Domestic Violence

Lake Charles Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

Passionate Legal Advocacy You Can Trust

Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse, family violence, and intimate partner violence) is a serious crime punishable by harsh consequences. Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior in a relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. 

Such behaviors are intended to scare, terrorize, intimidate, manipulate, harm, humiliate, blame, or injure someone. These acts can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological in nature. According to Louisiana state law, the following acts qualify as domestic violence:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stalking or cyberstalking
  • Abuse of an adult (committed by an adult child against a parent or an adult grandchild against a grandparent)
  • Any other crime listed in Louisiana’s criminal code (with the exception of negligent injury and defamation) 

Domestic violence occurs between two people (“household members”) in a relationship. It can affect the following individuals:   

  • Any person of the opposite sex living with the defendant as a spouse (regardless of formal marital status)
  • Any person of the opposite sex who resided with the defendant as a spouse within 5 years of the domestic abuse
  • A child of the defendant (regardless of where the child resides)
  • A family member or relative (such as a spouse or former spouse, grandparent, or stepparent) 
  • Dating partner

Our experienced domestic violence defense attorneys at Sudduth & Associates, LLC bring over 100 years of collective legal experience to the table. We’re dedicated to helping our clients in Lake Charles defend their rights and hard-earned reputations through passionate advocacy, compassionate counsel, and aggressive legal representation. 

If you’ve been accused of domestic violence, it’s crucial to turn to a law firm with experience you can trust. Take action now to receive the support and solutions you deserve.

Domestic violence charges can result in drastic consequences, including prison time and loss of your Second Amendment right to bear firearms. Don’t throw away your future without a fight. Call our firm at (337) 282-9003 to schedule your consultation.

Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction

If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence offense, you face hefty fines, jail time, probation, court-ordered courses, mandatory community service, and even lifelong restrictions (such as loss of voting rights or inability to own a firearm). 

Similarly to other crimes, the penalties for domestic violence increase if multiple offenses are accrued. The Louisiana court may impose the following penalties for first and subsequent domestic violence offenses:

First Domestic Violence Offense

A defendant’s first domestic violence offense is a misdemeanor punishable by: 

  • A fine of $300-1,000 
  • Up to 6 months in prison

Second Domestic Violence Offense

A second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by: 

  • A fine of $750-$1,000 fine
  • Up to 1 year in prison

Third Domestic Violence Offense

It’s very important to understand that a third or subsequent domestic violence offense is a felony, not a misdemeanor. Felony charges entail harsher consequences that can severely impact your future, from employability to economic stability to civil liberties. In Louisiana, a third domestic violence charge is punishable by: 

  • A fine of $2,000 
  • Up to 5 years in prison

Fourth or Subsequent Domestic Violence Offense

A fourth or subsequent domestic violence offense is a felony punishable by: 

  • A fine of $5,000 
  • 10-30 years in prison

When Are Domestic Violence Penalties Heightened? 

There are some cases in which the penalties for a domestic violence conviction can be heightened. Under certain conditions, a defendant may face an enhanced sentence (meaning that the court found sufficient evidence or cause to add an additional form of punishment). In many instances, a misdemeanor charge can be heightened to a felony, which can have drastic and lasting impacts on a defendant’s future. 

Examples of offenses that warrant enhanced charges include (but aren’t limited to): 

Domestic Violence & Strangulation 

If a domestic violence offense involves alleged strangulation or choking of a victim, it's automatically considered a felony. This crime is punishable by up to 3 years in prison. 

Domestic Violence & Child Endangerment

This enhancement occurs when a domestic violence offense is committed in the presence of a child who is 13 years old or younger. In this instance, the offense is no longer a misdemeanor, but a felony

Family Violence Penalty

Penalties are enhanced for defendants who knowingly commit violent acts against pregnant women or commit abuse that results in bodily harm. 

Prior Domestic Violence Convictions

When a defendant is charged with domestic violence, the court will evaluate all prior domestic violence offenses (yes, including those received in other states). However, Louisiana upholds a ten-year cleansing period, which means that offenses committed prior to the last ten-year period cannot be used to enhance the penalties for a recent offense. 

Are you facing enhanced penalties for DV charges? Our dedicated domestic violence defense lawyers are here to defend you. Call Sudduth & Associates, LLC at (337) 282-9003 today to learn how we can help.

Common Domestic Violence Crimes & Penalties

According to Louisiana’s domestic violence laws, there is a wide range of crimes that can lead to a domestic violence conviction. Qualifying crimes entail varying penalties to accommodate variances in the severity of the offense. Keep reading to learn more about the top 4 forms of domestic violence crimes in Louisiana.

Domestic Abuse Battery

State law defines domestic abuse battery as “the intentional use of force or violence” committed by one household member against another (such as a spouse, former spouse, parent, child, stepparent, or significant other that lives in the home). 

Domestic abuse battery charges can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the crime and any aggravating circumstances (such as multiple offenses or an additional criminal charge). 

Domestic Abuse Aggravated Assault

Under Louisiana Revised Statutes §37.7, domestic abuse aggravated assault entails a violent assault in which one household member uses a dangerous weapon against another household member. Penalties include: 

  • A $5,000 fine
  • Up to 5 years in prison with hard labor

Stalking

Stalking involves one household member following, harassing, or engaging in spoken, written, or implied physical threats against another household member. “Stalking” is generally defined as a pattern of behavior (two or more acts) that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or experience substantial emotional distress

Behaviors that classify as “stalking” include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Excessive contact with a person
  • Unwanted phone calls or texts
  • Unwanted gifts
  • Harassing someone on social media
  • Showing up uninvited
  • Monitoring and surveillance
  • Property damage
  • Making threats 

Penalties for stalking vary based on the number of offenses incurred. Below are the consequences of a first or subsequent offense:

  • A first offense is punishable by a $500-$1,000 fine, up to 1 year in prison, and a court-mandated psychiatric evaluation. 
  • A second offense committed within 7 years of a prior offense is punishable by a $5,000 fine and 5-20 years in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.
  • A third or subsequent offense is punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to 40 years in prison. 

Conditions that warrant an enhanced sentence include: 

  • Stalking a minor under the age of 18 is punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to 3 years in prison. 
  • Putting a victim in danger of bodily harm or death is punishable by a $1,000 fine and 3-5 years in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. 
  • Violating a protective order is punishable by a $5,000 fine and a minimum prison sentence of 90 days (up to 2 years).   

Rape

Rape is defined as “unlawful penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with a body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” 

Rape offenses are classified as one of three degrees, with first-degree rape being the most severe and third-degree rape being the least severe: 

  • First-degree rape is committed upon a person aged 65 or older or a person aged 13 or younger. It entails sexual intercourse without lawful consent from the victim and is punishable by life in prison without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. 
  • Second-degree rape is committed upon a person who is incapable of resisting because 1) they were drugged; 2) are in an otherwise altered state of mind; and/or 3) were threatened by the offender. Penalties include up to 40 years in prison at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. 
  • Third-degree rape is committed upon a person who is incapable of resisting because 1) the victim is intoxicated or in an otherwise altered state of mind that the offender knew or should have known about; 2) the victim is unable to understand what's happening; and/or 3) the offender concealed their identity and pretended to be a person to whom the victim would submit. Third-degree rape is punishable by up to 25 years in prison at hard labor without the benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. 

Legal Defenses Against Domestic Violence Charges

Louisiana law enforcement doesn’t take domestic violence offenses lightly. If you’ve been charged with a sex crime or you’re facing a domestic violence conviction, it’s absolutely critical to seek professional help from a qualified domestic violence defense attorney

A good lawyer can use their comprehensive legal knowledge to guide your steps and establish the best legal strategy to dismiss or reduce the criminal penalties you’re up against. It’s imperative to have the right legal team in your corner who can advocate on your behalf and defend your rights. 

Whether you were falsely accused of domestic violence or made an honest mistake, rest assured that there are various ways to defend your actions in court. Your attorney can evaluate the charges, evidence, police reports, and other relevant details to determine which legal strategy will be most effective for your case. 

Common strategies to defend against domestic violence charges include (but aren’t limited to):

  • The defendant acted in self-defense or defense of others. If you commit an act of domestic violence in self-defense or to protect others, such as a friend or family member, this may be an effective strategy to defend your actions in court. 
  • The defendant was falsely accused. If you didn’t commit the crime, you shouldn’t have to do the time. If there is evidence to show that an alleged victim lied or falsely accused the defendant of domestic violence, this is grounds for the charges to be dismissed. 
  • The defendant has an alibi. If you and your lawyer can prove that you weren’t in proximity of the alleged victim when the crime occurred, this can be an excellent defense to clear your name and get the charges dropped. For example, if you were at a ballgame with your brother during an alleged act of domestic violence, a paystub and/or witness testimony can help prove your innocence to the court. 
  • There isn’t enough evidence to result in a conviction. If an act of domestic violence can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it cannot result in a conviction. A defendant is always innocent until proven guilty. In some cases, the prosecution may lack sufficient evidence to prove that an alleged incident occurred. 
  • The offense was committed by accident. In some cases, the charges can be reduced or even dismissed if you can prove that the alleged abuse was unintentional. Your lawyer can work together with you to collect sufficient evidence to show the judge that any bodily injury sustained from the alleged violence was the result of an accident, not an intentional act. 

What Is Gwen’s Law?

Gwen’s Law was enacted in Louisiana in 2017. It was passed to offer better protection for victims of domestic violence by making it harder for arrested suspects to get out of jail on bail. 

The law was named after Gwen Salley, who filed a protective order against her husband in 2014. After Gwen’s husband was arrested for kidnapping and threatening to kill her at gunpoint, he was released from jail on a $50,000 bond. He then proceeded to abduct Gwen Salley and kill her. Gwen’s family took action after her murder to help protect other survivors of domestic violence whose lives are at stake when their abuser is permitted to leave jail on bail. 

Under Gwen’s Law, suspects arrested for a domestic violence offense must appear before a judge to have their bail set in court. Examples of qualifying offenses include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Violating a protective order
  • Domestic abuse
  • Battery
  • Stalking
  • Other felonies involving a deadly weapon or force

Aggressively Defending the Accused in Lake Charles

If you’re up against criminal charges, it’s imperative to rely on a legal team that will keep your best interests at heart. When you partner with Sudduth & Associates, LLC, you’re partnering with dedicated criminal defense lawyers who will have your back from start to finish. 

Our firm takes pride in delivering real results for our clients. We work hard to provide customized legal solutions by implementing a collaborative approach, cutting-edge technology, and extensive legal knowledge. Our team is fortunate to have the leadership of a former prosecutor who knows both sides of criminal law and can offer advantageous insights into the inner workings of our justice system. 

If you’ve been charged with a domestic violence offense in Lake Charles, it’s important to take immediate action to prevent life-altering consequences. To have a fighting chance in court, it’s crucial to partner with a skilled legal advocate who will align themselves with your personal goals and tirelessly defend your rights. 

A domestic violence conviction can ruin your life. If you've been charged with a DV offense, it's crucial to act now. Call (337) 282-9003 or contact us online to discuss your case with a Lake Charles domestic violence defense attorney.  

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