This article discusses misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor battery. For information on felony assault and battery, see Felony Assault and Battery in Louisiana. For more information on assault with a firearm, see Assault With a Deadly Weapon in Louisiana.
Assault in Louisiana is an attempt to cause physical injury to another person – for instance, attempting to strike someone with a hand or object, and missing. Assault also is any intentional act or threat of action that reasonably causes a person to feel afraid of impending violence. 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, 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, 14:33.)
Simple assault is an assault that is committed without a dangerous weapon and is a misdemeanor. Aggravated assault (also a misdemeanor) is an assault committed with a dangerous weapon – for instance, threatening to attack someone with an instrument, liquid or substance in a manner that could cause death or great bodily injury. An assault that is committed with a firearm is a felony.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 14:38, 14:2, 14:37.)
Battery in Louisiana is the intentional infliction of force against another person, such as punching another person or hitting someone with an object. Battery without a weapon and without intentional infliction of serious injury is a simple battery and the least serious battery offense under Louisiana law. A battery committed with a weapon, or that results in serious injury to the victim, is a felony.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 14:33, 14:35.)
A person convicted of an assault in Louisiana faces the following possible penalties:
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:38, La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 894.)
The penalties for battery are:
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:35, La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 894.)
The court can impose more jail time – up to one year in some cases – if an assault or battery is committed against certain victims such as, but not limited to: disabled and elderly victims, law enforcement officers, correctional officers, school employees (if the offender is a student), athletic contest officials, bus or cable car operators for a public transport system, emergency room personnel, healthcare professionals, and child welfare and adult protective services employees, if the defendant reasonably could have known that the employee or law enforcement officer was engaged in the performance of his duties. In cases involving these "special victims," the court may be required to impose a minimum jail sentence and may be prohibited from suspending any jail time, which means the offender will have to serve time in jail without the opportunity to serve time on probation.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § § 14:34.2, 14:34.3, 14:34.4, 14:34.5, 14:34.5, 14:34.8, 14:35.1, 14:35.2.)
Someone who is convicted of a first or second offense of domestic abuse battery (battery against a household member) also is subject to greater penalties and restrictions that may preclude a suspended sentence. (If the offense is a third or subsequent conviction for domestic abuse battery, the offense is a felony.)
A household member includes a person of the opposite sex with whom the offender lives as a spouse or lived with at any time during the five years prior to the offense, a child with whom the offender resides or resided in the five years prior to the offense, and a child of the offender whether the child lives with the offender or elsewhere.
(La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:35.3.)
See Louisiana Domestic Violence Laws for more information on battery and domestic abuse.
The courts in Louisiana have numerous options to imposing imprisonment. They include probation, supervised release and home incarceration. The sentencing judge can impose a suspended sentence for misdemeanor assault or battery and place the offender on supervised or unsupervised probation for a portion of or the entire sentence, unless prohibited in the sentencing provisions for a specific crime (like battery against a police officer).
The judge also can defer sentencing and impose conditions on the offender for a period of time, or place him on supervised or unsupervised 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. Probationers who violate the terms of their probation can be arrested and required to serve the remainder or a remaining part of their sentence in jail.
If the sentence is deferred and the offender completes probation or satisfies all conditions (if not placed on probation), the court will dismiss the case at the end of the deferral period. The dismissal has the same effect as an acquittal, except that the offense can be treated as a prior conviction if the offender commits another crime in the future.
A person convicted of assault or battery in Louisiana must pay restitution, which means reimbursing the victim for any expenses resulting from the crime, such as the cost of medical treatment or counseling.
(La. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 883.2.)
If you are facing a charge of assault or battery in Louisiana, an attorney can investigate the 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 probation, in exchange for a plea of guilty to the charge.
A conviction for a misdemeanor becomes part of your permanent criminal record and can hurt you when you are looking for a job or applying to rent a house or apartment. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case.
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.