It was your first trip to New Orleans and you and your husband had been having a wonderful time. You were feeling so full and tired after dinner that you just wanted to go back to the hotel, but your husband had his heart set on hearing some live music, so he walked you back and promised to return in an hour or so. You were fast asleep when the phone rang. You heard the words but at first you weren't sure if you were still dreaming. Your husband had been arrested? How did this happen? What do you do? What happens now? Here is some basic information to help you navigate when you or a loved one is involved in a criminal case in New Orleans.
For a general overview you may wish to start by checking out the FindLaw section on Criminal Law. Then return here for information specific to The Big Easy.
The first folks likely encountered in a New Orleans criminal case are officers from the New Orleans Police Department.
The case may be prosecuted by the City Attorney's Office (municipal or traffic charges) or the Orleans Parish District Attorney and may be heard at the New Orleans Municipal Court, or the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Depending on the accused's financial circumstances, the judge may appoint a defense attorney from the Orleans Public Defenders.
Time will likely be spent in one or more of the facilities operated by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, including the Orleans Parish Prison, the Temporary Detention Center, and the Intake Processing Center.
Booking, First Appearance and Bond
After arrest, the next step is generally "booking." This is the process by which information about the accused and the charges against him are entered into the system and he is fingerprinted, photographed and searched.
The next concern is generally getting out. As outlined in this helpful overview prepared by the Orleans Public Defenders, the accused will typically go before a judge for the "First Appearance" where it is determined whether there is enough evidence presented to support the arrest and a bond amount is set. A bond is basically a promise made with money or collateral that the accused will return to court. In some cases the accused can be released on his "own recognizance" and no bond needs to be paid.
Check out this useful guide for information on how to post a bond in New Orleans. As noted, the easiest method is to pay the full bond with cash at the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office. (Intake Processing Center) at 730 S. Dupre Street.
The progression of each case varies depending on specifics, but you can generally expect that your next court appearance will be the arraignment. During this hearing, the defendant is advised of the charges against him and asked for his plea. If he pleads guilty, he will proceed to sentencing. If he pleads not guilty his case will proceed towards trial, although there will be pre-trial conferences and hearings before the case reaches that stage.
Criminal cases can be complicated and emotional experiences. It is strongly recommended that you retain an experienced attorney to defend your loved one. For more information on how a defense lawyer can help you, check out the FindLaw section on Using a Criminal Lawyer.