Louisiana's assault laws cover acts of attempted battery or that threaten impending violence. Assault starts as a misdemeanor but quickly escalates to a felony offense when the risk of harm increases or the defendant targets specific victims. Read on to learn how Louisiana defines and punishes assault crimes.
Assault in Louisiana is an attempt to cause physical injury (a battery) to another person—for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object and missing. Assault can also be any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence.
Words alone generally don't 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 fear being struck or injured, the offender has committed an assault.
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:36 (2022).)
Simple assault is an assault that is committed without a dangerous weapon. Aggravated assault is an assault committed with a dangerous weapon. The law defines a "dangerous weapon" as any object, substance, gas, or liquid used to cause great bodily harm or death to another. A dangerous weapon can be a knife, brass knuckles, or an unloaded firearm. But it can also be an everyday object or substance that can cause great bodily harm by the manner in which it's used, such as a piece of wood, a corrosive cleaning agent, or a lamp.
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:2, 14:37, 14:38 (2022).)
Assault starts off as a misdemeanor offense. Increased penalties apply if the person commits an assault against a protected class of victims.
A person convicted of an assault in Louisiana faces the following possible misdemeanor penalties:
(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:38, La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 894 (2022).)
The court can impose more jail time if a person commits an assault on any of the following victims. The defendant must have reason to know the person's occupation and that they are acting in their professional capacity.
Child welfare worker. A defendant who assaults a child welfare worker faces 15 to 90 days of jail time, plus a $500 fine.
School teacher or employee. Assaulting school teachers or employees also carries stiffer penalties. These protected victims include teachers and faculty, bus drivers, school board members, administrative staff, food services workers, and other employees of public and private K-12 schools, colleges, universities, vocational schools, and other educational institutions. When a student commits an assault, the penalties include 30 to 180 days of jail time and $2,000 in fines. Other defendants face felony penalties of one to three years' incarceration.
Health care workers. A person who assaults a health care professional or emergency room or services personnel may be sentenced to 30 to 180 days in jail, plus a $1,000 fine.
Use of laser on police officer. Anyone who intentionally projects a laser on or at a police officer to cause the officer fear of being injured faces 180 days of jail time, plus a $500 fine.
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:37.3, 14:38.2, 14:38.3, 14:38.5 (2022).)
Aggravated assault also starts as a misdemeanor. Similar to simple assault crimes, the penalties increase based on the victim involved. In addition, assault with a firearm bumps up the severity of the crime. Below are the penalties for aggravated assault crimes.
The penalty for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a $1,000 fine (a misdemeanor). A mandatory sentence of 120 days of jail time applies if the person commits an aggravated assault against a store employee in order to steal goods.
Louisiana makes it a felony to commit an aggravated assault upon a dating partner or family or household member. These crimes carry one to five years of prison time and a $5,000 fine. If committed in the presence of a child 13 or younger, a judge must impose a mandatory minimum sentence of two years' incarceration without the possibility of probation, parole, or a suspended sentence.
A person who commits an aggravated assault against a police officer faces a felony and one to 10 years in prison, plus a fine of up to $5,000. The state recognizes a separate crime of aggravated assault with a vehicle against an officer with the same felony penalties.
Committing aggravated assault with a firearm (rather than another dangerous weapon) can mean up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. It doesn't matter if the firearm is loaded or unloaded.
A defendant who discharges a firearm from a motor vehicle on a public street or highway with the intent to kill, harm, or frighten another commits the offense of assault by drive-by shooting. This offense carries a minimum one-year sentence and up to five years in prison, without the possibility of probation.
(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:37, 14:37.1, 14:37.2, 14:37.4, 14:37.5, 14:37.6, 14:37.7; La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 893.3 (2022).)
The sentencing options for assault crimes often depend on the circumstances of the offense and the defendant's criminal history of similar crimes. If a victim suffered any monetary losses as a result of the crime (such as counseling expenses), the judge can order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim.
For many first-time offenders, a judge may suspend the sentence and place the offender on supervised or unsupervised probation for all or part of it. The maximum period of probation for misdemeanor assault is two years. Other options for misdemeanor and some felony cases include deferred sentencing, home confinement, and community service in lieu of incarceration.
Judges may be more restricted in felony assault cases. For instance, Louisiana law places certain restrictions on allowing probation when sentencing felonies that are designated as "crimes of violence." A crime of violence is any offense that may be committed by threatened use of force and involves a substantial risk of physical force occurring. Aggravated assault with a firearm and assault by drive-by shooting are always considered crimes of violence. Other assault crimes may be designated as such.
Mandatory minimum sentences apply if a defendant commits a felony assault or misdemeanor aggravated assault while possessing or by using or discharging the firearm. The mandatory minimum sentence for actually possessing a firearm during the offense is two years of prison time. Use of a firearm carries a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, while discharge of the firearm results in a 10-year minimum. Unless prohibited, a judge may choose to waive the mandatory sentence if the judge finds it excessive.
Several of the sentencing provisions for assault crimes include mandatory minimum sentences. The law prohibits judges from waiving mandatory minimums for aggravated assault, assault by drive-by shooting, and aggravated assault with a firearm.
A person convicted of a second or subsequent felony could fall subject to Louisiana's habitual felony offender laws. Under these laws, a judge must impose minimum sentences that are not eligible for probation or parole. Some offenders will face enhanced penalties that can double or triple the underlying sentence or subject them to a life sentence, depending on the number and type of past felonies (such as crimes of violence or sex crimes).
(La. Rev. Stat. § 15:529.1; La. Code Crim. Proc. arts. 883.2, 890.1, 893, 893.3, 893.5, 894, 894.2 (2022).)
If you're facing charges of assault in Louisiana, contact a local criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help explain the charges against you, the possible sentences, and other ramifications of having a criminal record for assault.