More people could face criminal charges if new laws are passed in Louisiana

Louisiana continues to add more crimes to the books each year. In the current legislative session, there are at least 20 bills under consideration that would, if passed, add new crimes to the criminal code. One bill would make it a crime to steal copper and other metals, a crime that some say is already covered under the general theft statute. The increase in laws could result in more Louisiana residents being charged with a crime in a state where one in 55 individuals is already in jail.

Some lawmakers have expressed concerns at the addition of still more criminal statutes. Noting that it costs the state of Louisiana approximately $600,000 for each 20-year sentence, budget issues have been raised.

When a person is charged with a crime in Louisiana, they have a right to a trial, and in felony cases, that trial can be in front of a jury. However, a jury trial is quite expensive. Prosecutors often complain that their budgets are stretched thin because of expensive jury trials, but an increase in state laws may require more jury trials.

Currently, a person who is charged with a crime such as drug possession may fall under the Louisiana habitual offender statute. However, a new bill would take this crime off of the list of habitual crimes, potentially saving the state money. Although lawmakers may support the bill, some believe that politics would prevent a controversial bill like that from being passed.

It is unknown if any of the bills will be passed. Nevertheless, when a person finds themselves charged with a crime, they have a fundamental legal right to present a defense against the charges. This includes not only the right to confront witnesses but also the right to testify in their own defense if they so choose. As the state continues to add additional crimes to the criminal code, Louisiana residents charged with a crime may benefit from consulting with an attorney who has a broad understanding of the ever-changing laws in Louisiana.

Source: Gambit, "Louisiana's New Crime Laws," Jeremy Alford, March 27, 2012

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