How Is A Drug Charge Determined To Be Either A Misdemeanor Or A Felony Charge in Louisiana?

Why the Difference Matters to You

The difference between a misdemeanor and felony charge is important to you, as the defendant, because if you are convicted of a drug charge in Louisiana, there are serious consequences.  The judge could either sentence you to jail or place you on probation, regardless if the charge is a misdemeanor or felony.  Usually, defendants don’t get jail time on misdemeanors, but it does happen.

Will you go to jail on a felony drug charge?

There are various factors a judge will consider to determine if he will put you in jail or give you probation.  In felony matters, if you have a prior criminal record, including prior felony convictions, this will weigh against you. It doesn’t matter if the prior felony conviction occurred in Louisiana or out of state, it can be used against you.  If you have two prior felony convictions, the judge cannot give you probation in Louisiana, with some small exceptions.  Even if your prior conviction was expunged, there is a good chance, the prosecutor will still see it. Law enforcement still has access to expunged records.  Plus, a lot of people think their record was expunged when it wasn’t.  You must file a motion to expunge the record to have a criminal record removed in Louisiana.  Usually, defendants hire an attorney for an expungement.  If the criminal conviction is a felony, you could be looking at the following conditions of probation:

  • Monthly supervision fees
  • Ankle monitor
  • Fines and court costs
  • Community service
  • Substance abuse evaluation and/or treatment
  • Attendance of classes
  • Drug tests – random

Misdemeanor Drug Charge

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor in Louisiana as opposed to a felony, the judge may still look at your criminal record. The difference is that you could still get probation on a misdemeanor in Louisiana if you have two or more prior felony convictions.  Your criminal lawyer may be able to talk to the judge and point out the good things about you since those prior convictions.  For instance, if the current misdemeanor drug charge is minor such as a possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia, it may not hurt you as much if your prior felony drug charge was a heroin possession conviction many years ago.  But, if you keep getting caught with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, then catch a misdemeanor possession of marijuana, your criminal defense attorney may have a harder time keeping you out of jail, even on a misdemeanor.  Every case is different. That’s why it is so important to have a marijuana lawyer or criminal attorney help you out.

Penalty Range Determines

Drug possession generally is regarded as a grievous offense punishable by the Louisiana state law. A drug crime may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the type of drug, the amount of drug the offender possesses, and other significant factors. Drug charges in Louisiana are always severe, so it is important that you know how to determine if a drug offense is a misdemeanor or a felony.

Knowing the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony can assist you on how to prepare when arrested. As with all types of punishable crime, sentences may range from payment of fines to a jail term, probation, etc. Before moving to how to determine if a drug charge is a misdemeanor or a felony charge, it is important that you understand the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.

A drug misdemeanor is the least degree of drug crime you can be charged for. A misdemeanor does not lead to a long jail term and the offender is only required to pay a small amount of fine. A misdemeanor generally involves nonviolent crimes or property damage. It is simply a charge of misconduct.

A felony, on the other hand, can be extremely harmful. A drug felony simply means you have dangerous or illegal drugs in a large quantity. A drug crime may be charged as a felony as a result of factors known as aggravating factors including the quantity, the location, and the age of people involved. A felony usually attracts a long jail term on the part of the offender and a large fine. One can say that the major difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the jail term involved. Just as with other felony offense, the same applies to a felony offense involving a drug crime. Felony convictions generally attract harsher punishments than a misdemeanor

 The long jail term, hefty fines, and probation associated with a felony are extremely harsh compared to the punishment of a misdemeanor offense. It is important that anyone facing a drug crime understands the conditions that constitute a felony so that you can take necessary action which is to hire a skilled criminal lawyer in Baton Rouge to defend your case.

Determining Factors for a misdemeanor and felony offense

In a case where a drug crime involves a less dangerous drug or small quantity, the crime may be charged as a misdemeanor. However, the crime may be charged as a felony if the offender is caught with a dangerous drug, if an offender has a large quantity of drugs considered illegal, if the offender has an intent to distribute/ sell or if other factors known as “aggravating factors” were present.

Aggravating factors for a drug felony offense includes possession on or at 1,000 km near school premises, possession of drugs in a public place like pools, parks, and housing unit, possession of drug near a treatment facility, possession with the involvement of a teenage below the age of 18 years old, and subsequent or repeat offences. These factors may cause an offender to face extremely harsh punishment, but a skilled criminal lawyer can be of great help all the step of the way.

Misdemeanor Drug Charges

Simple possession of the drug is categorized as a misdemeanor because the drug you possess is in a small quantity that can pass for personal use.  If your motive was to use the drug for personal use, which is usually determined based on the quantity found on you at the point of arrest. Misdemeanor offenses have less serious penalties.

Felony Drug Charge

An individual can be charged for a felony drug charge if they are found in possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs. Even if a person does not have the intention to sell but possess a large quantity, this gives off a presumption that the offender had an intent to sell. The quantity of drugs in possession will give such a person away. Felony drug charge usually involves more than simple possession of drugs. The logic behind the intent to distribute is the quantity of the drug that you hold on your possession.

Drug trafficking is charged as a felony. This act involves smuggling, possession, manufacture, purchase, sale or delivery of illegal substances. Drug trafficking is one of the most serious drug offenses that anyone can get into as it attracts a harsh penalty.

Should You Talk to The Police When You Are Arrested?

Immediately you are arrested, you may be tempted to go ahead and prove your honesty or innocence by speaking to the Police without your lawyer present.  Avoid such an urge because you may end up worsening the matter at hand, instead of solving it. We have had cases of those who said incriminating things to the police without them knowing. Immediately you are arrested, ask to see your attorney. Don’t utter a word aside from the request to get in touch with your lawyer, if you don’t want your words to be used against you. When your Baton Rouge attorney is invited, he looks at the case at hand, trying to see what can be done for you. He allows you know what questions should be answered and what shouldn’t, in order that your chances of coming free aren’t reduced.

Consequences of Misdemeanor and Felony drug charges

Misdemeanor drug offense may result in a small jail term of a not more than 1 year and, a small fine or probation. A felony charge usually attracts a prison sentence as well as hefty fines. Prison sentence for a felony may be up to 10-20 years or more than that. A case of heroin trafficking can get offender into prison with fines of up to $500,000.

Aggravating factors or drug enhancement can cause extremely harsh punishment for the offender. Distribution of drugs in school premises or drug restricted zone adds to the severity of the offender’s crime.

Probation is another penalty an offender gets for a felony drug charge. During the probation period, you are expected to be in your best character. The offender is expected to stay out of trouble, stay away from drugs, and serve a minimal amount of public service, pay a fine, then the case may be dismissed.

Do I need a lawyer for a drug crime?

Most definitely, you need to hire a criminal lawyer in Baton Rouge to go with you every step of the way. One important thing to do immediately you get charged with a drug crime is to reach out to Carl Barkemeyer.  Whether a misdemeanor or a felony, it is important that you take legal action to get a skilled and experienced defense attorney like Carl Barkemeyer. The Barkemeyer Law Firm evaluates your case and finds the best way to build a defense strategy for you.

Lawyer for Drug Charge in Louisiana

If you have a drug charge and need a drug crime defense attorney in Louisiana, contact us at (225) 964-6720.  We are lawyers for drug possession anywhere in Louisiana, including Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Port Allen, Livingston, Denham Springs, Ascension, Gonzales, Tangipahoa, Amite, Hammond, Covington, Slidell, St. Tammany, and more.


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DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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