An arrest occurs when a person is taken into custody on suspicion of committing a criminal act. The offense a person is booked with by police is only an allegation. Police are not empowered to bring a formal criminal charge against an arrestee, only to recommend charges for consideration by the District Attorney.
After a person is arrested, the state has a period of time in which to formally charge a crime by filing a bill of information or an indictment. Crimes punishable by lifetime prison terms must be charged through an indictment handed up by an Orleans Parish grand jury.
According to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 701, when a defendant is continued in custody following an arrest, an indictment or bill of information charging a crime shall be filed within 45 days for a misdemeanor and within 60 days for a felony offense.
That time period is extended to 120 days from the date of arrest when the defendant is being held in custody for a felony in which the punishment may be death or life imprisonment.
Failure to bring a criminal charge within those deadlines through an indictment or bill of information shall result in the release of the defendant if, after a contradictory hearing, just cause for the failure is not shown. If just cause is shown, the court shall reconsider bail for the defendant.
When a defendant is not in continued custody following arrest, the state has more time in which to file an indictment or bill of information: Within 90 days for a misdemeanor or 150 days for a felony offense.
Failure to initiate prosecution by the deadline under this circumstance shall result in the release of the defendant’s bail obligation if, after a contradictory hearing, just cause for the delay is not shown.
Upon filing an indictment or bill of information, the district attorney shall set the matter for arraignment – when the defendant is to enter a plea – within 30 days, unless just cause for a longer delay is shown and approved by a judge.
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