What is the Effect of a “Multi-Bill” on a Criminal Conviction?

Not surprisingly, Louisiana went “all in” when the “three strikes” craze swept the country many years ago resulting in one of the harshest habitual offender sentencing schemes across the country.

Louisiana’s habitual offender law mandates lengthy periods of incarceration in three ways.  First, it eliminates probation as an option-even if the crime is a probation eligible offense.   Second, it eliminates an early release for good behavior- also known as “good time.”  Inmates commonly refer to this phenomena is “flattening out” or “flat time.”  It basically ensures that you will serve every day of your sentence unless you are granted parole.  The third way the habitual offender law increases a term of imprisonment is that creates a mandatory minimum period of time that needs to be served in jail and it also increase the maximum potential penalty you could receive for a felony.

As a general rule, habitual offender adjudications will double the maximum possible penalty.  But, for fourth felony offenders, the maximum penalty is life in prison.  The mandated minimum penalty is defendant upon the number of prior convictions used to increase the sentence.  If you are a second felony offender, the mandatory minimum penalty you can receive is one half of the maximum penalty allowed by the statute.  Typically, a third felony offender’s minimum penalty is two-thirds of the maximum penalty prescribed by the statute.  Of course, certain violent third offenders are mandated to life in jail.  Fourth offenders will either be required to serve a period of incarceration ranging from 20 years to life or mandatory life in jail depending upon the seriousness of their convictions.

Here is a common example.  Let’s assume someone is convicted of felony theft over $1500.  This crime carries up to 10 years in jail.  As a second offender, this person would be facing a minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 20 years (1/2 the maximum sentence to double the maximum sentence).  As a non-violent third offender, this person would face a minimum sentence of 6 years and 8 months and a maximum of 20 years (2/3 of the maximum penalty to double the maximum penalty).  As a non-violent fourth offender, this person would be facing a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life.

As noted above, there are certain instances in which third and fourth felony offenders are mandated to life in jail due to the seriousness of their crimes.    In these instances, the court will look to determine if the current offense and two of the prior offenses are for crimes of violence; sex offenses involving juveniles; drug offenses carrying a potential 10 or more years; or any other felony with a potential penalty of 12 or more years.  For purposes of this law, a “felony” is any crime that is a felony in Louisiana or, if committed elsewhere, would be a felony under our law.  So, some drug possessions or assaults in other jurisdictions that are deemed misdemeanors elsewhere can be viewed as a felony in Louisiana for purposes of the habitual offender law.  That being said, there is a 10 year cleansing period that will prohibit the use of an older felony.  But there are some nuances to that rule that need to be addressed to determine if the older felonies apply.

A person facing habitual offender adjudication will be able to challenge the sentencing enhancement in the form of a mini trial.  The case will begin with the prosecution formally charging the offender as a habitual offender by way of a bill of information.  The accused will be given an opportunity to quash or collaterally attack the use of the underlying felonies and will also be able to defend his identity as the prior offender at trial.  The prosecution has many ways to prove the older convictions but the most common way is by fingerprint comparison.

If you are someone you know if facing a habitual offender adjudication and would like to talk to an attorney to review the case, please call one of our lawyers at 225-383-9703 or email Andre Belanger: andre@manassehandgill.com.

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