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Louisiana councilman charged with influence 'pedaling'

The more high-profile an individual is the more damaging criminal charges can be. A misdemeanor may seem like a slap on the wrist compared to a felony. However, Louisiana misdemeanor charges are a problem that may include penalties like jail time, fines and reputation and job damage.

A misdemeanor citation is threatening the already-shaky standing of a Gonzales city councilman. The defendant is one of two members of the Gonzales City Council who might be out of jobs next month, following special recall elections. Police said the councilman took advantage of a recent election day to "pedal" his influence.

Louisiana election laws strictly forbid politicking near voter polling stations on election days. Complaining voters and police spotted the councilman riding a three-wheeled bicycle plastered with political signs related to the recall election. State election laws do not permit placements or displays of campaign literature within 600 feet of active polling places.

The councilman apparently biked and parked outside a high school and Gonzales City Hall. He didn't hand out any campaign materials, although police found some brochures on the bike. Authorities said the defendant violated the state voter law by breaking the 600-foot rule, a crime punishable by a jail term of up to six months and a possible fine of $500.

Police followed the bicycling councilman, snapped pictures and got out a measuring tape. Local authorities even checked with state officials about the signs' political messages. Police were told it didn't matter that the messages pertained to issues that weren't on the voters' ballots that day.

The recall elections are the result of heated City Council arguments with the police chief and other officials. The chief, two council members and the mayor all publicly signed petitions in favor of the recall election.

Misdemeanors may seem like small-time crimes, until you feel the long-term heat of consequences. Attorneys advise defendants to take misdemeanor charges seriously.

Source: The Advocate, "Gonzales councilman’s bike ride past polls draws misdemeanor citation" David J. Mitchell, Nov. 06, 2014

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