On Wednesday (Feb. 15), Judge Harry Cantrell, Orleans Parish's elected magistrate (there are four appointed magistrates) was presented with a case where two Lafayette men were booked for one count of first-degree murder and nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. After a preliminary hearing, Judge Cantrell found no probable cause for the murder and attempted murder charges. However, he did find probable cause for manslaughter and nine counts of attempted manslaughter. Judge Cantrell also reduced the defendants' bond from $2.25 million to $1.375 million to reflect his ruling.
The district attorney's office could still elect to charge these two guys with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Any charges that carry a penalty of mandatory life or death (as first-degree murder does) needs to be presented to a grand jury for a bill of indictment. Of course, the district attorney's office could also choose to move forward with manslaughter charges.
This brings me to my point – just because a person is arrested and booked for a offense does not mean that the district attorney will file a bill of information against them for the same offense. That happens in many cases, but it does not happen all the time. Sometimes the district attorney's office will not bill a person who has been arrested and booked for a crime. I have had many cases where I was able to convince the district attorney's office to refuse the charges outright. Sometimes, clients are billed for more serious offenses than they were booked for. I have a current client who was originally arrested for misdemeanor weapons charges, and who was later billed for seven counts of armed robbery. Thankfully, this situation is rare, but it does happen from time to time.
If you have been booked or billed, or fear that you will be shortly, make sure to give me a call at 504.226.6200.