Beginning this week District Attorney Ricky Ward will address at least one legal question in a feature article every other week. If anyone has a specific question concerning a criminal law or related matter please forward your question to District Attorney Richard J. Ward, Jr., P.O. Box 309, Maringouin, La. 70757.
What is the difference between a crime that is considered a "felony" and a crime that is considered a "misdemeanor"?
The Louisiana Criminal Code defines a felony as "any crime for which an offender may be sentenced to death or imprisonment at hard labor" A felony is considered to be a serious crime and can actually be separated into two different types that vary depending on the seriousness of the particular crime. The most serious felony crimes are those in which the sentencing judge has no alternative but to sentence the offender to imprisonment at hard labor with the Louisiana Department of Corrections. Crimes such as 1st & 2nd degree murder, aggravated burglary and armed robbery fall into this category. An offender who is charged with this type of felony is entitled to a 12-member jury trial, 10 of whom must agree to reach a verdict. Less serious felony crimes are those in which the sentencing judge has a choice of imposing a sentence of imprisonment that does not require hard labor. Simple burglary, simple robbery and theft are examples of crimes that fall into this category. An offender charged with this type felony is entitled to a 6 person jury trial, all of whom must agree to reach a verdict. Although all persons charged with a felony have a right to a jury trial, in most cases he or she can waive that right. Also, most first time felony offenders are eligible for probation.
The Louisiana Criminal Code defines a "Misdemeanor" as "any crime other than a felony". As a general rule, the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is a fine of $500.00 and six months in parish prison. Persons charged with a misdemeanor are not entitled to a jury trial. By way of illustration, traffic violations, including 1st and 2nd offence DWI’s (Driving While Intoxicated) are misdemeanors, as are wildlife violations.
Comments or Questions?
Contact Ricky Ward DA: RickyW@rickywardda.com