Gwen's Law in Louisiana Domestic Violence Cases

In May 2014, the Daily Advertiser reported that Michael Salley killed his wife, Gwen Cox Salley, and himself, shortly after he bonded out of jail on charges that he held his wife and 7-year-old daughter at gunpoint and threatened to kill his wife. Later that same month, Governor Bobby Jindal signed House Bill 1142, otherwise known as “Gwen’s Law,” into law.

The result of Gwen’s Law was that courts were required to conduct hearings to assess the feasibility of granting bail to people arrested on domestic abuse charges, and to determine whether there’s a likelihood that an alleged offender may cause further harm. Alleged offenders in such cases must remain in jail until their cases are heard in court.

Were you or your loved one recently arrested for a domestic violence offense in the Shreveport area? If so, it is imperative that you retain an attorney before any contradictory hearing, or Gwen’s law hearing.

The Norris Law Group knows how to fight these types of criminal charges, and can help you achieve the most favorable outcome resulting in the fewest possible penalties. Our firm is prepared to provide a complete evaluation of your case. Call (318) 771-7000 or contact us online now.

What is Gwen’s Law?

Gwen’s Law is found in Article 313 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure. The law provides that a contradictory bail hearing can be held prior to setting bail for a person charged with domestic abuse battery, violation of protective orders, stalking, or any felony offense involving the use or threatened use of force or a deadly weapon upon their family member, household member, or dating partner.

When the court orders a contradictory hearing, Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure § 316.A.(2) establishes the hearing must be held within five days from the date of determination of probable cause, exclusive of weekends and legal holidays. The court will determine the conditions of bail or whether an alleged offender should be held without bail pending trial. The court is required to notify the prosecuting attorney prior to setting bail, if it decides not to hold a contradictory hearing.

The factors listed in  Article 316 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure include:

  • The seriousness of the offense charged
  • The weight of the evidence against the alleged offender
  • The alleged offender’s previous criminal record
  • The ability of the alleged offender to make bail
  • The nature and seriousness of the danger to any other person or the community that would be posed by the alleged offender’s release
  • The alleged offender’s voluntary participation in a pretrial drug testing program
  • The absence or presence in the alleged offender of any controlled dangerous substance
  • Whether the alleged offender is currently out on bail for a previous felony arrest awaiting prosecution, arraignment, trial, or sentencing
  • Any other circumstances affecting the probability of alleged offender’s appearance, and the type or form of bail

In addition to the factors listed above, Gwen’s Law provides that a judge or magistrate must also consider the criminal history of the alleged offender; the potential threat or danger the alleged offender poses to the alleged victim, the family of the alleged victim, or to any member of the public, especially children; and also, the documented history or records of any of the following:

  • Substance abuse by the alleged offender;
  • Threats of suicide by the alleged offender;
  • The alleged offender’s use of force or threats of use of force against any victim;
  • Strangulation, forced sex, or controlling the activities of any victim by the alleged offender; and,
  • Threats to kill.

Gwen’s Law establishes that the documented history or records can include but are not limited to sworn affidavits, police reports, and medical records.

Following the contradictory hearing, the judge or magistrate can order the alleged offender to be held without bail pending trial, when it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that there is either a substantial risk that the alleged offender may flee or that the offender poses an imminent danger to any other person or the community.

Under Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure § 313.C.(1), a contradictory bail hearing must be held prior to setting bail for a person in custody who has either been charged with a sex offense and has been previously convicted of a sex offense. On motion of a prosecuting attorney, a court can perform an in-camera examination of the evidence against the accused, and Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure § 313.C.(4) provides that the court must take into consideration factors listed in Article 316 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure as well as:

  • The previous criminal record of the alleged offender
  • Any potential threat or danger the defendant poses to the victim, the family of the victim, or to any member of the public, particularly children
  • Any statistical evidence prepared by the United States Department of Justice relative to the likelihood of any person convicted of sexually inappropriate conduct with a prepubescent child under 13 years of age to commit similar offenses against juvenile victims in the future.

Gwen’s Law does not establish specific criteria to determine the level of threat in domestic violence cases, and many courts have busy dockets that can make it difficult to hold contradictory hearings. The result is that some people can be denied bail despite not actually posing any risk of fleeing or being a threat of danger to others.

What are the penalties for violating Gwen’s Law?

Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure § 313.A.(5) establishes that an alleged offender may be required to wear an electronic monitoring device and be placed under active electronic monitoring and house arrest. The court will have the power to determine the conditions of the electronic monitoring and house arrest, and a violation of those conditions could be punishable by revocation of bail and the issuance of a bench warrant for the person’s arrest, remanding the alleged offender to custody, or modification of the terms of bail.

Were you charged with domestic violence? The Norris Law Group can help.

A lawyer will be a tremendous advantage at a contradictory hearing, because they will be able to protect your rights and ensure all mitigating and aggravating factors are considered. An attorney can also advocate for a reasonable and affordable bail amount.

If you or your loved one was arrested in Louisiana for an alleged crime of domestic violence and are awaiting a Gwen’s Law hearing, you will want to be sure that you retain legal counsel. Do not go into a contradictory hearing by yourself. Instead, trust your case to Attorney Ebonee Norris and her experienced and compassionate team. We know that domestic violence allegations can be difficult to bear and the consequences of a conviction can be intimidating. Let us be your voice, and let us fight for you.

The Norris Law Group serves clients in Shreveport-Bossier and many other surrounding areas. Call (318) 771-7000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

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