:37, 14:37.7, 14:79; 46:2136 (2022).)