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Drug-free school zones can include more places than people expect

Like other states, Louisiana has enhanced laws on its books regarding drugs and schools. The point of the law is to protect children from the dangers of drug trafficking and drug activity.

The intent has been to involve the kinds of areas that children are often present in, such as schools and parks. What people may not realize, however, is that the reach of this law goes well beyond a school playground and violations can occur when one is unaware he or she is in a protected area, such as a state park or wildlife preserve.

A 2000-foot radius

Section 981.3 expressly includes property used for school purposes by any school, as well as the land that extends 2000 feet beyond the property. This distance is different than many other states that limit the enhanced penalties to a 1000-foot radius.

Schools include both private and public, as well as vocational or technical schools and colleges and universities.

More than just schools

The law also includes more than just schools. It includes religious places, public housing, day care centers and drug rehabilitation facilities. However, to include these types of places, there must be a posted sign regarding its drug-free nature.

Enhanced penalties apply to school playgrounds as well as land and property owned by the government that is used as a recreational amenity, including those run as state parks.

With regard to breaking the drug laws within a private home that is 2000 feet or less from the school property, Louisiana does provide an exception if there are no children there and if the defendant did not profit from the drug activity.

Lack of knowledge is not a defense

It will not matter if a defendant charged under this code section was unaware that the drug activity happened to be within the 2000 feet zone. Knowledge is not a requirement for conviction under the law.

If convicted, a violator will receive the maximum fine and may receive jail term that is 1.5 times the longest permissible term otherwise allowed. Moreover, that sentence will have restrictions on any suspension, probation or parole.

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