Rapper and businessman Jay-Z once said, “We all lose when the family feuds,” He was likely correct. Family law and criminal law in Louisiana are two (2) different areas of law, but sometimes they intersect, and that is never a good thing. Previously, our Louisiana criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of Philip B. Adams discussed how a parent could be charged with kidnapping their own child. Today, let’s talk about how past-due child support can become a criminal case.
If someone has a child or children and they have been ordered by a court to pay for the support and maintenance of their child or children, that person has what is called a support obligation. Pursuant to the Deadbeat Parents Punishment Act of Louisiana, it is unlawful for someone to intentionally fail to pay a support obligation for any child residing in the State of Louisiana if:
1. The support obligation has remained unpaid for at least six (6) months or
2. The support obligation is at least two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500.00) or more, or both.
Intentionally failing to pay a support obligation can lead to increasingly severe consequences. The penalties include a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500.00) and/or imprisonment for up to six (6) months for a first offense. A second offense is punishable by a two thousand five-hundred-dollar ($2,500) fine and/or imprisonment for up to two (2) years, with or without hard labor.
Without regard to whether it’s your first offense or not, if someone owes a support obligation of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.00) or more and the obligation has been outstanding for more than one year, they will be sentenced as if it is a second or subsequent offense.
Additionally, a conviction does not relieve a person from their support obligation. Restitution in an amount equal to the total unpaid support obligation must be repaid, and an order must be entered to that effect at sentencing. However, if it is a first offense and restitution is paid before the person is sentenced, the court is not required to, but could, suspend the entire sentence or a portion of it. Thus, paying the restitution can pay off--pun intended!
With that said, intentionally failing to pay a support obligation remains a serious matter. However, there is a silver lining. There is an affirmative defense to the charge of failing to pay child support. If a person was financially unable to pay their support obligation during and after the period that they failed to pay, the inability to pay can be raised as a defense to the charge. As the burden is on the defendant to prove an affirmative defense, an experienced criminal defense attorney may prove vital to a good defense.
Call A Louisiana Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The Law Offices of Philip B. Adams have experience working on criminal cases of all types. The firm can help guide you through the legal system and give you the attention you need. If you are looking for a Shreveport, LA criminal defense attorney, please fill out our online form to request a free initial consultation. We are happy to discuss the ways we can help.