Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney
The time immediately after you’ve been charged with a crime can be fraught with complications and confusion. Hardly anyone is prepared for their first time facing criminal charges, and the legal system is not exactly designed to be a teaching tool. So what do you do? Do you really need a Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney, even for a traffic citation? What about for DUI defense, or drug charges? What can a criminal defense attorney really do for you?
The short answer is that yes, if you have been charged with a crime, you need a criminal lawyer, before you talk to the police. A thorough and experienced Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney can help you navigate your trial, and get you the best outcome possible in your case. At The Law Offices of Ossie Brown, we’ve been defending Louisiana residents just like you since 1984. If you need legal representation in the Baton Rouge area and you’re ready to begin an attorney-client relationship with us, call our offices at 225-343-1111, or contact us to schedule a free consultation.
What is Criminal Defense?
During the criminal court process, the citizen accused of the criminal offense is entitled to a criminal defense lawyer to protect their interests against prosecutors and the government. This is because state and local governments have many more resources at their disposal than the average citizen. Criminal law is hardly cut and dry; when the state has attorneys with years of experience navigating it, it would be impossible for an ordinary citizen to adequately defend themselves. Without adequate protections and legal assistance for someone accused of a crime, the balance of power would tip too far in favor of the state.
For this reason, even if you cannot afford to hire a private law firm and trial lawyer, a public defender will be given to you to help protect your interests. Criminal defense attorneys can specialize in representing clients on a variety of charges, anything from DWI cases to gun charges and drug crimes. The goal of every criminal defense law firm is simply to achieve the best possible outcome for each client. If the client is innocent, the goal of the attorney is to prove that. If the client has committed a crime, the goal of the attorney is to prevent the state from punishing the defendant unfairly.
Later, we’ll talk about the different types of criminal charges our attorneys handle; but first, let’s go more in depth about criminal defense cases, and the procedures and systems surrounding a criminal case.
Criminal Justice System and Procedures
Criminal charges occur when a citizen is in violation of a law or statute created by the government. The criminal justice system encompasses the entire criminal process, from start to finish–from the time the crime is committed all the way to the conviction.
An arrest generally occurs after a criminal investigation performed by police and other skilled investigators. Prosecutors and police officers gather evidence to prove the defendant is guilty. The defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt through the evidence. Then, they are sentenced. That is, to put it mildly, a watered down description of the criminal justice system.
Like we talked about above, at every step of this process the defendant is entitled to certain fundamental legal rights handed down through the US Constitution and other court precedent. This includes the right to an attorney, and the right to a speedy jury trial–we have the right to be judged by a jury of our peers, and the government cannot hold us in jail indefinitely before giving us this trial.
Once a defendant has been charged with a crime and they have criminal defense representation, there are a few possible outcomes.
Possible Outcomes of a Criminal Defense Case
Not every single criminal case is going to go to a jury trial, and every criminal case is unique in some way or another. But generally, there are a few possible outcomes to every criminal defense case:
- The defendant can enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor. This is when the defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for leniency, such as a lighter sentence. The best criminal defense attorneys will discuss plea bargains with their client in depth and ensure they understand exactly what it means, as well as fight the prosecutor for the best outcome for the client. Many prosecutors will offer these plea deals quickly to get a quick conviction and avoid a lengthy trial.
- The court may dismiss the case before it goes to a jury trial. This can happen if the arrest and charges are based on faulty evidence, or evidence that has been seized illegally by police.
- The defendant is brought to trial and found “not guilty,” or acquitted, by the jury.
- The defendant is convicted by the jury and sentenced.
Regardless of what you hope for your case, you need a criminal defense lawyer to help you determine what your best case scenario is, and how to get there.
Criminal Cases We Handle
You want a criminal defense lawyer who has experience with your specific criminal charges. These are the types of charges our experienced criminal defense attorneys have in the Baton Rouge, LA area.
There is no difference between a DUI and a DWI under Louisiana law; both refer to operating a motor vehicle, or even a boat, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
DWIs are possibly the most common criminal charge someone might face in Louisiana, and the penalties rack up with every subsequent charge. In Louisiana, your first DWI is a misdemeanor, and carries:
- 10 days to 6 months jail
- Fines between $300 and $1,000
- 48 hours in jail or 32 hours community service
- A court mandated driver improvement program as well as a substance abuse program
Your second DWI will also be a misdemeanor, but the penalties are much more stiff:
- Fines ranging from $750 to $1,000
- 30 days to 6 months jail time
- 240 hours of community service
- Participation in court-mandated driver improvement and substance abuse programs
- Many judges may also mandate an ignition interlock device, which will not allow your car to start until you have passed a breath test, in order to maintain your driving privileges.
While your first two DWI charges are misdemeanors, the third is a felony. For this reason, the penalties increase ever higher:
- Fines up to $2,000
- One to five years in prison
- 240 hours of community service
- Up to 5 years of probation
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- Potential license suspension
- Probation for the full length of any suspended sentence, plus home incarceration for a minimum of six months.
If you incur additional DWIs after your third, they are also considered felony charges, and the penalties are incredibly severe. If you’ve been charged with a DWI, you need a DUI lawyer with experience.
It goes without saying that homicide charges are some of the most serious criminal charges you can face. When dealing with something like a murder charge, it’s important to remember that every defendant is entitled to the full guidance of criminal defense lawyers, and that as citizens of the United States, you still have fundamental rights which must be observed and protected.
Louisiana recognizes two distinct murder charges: first and second degree. Though they both involve the intentional ending of another person’s life, first degree murder is premeditated, while second degree murder is not.
A person can also be charged with first degree murder for killing: police officers, firemen, children under 12, the elderly, or for killing two or more people. A drug dealer who sells a dangerous controlled substance that eventually kills the recipient of the substance may also face second degree murder charges.
If you’re dealing with homicide charges in Louisiana, you need an extremely competent violent crimes defense lawyer to handle your case.
Aggravated assault is a type of physical violence that can occur with or without a deadly weapon, with the intention of causing serious bodily harm. Additionally, threatening to cause bodily harm to another person, if it causes them to fear for their safety, can also result in an aggravated assault charge.
Some examples of aggravated assault in Louisiana:
- Pointing a gun at someone and threatening to shoot them, or actually shooting them
- Assaulting or attempting to assault someone with the intent to commit another violent crime, such as rape, murder, or robbery.
- Concealing your identity while threatening serious bodily harm to another person
There is a separate charge, aggravated battery, which involves causing great bodily harm with a deadly weapon. Often these two charges are lumped together into one: assault and battery.
The penalties for aggravated assault can be quite steep, depending on the circumstances surrounding them. For instance, aggravated assault on its own is a misdemeanor offense, while aggravated assault with a gun is a felony. If you’re dealing with assault and battery charges, you need legal help from a competent Baton Rouge criminal lawyer experienced in aggravated assault.
When you’re facing a domestic violence charge, penalties in Louisiana law depend heavily on any prior convictions, the injuries involved, the victim, and more. Domestic abuse battery occurs when one household member uses force or violence against another member of their household.
For instance, a misdemeanor domestic abuse battery charge can be escalated to a felony if it is committed in front of a child younger than 13. Additionally, if the victim of domestic abuse is pregnant and the offender is aware of the pregnancy, the misdemeanor is escalated to a felony.
The situations surrounding alleged domestic violence are often complicated, and are compounded by things like child custody. However, there are a variety of defenses possible in court, such as self-defense, and there is always the chance you’ve been falsely accused. If you’re facing a legal issue involving domestic violence, you need a strong team of criminal defense lawyers on your side.
With Louisiana’s gradual decriminalization of marijuana, Louisiana lawyers are seeing fewer criminal cases involving marijuana-related drug crimes. However, Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the country, and many of those incarcerations are drug-related.
While the penalties for possession of marijuana have decreased, the penalties for possession of other controlled substances are still harsh in Louisiana. For example, possession of a schedule I drug like LSD could carry a jail sentence of 10 years.
There are plenty of possible defenses for drug possession. A Louisiana attorney skilled in defending drug possession can make a case for illegal search and seizure, meaning the police searched your home or car illegally, or entrapment–meaning you were pressured by undercover police or other members of a sting operation to commit a crime you would not have normally committed.
Theft crimes in Louisiana may seem straightforward, but potential penalties depend heavily on prior convictions, as well as the value of the item stolen.
For items worth less than $1,000, that is generally a misdemeanor, and carries a sentence of maximum 6 months jail time and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. For items worth more than $1,000, that is a felony, and the penalties increase as the value of the item increases. For instance, if you steal an item worth $4,000, you’ll spend up to five years behind bars and pay a fine of up to $3,000. For an item worth $10,000, potential prison time increases to 10 years, and fines increase to $10,000.
In addition to jail time and heavy fines, repeat offenses are heavily punished. Two charges of misdemeanor theft immediately become a felony charge. Stealing a gun will also result in heavier penalties, regardless of its worth.
The bottom line is that theft can land you in hot water in Baton Rouge. If you’re facing criminal charges involving theft, you need an experienced Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney with you on your court date.
Sex crimes carry some of the heaviest penalties in Louisiana, if the defendant is found guilty.
In Louisiana, there are two types of sex crimes: sexual battery, and rape.
Sexual battery involves the intentional, non-consensual touching of a person’s genitals. A person may also incur a sexual battery charge by forcing another person to touch their genitals. There are three types of sexual battery:
- Second degree sexual battery
- Oral sexual battery
- Misdemeanor sexual battery
Rape occurs when a perpetrator engages in oral, vaginal, or anal sex without the victim’s consent. Penetration with a body part or object is necessary to charge someone with rape in Louisiana. There are three degrees of rape:
- First degree rape, or aggravated rape
- Second degree rape, or forcible rape
- Third degree rape, or simple rape
The penalties for sex crimes in Baton Rouge, LA often depend on things like the age of both the victim and the perpetrator. For instance, if the perpetrator of sexual battery is older than 17 and the victim is younger than 13, the perpetrator must spend at least 25 years behind bars if found guilty. The penalty for first degree rape in Louisiana is life behind bars, without the possibility of parole. Additionally, if you are convicted of any sex crime, you must register as a sex offender.
When you’ve been accused of a sex crime, there’s a lot on the line. You need a criminal defense attorney with significant experience to handle your case.
White Collar Crimes
Conversely to some of the other crimes mentioned here, a white collar crime is a non-violent financial crime. Examples of white collar crime include:
- Insurance fraud
- Money laundering
- Tax evasion
- Healthcare fraud and Medicaid fraud
- Wire fraud
- Mail fraud
- Mortgage fraud
If you’ve been accused of a white collar crime, you could be facing extensive jail time. You need an experienced Baton Rouge criminal lawyer to defend you. Due to the far-reaching implications of most white-collar crimes, and the number of people they impact, prosecutors are often eager to make an example of white collar criminals. For this reason, it’s important to have competent legal defense as soon as possible.
Can I Expunge My Criminal Record?
Like many things in criminal law, the answer is that it depends.
Depending on the criminal offense, the amount of time that’s passed, and your outcome in court, it may be possible for an expungement attorney in Baton Rouge, LA to guide you through the process of obtaining an expungement, and move on with your life. However, not everyone is eligible for an expungement.
First, let’s talk about the types of crimes you unfortunately cannot expunge. In Louisiana, you cannot expunge:
- Violent crimes, including any homicides, aggravated assault, manslaughter, or domestic abuse battery
- Any type of sexual violence or abuse
- Some drug offenses like drug trafficking
- Crimes against minors
However, generally, if none of these circumstances apply, you can pursue expungement after a certain amount of time has passed with no other charges on your record.
For a misdemeanor, you must wait five years after your sentence, parole, probation, or deferred adjudication is complete, with no other charges or convictions against you in that time. For a felony, you can pursue expungement ten years after completing your sentence with no other charges on your record. You can also expunge your felony charge if a judge dismisses your conviction.
There are other restrictions as well: for instance, you can only expunge one felony for every 15 years, and one misdemeanor for every five. DUIs are an exception; you can only expunge one DUI every 10 years.
You can also expunge arrests from your record if your case was dismissed, you were found not guilty, or if the statute of limitations for your crime has passed.
The process for getting an expungement in Baton Rouge can take anywhere from 3 to 6 months. You will need to gather the proper paperwork, fill out a series of expungement forms, and make sure you have all your fees paid. If someone objects to your expungement, you may need to attend a court hearing; however, this is not common. If everyone agrees to your expungement, you’ll receive a Certificate of Compliance from the Louisiana State Police within 60 days, meaning all state agencies have sealed your records from view.
Though this process may sound simple, it can be complex, and many people struggle to gather the necessary paperwork or even to discover what paperwork is required. For this reason, a competent Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney is essential for obtaining an expungement.
Call a Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney at The Law Offices of Ossie Brown TodayWhen you’ve been charged with a crime, you need a Baton Rouge criminal defense attorney to guide you through the legal process. At The Law Offices of Ossie Brown, we take pride in building on the legacy of our late founder, Ossie Brown, by defending the legal rights of the citizens of Baton Rouge, and serving clients throughout their trial. If you’re looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney in Baton Rouge, contact our offices today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options. Our law firm represents clients in everything from personal injury cases to criminal defense, and our criminal lawyers take pride in serving Baton Rouge.
Let us review your case at no cost to you. We want to take the time to get to know you and understand your legal goals and objectives.
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The attorneys at The Law Offices of Ossie Brown are skilled in several practice areas and ready to discuss your case. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.