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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.

This proposal is facing strict opposition, as prosecutors are arguing that the threat of harsher sentences offers leverage while negotiating for plea bargains. According to them, they use it to persuade offenders to agree to a lesser charge and avoid a trial. The proposals are expected to be pushed starting this month,

As Louisiana residents await the future of these proposals, it is important to know that currently felony convictions carry severe penalties in Louisiana, especially if someone was convicted of another felony in the last 10 years. While going through the criminal justice system may be one way people want to protect their rights, it is not the answer for everyone. An experienced defense attorney can discuss other avenues with those accused of committing felonies.

Source: Nola.com, "Louisiana prison, sentencing overhaul plan released by Gov. John Bel Edwards," Jula Donoghue, March 30, 2017

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