KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – LOUISIANA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAWS

With domestic violence cases being discussed almost daily on various media outlets, there is hardly anyone who is not at least slightly familiar with the nature and consequences of these kinds of offenses. However, what often goes unsaid is that law enforcement and the judiciary have zero tolerance for domestic violence cases and are reluctant to show any leniency, often imposing the harshest sentences available. Because domestic violence cases usually occur in family settings or between individuals who are emotionally close — causing a societal and political condemnation — they may be extremely hard to defend. Furthermore, what makes defending these cases even harder are some common misconceptions.

First, following the arrest of the accused abuser, chances are that the alleged victim would likely to either drop the charges or not press any charges. However, the decision whether or not to proceed with the case will actually be made by the prosecutor, not by the victim. And, given the aforementioned policy to fight these kinds of cases, prosecutors will not pass on an opportunity to put the alleged abuser behind bars.

Second, an arrest for domestic violence will frequently be accompanied by a stay away order or a protective order. And the violation of a protective order may be a separate criminal charge in itself.

Lastly, domestic violence charges are very serious and can lead to grave consequences such as jail time, hefty fines, home evictions, deprivation of the right to own a firearm, and difficulty in finding or keeping a job. Regardless of whether one is facing a misdemeanor or a felony charge, the penalties can be quite severe. And because domestic violence is an enhanceable offense, stricter sentences come with each additional conviction. These offenses are also not eligible for expungement under Louisiana law.

Our goal is to keep you out of jail and at home with your family where you belong. Regardless of the seriousness of the crime you have been accused of, we can help. Don’t wait! Call us today to schedule an appointment for a free consultation to discuss your case. Call (504) 302-2462.

“Play your cards well, call Gaynell!”

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorneys in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2018 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law. Published May 1, 2018.

If you are in need of a DWI/DUI, criminal defense, expungement, or personal injury lawyer, please contact Gaynell Williams today at 504-302-2462 for an appointment so that an aggressive lawyer who will be committed to your case can assist you today. Evenings and weekend sessions are available by appointment. We will work around your schedule.

By | 2018-05-01T19:34:26+00:00 May 1st, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – LOUISIANA DOMESTIC VIOLENCE LAWS

Why Was Ronald Gasser Guilty of Manslaughter of Former New York Jets Running Back Joe McKnight?

1. Why Ronald Gasser was Found Guilty of Manslaughter of former New York Jets Running Back Joe McKnight?

In a nutshell, the jury reached a compromise verdict and found that Ronald Gasser committed manslaughter, not second degree murder. This case is very similar to the verdict in the State of Louisiana versus Cordell Hayes regarding the killing of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith.

DWI Administrative Hearing

2. The Charges

The defendant, Ronald Gasser, was charged by grand jury indictment with committing the second degree murder of Joe McKnight. The jury found that Gasser was guilty of manslaughter.

3. The Law

In Louisiana, second degree murder is defined, in part, under La. R.S. 14:30.1 as the killing of a human being when the offender has a specific intent to kill or to inflict great bodily harm.

4. The Facts Alleged by the District Attorney

It was undisputed at trial that Ronald Gasser killed Joe McKnight, the former NFL and New York Jets football player, on December 1, 2016, after a road rage incident that began on the New Orleans Crescent City Connection Bridge and ended in Terrytown as both Gasser and McKnight shouted vulgarities at each other and raced back and forth during the five-mile chase. McKnight was killed when he exited his vehicle in Terrytown, stood at the passenger-side window of Gasser’s car, and attempted to get into Gasser’s vehicle. Gasser did not leave the driver’s seat of his car. The District Attorney contended that Ronald Gasser intentionally killed McKnight by shooting him three times, hitting him in the shoulder, chest, and left hand.

5. The Facts Alleged by Ronald Gasser’s Defense

Gasser’s attorneys argued self-defense, claiming that Joe McKnight was the aggressor and that Gasser feared for his life when he shot and killed McKnight. They also contend that McKnight was under the influence of several drugs at the time of the encounter.

6. Louisiana’s Stand Your Ground Self-Defense Law (The Castle Doctrine)

Louisiana Revised Statutes, 14:20(A)(1), Justifiable Homicide, provides,
Justifiable homicide
A. A homicide is justifiable:
(3) When committed against a person whom one reasonably believes to be likely to use any unlawful force against a person present in a dwelling or a place of business, or when committed against a person whom one reasonably believes is attempting to use any unlawful force against a person present in a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40), while committing or attempting to commit a burglary or robbery of such dwelling, business, or motor vehicle.
(4)(a) When committed by a person lawfully inside a dwelling, a place of business, or a motor vehicle as defined in R.S. 32:1(40) when the conflict began, against a person who is attempting to make an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, or who has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle, and the person committing the homicide reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the entry or to compel the intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
B. For the purposes of this Section, there shall be a presumption that a person lawfully inside a dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle held a reasonable belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent unlawful entry thereto, or to compel an unlawful intruder to leave the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle when the conflict began, if both of the following occur:
(1) The person against whom deadly force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcibly entering or had unlawfully and forcibly entered the dwelling, place of business, or motor vehicle.
(2) The person who used deadly force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry was occurring or had occurred.
C. A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.
D. No finder of fact shall be permitted to consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not the person who used deadly force had a reasonable belief that deadly force was reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent a violent or forcible felony involving life or great bodily harm or to prevent the unlawful entry.

7. The Verdict Against Ronald Gasser

From the evidence presented and from the jury’s verdict on January 26, 2018, the jury found that Ronald Gasser was in the heat of passion when he killed Joe McKnight. Thus, Ronald Gasser was found not guilty of second degree murder. He was found guilty of manslaughter.

8. Manslaughter in Louisiana

Manslaughter is a less serious crime and a responsive verdict to the charge of second degree murder. Under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 814, Responsive verdicts; in particular, the only verdicts which may be rendered by the jury when the indictment charges second degree murder are
1. Guilty of second degree murder;
2. Guilty of manslaughter;
3. Guilty of negligent homicide; or
4. Not guilty.
In other words, the jury in the trial of Ronald Gasser had no choice but to render one of the four verdicts mentioned above. By finding Ronald Gasser guilty of manslaughter, the jury found that the elements of second degree murder were not proven by the prosecution. Under La. R.S. 14:31, manslaughter is defined as
(1) A homicide which would be murder under either [first degree murder] or [second degree murder], but the offense is committed in sudden passion or heat of blood immediately caused by provocation sufficient to deprive an average person of his self-control and cool reflection. Provocation shall not reduce a homicide to manslaughter if the jury finds that the offender’s blood had actually cooled, or that an average person’s blood would have cooled, at the time the offense was committed; …
B. Whoever commits manslaughter shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not more than forty years. However, if the victim killed was under the age of ten years, the offender shall be imprisoned at hard labor, without benefit of probation or suspension of sentence, for not less than ten years nor more than forty years.

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorneys in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2018 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law. Published February 2, 2018.

If you are in need of a DWI/DUI, criminal defense, expungement, or personal injury lawyer, please contact Gaynell Williams today at 504-302-2462 for an appointment so that an aggressive lawyer who will be committed to your case can assist you today. Evenings and weekend sessions are available by appointment. We will work around your schedule.

By | 2018-04-04T18:15:29+00:00 February 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Why Was Ronald Gasser Guilty of Manslaughter of Former New York Jets Running Back Joe McKnight?

DWI Administrative Hearing Process in Louisiana

DWI Administrative Hearing

1. The DPSC DWI Administrative Hearing Process after a Motorist’s Driver’s License is Suspended in Louisiana

The Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) DWI Administrative Hearing Process after a motorist’s driver’s License is suspended in Louisiana law requires the DPSC Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) to suspend a person’s driver’s license if the person is arrested for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, that is, when the person was driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater, or when the person refuses a chemical test upon arrest. This DPSC administrative hearing is a separate process from the criminal action that may be brought against a motorist for driving while intoxicated (DWI ). In Louisiana, there are actually two statutory schemes that a driver who is arrested for DWI faces: (1) the civil process where a person’s driver’s license may be suspended; and (2) the criminal process where a driver who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more can be prosecuted for DWI. Both statutory schemes proceed independently of the other, and the outcome of one action is of no consequence in the other. In other words, a motorist’s driver’s license can be suspended civilly although the motorist may not be prosecuted for DWI. Further, the motorist may be prosecuted for DWI even though his license is not suspended civilly. To learn more about the administrative hearing, go to the web site of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections .

2. What Happens to the Motorist’s License after the Arrest for DWI/DUI?

When a law enforcement officer arrests a person for DWI, the officer will seize the motorist’s driver’s license and issue the motorist a temporary receipt of license on a form approved by the DPSC. This receipt allows the driver the right to operate a motor vehicle upon the public highways of Louisiana for a period not to exceed 30 days from the date of arrest . The temporary receipt provides notice to the driver that he has not more than 30 days from the date of arrest to make a written request to the DPSC for an administrative hearing.

3. After an Arrest for DWI, What Happens to the Motorist’s Vehicle?

After a motorist is arrested for DWI, he has a right to allow a passenger in the vehicle who is not under the influence of alcohol who has a driver’s license to take control of the vehicle. If the vehicle does not create a hazard or obstruction to traffic or the motoring public, and if there is no passenger in the vehicle with a valid driver’s license and who is not under the influence of alcohol, the officer, before ordering or procuring a towing service, shall allow the arrested motorist a reasonable time and opportunity to contact another person to take possession or control of his vehicle.

4. Who Conducts the Administrative Hearings for DWI License Suspensions?

The administrative hearings are conducted by administrative law judges who are employed by the Louisiana Division of Administrative Law.

5. What Happens at the Administrative Hearings for DWI License Suspensions?

When the administrative hearing occurs, law enforcement officer usually do not testify at the administrative hearing. The Administrative Law Judge will begin the hearing by introducing the records of the DPSC or other such evidence as will show whether the license should be suspended or returned to the motorist. These documents will usually include:

(1) the DPSC Certification of Arrest Report,

(2) the Arrestee’s Rights Form,

(3) the Intoxilyzer Check List,

(4) the Office of State Police Certificate of Inspection Instrument Recertification Form,

(5) the results of the Intoxilyzer Breath Test,

(6) the results of field sobriety tests given,

(7) the Arrest Report and Probable Cause Affidavit, and

(8) the Charge Disposition Report.

Although police officers do not usually testify at administrative hearings, attorneys are allowed to call their clients and other witnesses who can contest the findings of the arresting officer or other officers on the scene of the arrest. Further, when the DPSC records are introduced by the administrative law judge, the motorist’s lawyer will usually object to the admissibility of these documents on the grounds that they are hearsay, incompetent evidence, and that they are not authenticated. However, the administrative law judge will usually overrule these objections and these documents are admitted at the administrative hearing notwithstanding the hearsay and authentication issues.

6. What Do the Documents from the DPSC Show at the DWI Administrative Hearing?

The documents from the DPSC will contain the affidavit of the arresting officer where the officer describes his observations of the motorist’s driving and behavior that led him to suspect that the motorist was driving under the influence of alcohol. The documents will describe the field sobriety tests given to the motorist as well as a recitation of the facts that led to the motorist’s arrest.

7. What Issues are Determined by the Administrative Law Judge at the Administrative Hearing?

(1) Whether a law enforcement officer had reasonable grounds to believe the motorist had been driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle upon the public highways of this state.

(2) Whether the motorist was placed under arrest.

(3) Whether the motorist was advised of his rights by the office?

(4) Whether the motorist voluntarily submitted to an approved chemical test and whether the test resulted in a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 % or above by weight, or of 0.02 % or above if the motorist was under the age of 21 years on the date of the test.

(5) Whether the motorist refused to submit to the test upon the request of the officer.

The Administrative Law Judge will not usually render a decision at the hearing. The Judge will issue a written decision within thirty days of the hearing that either recalls or sets aside the suspension or affirms the decision of the DPSC to suspend the motorist’s license.

8. What Options Does the Motorist Have if his License is Suspended by the Administrative Law Judge?

If the suspension is upheld by the administrative law judge, the motorist has a right to file a petition in the appropriate civil district court. The motorist has 30 days from the date he received the written decision of the Administrative Law Judge to file a petition for judicial review with the civil district court. If the motorist does not file a petition for judicial review with the civil district court within thirty days, the order of suspension will become a final one. For more information on Louisiana DWI laws, click here.

If you are in need of a DWI/DUI, criminal defense, expungement, or personal injury lawyer, please contact Gaynell Williams today at 504-302-2462 for an appointment so that an aggressive criminal and personal injury lawyer who will be committed to your case can assist you today. Evenings and weekend sessions are available by appointment. We will work around your schedule.

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorneys in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2017 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law. Published December 14, 2017.

By | 2018-04-04T18:20:05+00:00 December 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on DWI Administrative Hearing Process in Louisiana

When is an DWI/DUI Ignition Interlock (Blow-and-Go) Device Required for DWI Violations in Louisiana?

An ignition interlock device (also referred to as a Blow-and-Go Device) is an in car alcohol breath screening device that is connected to the engine’s ignition system to prevent a vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol level above a preset limit. There are many instances where the ignition interlock device is required to be installed on a motorist’s car in Louisiana. It is required as a condition of reinstatement for some motorists in Louisiana. An ignition interlock device must  be installed in any motor vehicle operated by any of the following persons whose driver’s license has been suspended in connection with the following circumstances as a condition of the reinstatement of such person’s driver’s license: 

(a)  Any person who has refused to submit to an approved chemical test for intoxication, after being requested to do so, for a second arrest for DWI.

(b)  Any person who has submitted to an approved chemical test for intoxication where the results indicate a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or above and whose driver’s license has been suspended in accordance with the law for an arrest occurring within ten years of the first arrest.

(c)  Any person who is arrested for DWI and is involved, as a driver, in a traffic crash which involves moderate bodily injury or serious bodily injury as defined in R.S. 32:666(A).

(d)  Any person who is arrested for DWI and a minor child twelve years of age or younger was a passenger in the motor vehicle at the time of the commission of the offense.

The ignition interlock device is also required for a motorist to be granted a restricted license so that he can drive after he has been arrested and his license has been suspended for a first or second offense DWI. In this instance, the motorist can have his license immediately reinstated so that he can drive and earn a living. The motorist who is eligible for this type of restricted license is that motorist who either refused to submit to the blood alcohol test or who submitted to the blood alcohol test and the test showed a blood alcohol level of least 0.08 percent and less than 0.20 percent. When the motorist has proven to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections that his motor vehicle has been equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device, he is immediately eligible for and will be granted a restricted license.

In other words, these motorists can obtain a restricted license as a result of the ignition interlock devices being stalled on their cars for the entire time that their driver’s licenses are suspended.

Further an ignition interlock device is required for those motorists who have been convicted of vehicular negligent injuring or for DWI.

An ignition interlock device may also be required as a condition of probation for certain DWI offenders. It is also against the law to tamper with or circumvent the operation of an ignition interlock device that has been installed on a car as a condition of driving a motor vehicle in Louisiana.

If you are in need of a DWI/DUI, criminal defense, expungement, or personal injury lawyer, please contact Gaynell Williams today at 504-302-2462 for an appointment so that an aggressive criminal and personal injury lawyer who will be committed to your case can assist you today. Evenings and weekend appointments are available by appointment. We will work around your schedule.

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorneys in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2015 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law. Published October 23, 2017.

By | 2018-03-14T21:00:25+00:00 October 24th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on When is an DWI/DUI Ignition Interlock (Blow-and-Go) Device Required for DWI Violations in Louisiana?

DWI and Commercial Licenses in Louisiana

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs)
This blog post will discuss the rights of Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Holders In Louisiana who are arrested for DWI. When drivers with commercial driver’s face suspensions of their driver’s licenses because of DWI arrests, they really needs an experienced DWI lawyer to assist them with the administrative hearings and the possible criminal charges that follow the suspensions.

1. What Types of Driver’s Licenses are Available in Louisiana?

Louisiana issues five classes of driver’s licenses:

A. Commercial Driver’s License (Class “A” [Combination Vehicle],

B. Class “B” [Heavy Straight Vehicle] and

C. Class “C” [Light Vehicle]),

D. Chauffeur’s License (Class “D”) and

E. Personal Vehicle Driver’s License (Class “E”).

2. What Happens if a Commercial Driver’s License Holder (CDL) is Arrested for DWI?

The Louisiana Legislative has enacted laws to hold commercial license vehicle operators to a higher standard than that for non-commercial vehicle operators. For example, when a commercial driver’s license holder is disqualified, there is no economic hardship license to operate a commercial motor vehicle as there is for noncommercial vehicles. That means that although the CDL holder may be able to get a hardship license to drive a personal vehicle, he will be unable to obtain a hardship license to drive a commercial vehicle.

Thus, once a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is disqualified, there is no economic hardship license to operate a commercial motor vehicle as there is for noncommercial vehicles.

3. What Art Some of the Laws That Apply To CDL Holders?

Here are a few of the laws that apply to holders of commercial driver’s licenses:

1. If a CDL holder is arrested and his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is greater than 0.8% or he was under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) while driving any vehicle (a commercial vehicle or a non-commercial vehicle), he can be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year.

2.If a CDL holder is arrested and his BAC is between 0.4% & 0.8% while driving a commercial vehicle, he can be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for 1 year.

3. If a CDL holder is convicted for DWI, he can be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year.

4. If it is determined that a commercial driver has left the scene of an accident while operating any vehicle, a commercial vehicle or a non-commercial vehicle, he can be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year.

5. If a CDL holder refuses to submit to a BAC test or drug test while operating any vehicle, commercial or otherwise, he can be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for one year.

4. What Are Some Serious Driving Offenses for Which a CDL Holder May Be Disqualified?

1. Excessive speeding, involving any single offense for any speed of fifteen miles per hour or more above the posted speed limit.

2. Reckless driving

3. Improper or erratic traffic lane changes.

4. Following the vehicle ahead too closely.

5. A violation arising in connection with a fatal accident

6. Texting while driving.

7. Use of a handheld mobile telephone while driving a commercial motor vehicle.

5. Can a Person With a Suspended CDL Drive a Personal Vehicle?

Yes. The strict laws for drivers of commercial vehicles do not prohibit drivers from driving their personal vehicles. For example under some circumstances, any driver should be able to obtain a hardship license as allowed under Louisiana law.

6. Do the Administrative Hearings Apply to Holders of CDLs?

Yes. After the license of a CDL holder has been suspended under the Louisiana Implied Consent Laws, he has thirty days from the date of his arrest to file a request for an administrative hearing before an Administrative Law Judge to contest the suspension. The Implied Consent Laws apply to commercial driver’s license holders as well as to all other drivers.

7. What Happens at the Administrative Hearings for DWI License Suspensions?

When the administrative hearing occurs, law enforcement officer usually do not testify at the administrative hearing. A new law passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2012 prevents attorneys from subpoenaing law enforcement officers to appear at administrative hearing. The Administrative Law Judge will begin the hearing by introducing the records of the DPSC or other such evidence as will show whether the license should be suspended or returned to the motorist. At the administrative hearing, attorneys are allowed to call their clients and other witnesses who can contest the findings of the arresting officer or other officers on the scene of the arrest. Further, when the DPSC records are introduced by the administrative law judge, the motorist’s lawyer will usually object to the admissibility of these documents on the grounds that they are hearsay, incompetent evidence, and that they are not authenticated. However, the administrative law judge will usually overrule these objections and these documents are admitted at the administrative hearing notwithstanding the hearsay and authentication issues. For more information on commercial driver’s license suspensions, go to the web site of the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections .

Legal Disclaimer

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorneys in connection with any specific situation under federal and/or Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may impose additional obligations on you and/or your family member. © 2017 Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law. Published October 11, 2017.

If you are in need of a DWI/DUI, criminal defense, expungement, or personal injury lawyer, please contact Gaynell Williams today at 504-302-2462 for an appointment so that an aggressive lawyer who will be committed to your case can assist you today. Evenings and weekend sessions are available by appointment. We will work around your schedule.

By | 2018-03-14T21:03:07+00:00 October 10th, 2017|Uncategorized|Comments Off on DWI and Commercial Licenses in Louisiana