If you or a loved one has been charged with a serious crime, you understandably want the best possible outcome for him or her. And, you’ve likely been researching the crime you or your loved one has been charged with as well as average sentencing should he or she become convicted. During that research you may have even come across a confusing part of Louisiana crime sentencing law called “mandatory minimums.” What are these and how do they affect you or your loved one?
Mandatory Minimums Explained
Mandatory minimums are, in their easiest to understand form, minimum sentence lengths assigned to certain convictions. Mandatory minimums can be found throughout the United States. In 2017 Louisiana lawmakers approved criminal justice reform, which means certain crimes that used to carry mandatory strict sentencing now allow judges and district attorneys to use more of their own judicial discretion on a case by case basis. Other portions of this criminal law reform impose new mandatory minimums on certain crimes that didn’t have them before.
Louisiana’s 2017 Sentencing Law Changes
Effective August 3rd, 2017, the following Louisiana criminal sentencing laws have changed
- More Judicial Discretion Allowed for Repeat Felony Offenders
Previously, if a Louisiana resident had three felonies, he or she would receive mandatory minimums that a judge couldn’t shorten. For certain felonies that has now changed and judges are now allowed to reduce the length of sentences on a case by case basis. However, mandatory minimums for repeat felony offenders can’t be reduced for violent crimes such as murder or other serious crimes such as kidnapping, child pornography, and certain types of fraudulent activities.
- Judges Are Now Allowed to Shorten Sentences for Certain First-Time Violent Offenders
If you or a loved one is convicted of a violent crime that carries a prison term of 10 years or less, the judge hearing the case will now have the judicial discretion to shorten or suspend that sentence. This new provision doesn’t apply to more serious violent crimes, such as murder, kidnapping and armed robbery.
- Repeat Drunk Drivers May Now Receive Drug and Alcohol Treatment in Lieu of Prison Sentencing
If you or a loved one are convicted of a fourth DWI - and have never been offered drug and alcohol treatment by the courts in the past - it’s possible that you won’t be sentenced to prison. Instead, if the district attorney agrees in your unique case that drug and alcohol treatment is the best next step for you, you can avoid prison time altogether.
- New Options for Repeat Felons
In the past, if you were convicted of 3 or 4 felonies, your only option was prison time. Now, if the district attorney agrees, in lieu of prison you could be offered time in a mental health facility, substance abuse treatment center, or drug court. However, if you choose this alternative option, you could be placed on parole for up to 8 years, which is longer than the state of Louisiana previously allowed.
- Certain Mandatory Minimums Dropped Altogether
Now in Louisiana, certain crimes don’t carry mandatory minimum sentences at all. These include arson, communicating false information about arson, home invasion and possession of less than 2 grams of certain drugs. There is also no longer mandatory prison sentence for a third felony prostitution conviction.
How Can This Information Help My Loved One?
If your loved one is being charged with a crime that used to carry a mandatory minimum sentence, or now offers mental health or substance abuse treatment as an alternative to prison time, he or she may receive a better outcome in court than was previously possible. These are options that you should have your attorney discuss with the prosecutor and the court.
At E&M Law Firm, we understand the new changes to the Louisiana criminal justice system and we’re here to help you fight for the best possible result. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a crime, don’t rely an overworked, underpaid public defender. Call the E&M Law Firm for a free consultation so at (225) 687-1111 so we can get started on your defense today.