Once someone is convicted of committing a crime, they are then sentenced for the criminal conviction. Most Louisiana residents believe that the only option available is prison time, but this is not the case. It is possible for a criminal defense lawyer to negotiate alternative sentences for the accused that would better serve their interests. For example, the court may order counseling or a pre-trial diversion program for a first-time offender related to drug charges.
One alternative to imprisonment could be a suspended sentence-this takes place when a judge either doesn’t hand down a sentence or hands down a sentence but doesn’t want it carried out. This usually takes place when the offender is a first time one or if the crime is a misdemeanor (with some exceptions). If the individual completes the suspended sentence without any further criminal convictions pending against them, in certain situations the court could set aside the conviction and dismiss the prosecution, having the same effect as if the person had been acquitted. However, the conviction could be used as a first-time offense in further prosecutions if the person is accused of committing another offense.
Another alternative to prison time is probation. Similar to a suspended sentence, the person does not have to go to prison but they do not retain all the freedoms as a normal citizen. There are certain restrictions placed on their behavior, such as refraining from owning firearms, remaining within the jurisdiction of the court, performing community service and submitting oneself to be available for substance abuse, mental health or medical evaluations as ordered to do so by the relevant authorities. If the terms of probation are not fulfilled, the court can revoke probation.
It is important to know that prison is not the only punishment for committing a crime. A skilled professional could negotiate a lesser or alternative sentence, either through a plea negotiation or by demonstrating that the type of crime and the age of the defendant, among other factors, should be considered when deciding the sentence to impose.
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