Louisiana law categorizes crimes into 4 categories. Each category has its own statute of limitations for both prosecuting the case and bringing it to trial. There are 3 categories of felonies and one category of misdemeanors in Louisiana. Unlike many states and the federal government, the duration of jail does not determine a crime’s status as a felony. Rather, it is the potential for serving the sentence at hard labor that determines a crime’s classification.
First Class Felony
First class felonies are those punishable by life or death. In other words, the potential sentence is a “word” and not a specified number of years. These cases have no statute of limitations for instituting the case and must be tried within 3 years.
Second Class Felony
Second class felonies are those mandating any sentence imposed be served at hard labor. A hard labor sentence is one served with the Louisiana Department of Corrections. The time limitations for these offenses vary with certain sex crimes having a 30 year period and other felonies having a 6 year time period. However, once charges are brought, trial must commence within 2 years.
Third Class Felony
Third class felonies are those punishable “with or without” hard labor. Meaning, the person can be sentenced to DOC or to the parish jail. Typically, these cases have a 4 year statute of limitations and a 2 year trial requirement.
The Fourth classification are misdemeanors. These crimes are punishable by fine only or a sentence that is without hard labor-i.e. the parish prison. Now, some misdemeanors carry a one year jail sentence. When that happens, the accused is afforded a jury trial right.