The guide is meant to help someone who is not represented by a lawyer understand the general rules and procedures of a criminal court case in Louisiana. It is not a complete guide to the law nor does it discuss every issue or aspect of the law that may affect your case.
This information is not meant to replace State laws or Court Rules. The purpose of this guide is to give general information and make it easier to represent yourself in court. You have a right to represent yourself in court, but it comes with the responsibility to follow certain court rules and procedures.
The guide will help you with issues concerning criminal court by:
Answering questions on court procedure in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section below;
Preparing forms for you on court procedure in the "Forms Available" section;
Explaining the steps for court procedure in the "Instructions" section attached to the form;
Giving you more information about related legal issues in the "Related Links" section; and
Helping you find a lawyer in the "Find an Attorney/Community Resources" section.
*In order to file with the Clerk of Court, forms must be printed out and filled in completely. If you are unable to do this, or do not have access to a printer, you can visit your local library for assistance. For more assistance locating a library, click here.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT
CRIMINAL COURT IN LOUISIANA
1. What is a motion?
A motion is a way for you to ask the judge to act or give a ruling about an issue in a case .
2. Who can file a motion?
Either side in a case can file a motion. So, if you are the plaintiff or defendant, (or petitioner or respondent) in a case, you can file a motion.
3. What is a litigant?
A litigant is any person or party that is involved in a lawsuit. For example, the plaintiff and the defendant are both litigants. Self-Represented litigants (SRL) or "pro-se" litigants are those who represent themselves in court.
4. What is a lawyer?
A lawyer (also known as an attorney) is a person who has a license to practice law. This means they can represent other people’s interests in court. Lawyers are only allowed to practice law in the states where they are licensed.
5. What is a clerk of court?
The clerk of court keeps the official records and files of the court. In order to file documents with the court, you go to the clerk of court’s office. Each court has a separate clerk of court’s office, usually in the same building, that handles all of that court’s documents. Clerks of court charge various filing fees for different types of documents.
6. What is an adversary?
An adversary is the other party in a lawsuit.
7. What is a party?
A party is one side in a lawsuit. A case may have few or many parties. Often, a party is just a person. Sometimes a party is a corporation or a governmental agency. If you sue your neighbor and his insurance company for damage to your car, then you, your neighbor, and his insurance company are all parties to that lawsuit.
8. Who is the plaintiff?
The plaintiff is the party that brings a civil suit in a court of law. Sometimes plaintiffs are called petitioners or complainants.
9. Who is the defendant?
The defendant is the party that is being sued. Defendants are sometimes called respondents.
10. What is a Witness?
A witness is someone who can testify or swear to certain facts that he or she personally has knowledge of. Some court papers require a witness to sign them who swears that certain things in the papers are true. Witnesses can help you tell your side of the story in court. Both sides can have witnesses. You get to ask questions to the other side’s witnesses, and they get to ask your witnesses questions as well.
11. What is a complaint?
A complaint, sometimes also called a petition, is the initial pleading that begins the lawsuit. In the complaint, the plaintiff states the basis for the court’s jurisdiction, the basis for the plaintiff’s claims, and the demand for relief. The plaintiff spells out the basic facts and legal issues for the court, and then the plaintiff explains to the court what it is they want to the court to do.
12. What is an order?
An order is the court’s ruling on a specific issue. An order may also tell people what to do, like to show up in court at a specific day and time.
13. What is a consent decree?
A consent is a judicially-approved agreement between the parties.
14. What is contempt of court?
Contempt of court means that someone has violated a court order, court rule, or has done something serious that shows a lack of respect for the court. In some situations, one side files a contempt motion to argue to the judge that the other side is not doing what it is supposed to do in the case, like following a court order.
15. What is a continuance?
A continuance is a delay in the case. One side can ask for a delay, but the judge can say no. There are rules for how you must ask for a continuance, or delay, and you should have a really good reason before you ask for one.