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Baton Rouge leaders propose misdemeanor jail time

A conviction for a misdemeanor or felony in Louisiana can land a person in jail. Serious criminal charges, of course, carry a higher likelihood of jail time. However, if some Baton Rouge leaders have their way, those persons convicted of lesser misdemeanor offenses may also be facing an increased probability of jail time.

Some Baton Rouge public safety authorities are currently advocating the use of a misdemeanor jail, open intermittently throughout the year in approximately two-week stretches of time, for those persons convicted of some misdemeanor offenses. Typically, a person charged with a misdemeanor offense will be issued a citation to appear in court. Failure to appear can then result in additional charges.

Those who advocate the use of the misdemeanor jail claim that it will serve as a deterrent for the large number of outstanding misdemeanor warrants in the Baton Rouge region. There are presently more than 104,000 outstanding misdemeanor warrants from City Court. More than 60 percent of these outstanding warrants are for persons with traffic offenses who did not appear for their court dates, though there are also existing warrants for persons charged with domestic assault, as well as battery charges.

Those opposed to the use of a misdemeanor jail argue that it will unjustly affect the poor. Persons with greater financial means can simply pay the fines owed, whereas poorer persons may not appear in court because they cannot afford to pay fines, which may result in more fines and possibly even jail time.

It remains to be seen whether Baton Rouge will make use of the intermittent misdemeanor jail system. If it does, a person facing misdemeanor charges may wish to seek legal counsel to avoid jail time.

Source: The Advocate, "Baton Rouge looks to open misdemeanor jail; advocates question whether move would unfairly target the poor", Rebekah Allen, Sept. 26, 2015

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