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How are Louisiana defendants affected by different laws?

Procedural laws form the framework for how the legal process works in Louisiana criminal and civil courts. The rules differ from state to state, one jurisdiction to another and sometimes among courts in the same jurisdiction. At the same time, rule variations in lowers courts may not violate constitutional laws.

The U.S. Constitution provides individuals with rights of due process or fair treatment. A claim that a Baton Rouge defendant's rights were violated during an arrest is an allegation that a procedural law was broken. Procedural rules dictate the obligations of the court to try an individual.

Substantive laws define criminal charges and conditions. A felony charge is based on substantive laws that name crimes and describes what constitutes an offense. A conviction for many crimes requires proof of intent to cause harm. A jury cannot convict a defendant of the charge if the vital element of intent doesn't exist or is not firmly established by prosecutors.

Substantive laws also outline consequences after conviction. The laws may contain a range of possible penalties or set punishments. For some crimes, a convicted defendant may have to serve a one-to-three year prison term – the sentence must be at least one year and no more than three or any term in between, according to the discretion of the court. In other cases, a defendant may be imprisoned for a mandatory minimum amount of time under all circumstances.

Substantive issues are also factors once a defendant is freed from confinement. Probation, restitution and for felons, certain rights limitations are set for a temporary or permanent period. For instance, a convicted defendant's name may be included on a sex offender registry for the rest of his or her life.

It is less important to remember substantive and procedural law differences than to understand how the laws apply to your defense. A criminal defense attorney can make that clear.

Source: FindLaw, "Implications of a Crime's Classification" Sep. 30, 2014

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