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Baton Rouge Criminal Law Blog

Familial DNA testing may create criminal defense challenges

During the investigations of allegedly criminal matters Louisiana law enforcement officials collect DNA evidence that they attempt to match to DNA samples in a database so that they may learn the identities of the individuals they believe perpetrated the underlying crimes. There are problems with the current system of collecting and testing DNA; in some cases individuals are wrongly identified as the perpetrators of violent crimes when in fact they are completely innocent.

However, as in many other jurisdictions, the state presently has a backlog of cold cases that officials cannot close due in large part to their inability to match DNA evidence to individuals who have previously committed crimes. As a result, the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab is considering using familial DNA to retest cold case DNA samples and connect that evidence to individuals who may be related to the alleged criminal perpetrators of old alleged crimes.

Louisiana felony habitual offender law might be reformed

It may come as a surprise to Louisiana residents, but not those who have had run ins with the criminal justice system, that Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world. The state's governor recently announced his plan to overhaul the state's sentencing plan, in an effort to reduce their incarceration rate.

One of the areas that he is recommending a change to is in the habitual offender law. As mentioned previously on this blog, felony convictions carry with them serious consequences, such as lengthy prison sentences. Currently in Louisiana, if someone is convicted of a felony, even if the felony is for a nonviolent crime or for theft, then if that same person is convicted of another crime within the next 10 years, they must be given a mandatory minimum sentence. That mandatory minimum sentence is eventually a longer time in prison. The current proposal is recommending that the habitual offender period be reduced to five years from 10 years in cases of nonviolent felonies.

How does theft differ from burglary?

Louisiana residents may use the terms theft and burglary interchangeably, and may not even be aware that there is a crime called larceny, but in fact though these crimes are similar in some respects, there are some major differences between them. They are similar in the sense that they all involve an element of stealing-- taking someone else's property without authorization from them. However, that is where the similarity ends in the eyes of the law.

Larceny, a crime many people may not be aware of, is the most basic of the three mentioned above. When someone intends to unlawfully take someone else's property away from them, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that property, it is considered larceny. Though in some states the crime has merged with theft, it is still considered a separate crime in others.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

If a Louisiana resident is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, many people may not be aware that the categorization of the offense determines how the case is treated in the court system. To put it simply, not all criminal charges are created equal-the penalties differ based on the category of crime one is accused of.

Infractions are the least serious type of crime, in which a police officer sees someone doing something wrong and gives them a ticket. Usually, the person who receives the ticket has to pay a fine. A common example is a traffic violation, where people have to face little to no court time and even less jail time, unless the ticket remains unpaid and the fines pile up.

What needs to be proven in an embezzlement case?

When one thinks of the term fraud, they may not be aware that there are specific types of fraud that one can be accused of committing and each different type has specific elements that must be proven in a court of law. Louisiana residents may be quick to brush all deception under the umbrella of fraud, but legally it encompasses a number of crimes and it is important to understand the allegations one is facing if they are to be fought effectively.

First, fraud, broadly, is knowingly misrepresenting or concealing the truth or material facts from someone else to induce them to act to their own detriment. Embezzlement is a form of fraud in which someone has wrongly appropriated funds or personal property that was entrusted to them. Usually it deals with misappropriation of money and in an employment setting.

Louisiana residents have rights when suspected of drug crimes

Even when a person has done nothing wrong, a confrontation with police officers can be intimidating. Law enforcement officials like police officers carry the authority of upholding the law in their official actions and the work that they do to protect others can sometimes impinge on the rights most Americans hold dear. In particular, when a police officer states that they wish to search the property of another because of the suspicion of criminal activity, an individual can feel threatened and unsure of how to react.

When a person is suspected of committing drug crimes, searches and seizures of his property may occur. Under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution law enforcement officials may not arbitrarily look for drugs in or on the property of others. Generally, a police officer must either have probable cause to undertake a search or must have a search warrant executed by a judge to make a legal search of another person's property.

Get help in fight against federal criminal charges

Facing criminal charges is a daunting prospect for anyone, including Baton Rouge residents. Often, we forget that the accused is innocent until proven guilty-the media usually paints a person under investigation as someone who has already been convicted and public opinion is quick to turn against that person. When the federal charges include those of exploiting children, as mentioned in last week's post, people are even more likely to form opinions before the verdict is out.

Even when one braves public opinion, the penalties associated with a conviction, such as registration in a sex offender registry, has far reaching implications. It affects the locality in which one can reside and the employment opportunities one can pursue. It also affects the person's personal security, as all their details are out in the public sphere for someone to discover.

5 arrested, including 2 from Baton Rouge, for child sex crimes

This blog recently discussed what sex offender registries are and what the requirements under a sex offender registry are. Five men were recently arrested in Louisiana, including two from the Baton Rouge area, on 300 counts of exploiting children. The five men were charged with sexual exploitation of children in the alleged cyber crime sweep. The Louisiana Attorney General announced the arrests following them.

One of the men, a 24-year old, was arrested on 250 counts of sexual abuse images and/or including videos of children. A second man, a 58-year old, was arrested on 30 counts of sexual abuse images and/or including videos of children. A third man, a 59-year old, was arrested on 5 counts of sexual abuse images and/or including videos of children. The third man had previously been arrested for child pornography.

What are sex offender registries?

Though it is a term you have likely heard of before, you may wonder what a sex offender registry is. Sex offender registries are essentially a database that contains information about convicted sex offenders and is maintained by law enforcement to monitor and track sex offenders. In addition, some of the information is made public. Registration requirements, what information is made available to the public and other considerations are dictated by state laws.

Individuals convicted of certain sex crimes and sex crimes against children are typically required to register in the community they are being released into following release. Registrants are required to keep their registrations current and may be required to register annually. Failure to meet registration requirements can lead to separate criminal charges. A variety of personal details may be required as part of the registration process.

Understanding the basics of plea bargains

There are a variety of ways a criminal case may progress through the criminal justice process. One method of resolving a case is through a plea bargain. Plea bargains are a common method of resolving criminal cases in the United States. A plea bargain is an agreement between the individual accused of a crime and the prosecuting attorney in which the accused individual pleads guilty typically in order to receive a reduced sentence or reduced criminal charges. Plea bargains are primarily utilized as a method of saving time and money while resolving criminal cases.

There are primarily three types of plea bargains. First, charge bargaining involves the accused individual pleading guilty to a criminal charge for the reduction in the number of charges or nature of the charges. Secondly, sentence bargaining involves the accused individual pleading guilty to criminal charges for a reduced sentence. A judge must commonly review this type of plea bargaining which is not permitted everywhere and the judge is not bound by the plea bargain. The final type of plea bargaining is fact bargaining, which is the least common type of plea bargain, wherein an accused individual will agree to certain facts to prevent the introduction of others.