Louisiana Misdemeanor Crimes and Sentences

Learn which crimes are treated as misdemeanors in Louisiana, and how they're punished.

By , Legal Editor
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated October 19, 2023

Under Louisiana law, a misdemeanor is any crime that doesn't come under the definition of a felony in Louisiana—namely, any crime that may be punished by imprisonment "at hard labor," which means serving a sentence in state prison rather than parish jail.

How Louisiana Classifies Misdemeanors

Most states divide misdemeanors into different classes or categories, based on the severity of the crimes, with a sentence or range of sentences for each category. Louisiana does things differently. Its criminal laws separately spell out the punishment for individual crimes. The crime is considered a misdemeanor if the punishment does not include the option of time in state prison.

In the few cases where a statute doesn't specify the punishment, the maximum sentence is a $1,000 fine and two years of incarceration.

(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:2, 15:303 (2023).)

Misdemeanor Crimes and Penalties in Louisiana

The most common penalty for a misdemeanor crime in Louisiana is a maximum six-month parish jail sentence. Here are some examples of misdemeanor crimes and their penalties.

  • Assault carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $200 fine.
  • Cyberbullying is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Defacing property with graffiti (damage less than $500) is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.
  • Disturbing the peace is generally punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine.
  • Domestic battery carries a punishment of 30 days to six months in jail and a fine of $300 to $1,000.
  • Petty theft or auto theft when the stolen property is worth less than $1,000 carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
  • Violating a protective order (a first nonviolent offense) is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

Several misdemeanors (including some of the ones mentioned above) become felonies under certain circumstances, such as when the defendant has a certain number of previous convictions.

(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:35.3, 14:38, 14:40.7, 14:56.4, 14:67, 14:67.26, 14:79, 14:103 (2023).)

Enhanced Penalties for Misdemeanors in Louisiana

Louisiana law imposes harsher penalties for certain misdemeanors involving firearms, misdemeanors targeting certain individuals, or when a person has prior convictions for the same offense.

Misdemeanor Hate Crimes

Committing a hate crime can result in a separate conviction and an additional sentence. A person commits a hate crime by committing an offense because of:

  • a victim's actual or perceived race, age, gender, religion, color, sexual orientation, or disability, or
  • a victim's employment as a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical services personnel.

If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor listed in the hate crime statute, the person faces an additional six-month jail sentence and a $500 fine.

(La. Rev. Stat. § 14:107.2 (2023).)

Misdemeanors Targeting Protected Victims

Several misdemeanors increase to a felony or carry increased penalties when committed against a protected victim. For instance:

  • Misdemeanor aggravated assault becomes a felony if the person commits the crime against a household or family member, peace officer, or utility service employee.
  • Misdemeanor simple battery carries increased penalties when the victim is a school teacher, bus operator, police officer, emergency health worker, or health care professional.
  • Stalking increases from a misdemeanor to a felony when the victim is a minor.

(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:34.2, 14:34.3, 14:34.5.1, 14:34.8, 14:35, 14:38.2, 14:38.5, 14:40.2 (2023).)

Repeat Misdemeanors Enhanced to Felonies

A number of misdemeanors carry felony penalties for a second or subsequent conviction. A few examples include domestic battery, voyeurism, peeping tom, negligent arson, OWI, stalking, and cyberstalking.

(La. Rev. Stat. §§ 14:52.2, 14:98.1, 14:98.2, 14:283.1, 14:284 (2023).)

Misdemeanors Involving a Firearm

Louisiana law requires a judge to impose the maximum sentence for the following misdemeanors when the defendant possessed, used, or discharged a firearm during the offense: assault, battery, stalking, theft, and violation of a protective order by assault or battery.

(La. Code Crim. P. art. 893.3 (2023).)

Probation and Other Alternatives to Jail for Misdemeanors in Louisiana

When deciding the sentence to impose for a misdemeanor conviction, a judge will review the circumstances of the current offense and the defendant's criminal history.

Jail Sentence

Aggravating factors, such as knowingly placing others in harm, targeting a vulnerable victim, or having several prior convictions, may support a sentence of incarceration.

Alternatives to Jail

A judge might decide alternatives to jail are appropriate if, for instance, the defendant is a first-time offender, shows remorse, didn't cause bodily harm to a victim, or was pressured by another to commit the crime.

Alternatives to jail may include community service, deferred sentencing, home incarceration, or probation. Generally, these alternatives will hinge on a defendant's compliance with any supervision or probation terms set by the court. Violating any of these terms may result in incarceration or increased supervision.

(La. Code Crim. P. arts. 893.5, 894, 894.1, 894.2 (2023).)

How Long Do Prosecutors Have to File Misdemeanor Charges in Louisiana?

A "statute of limitations" is a deadline for starting legal proceedings—filing criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. In criminal matters, the time period starts when the alleged crime took place (although the "clock" may stop under certain limited circumstances). The criminal statute of limitations in Louisiana is fairly short for misdemeanors: two years after an alleged crime that's punishable by a jail sentence and/or a fine, or six months if the only penalty for the crime is a fine or forfeiture.

(La. Code Crim. Proc. art. 572 (2023).)

Getting Legal Assistance

A criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, can result in difficult consequences. Any time in jail could disrupt your life by leading to the loss of your job and even your home. If you're charged with any crime in Louisiana, speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the system, gather evidence to help your case, and obtain the best possible outcome—which might include negotiating a favorable plea bargain to get the sentence reduced.

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