Criminal Laws

In the State of Indiana as in all states, criminal laws and penalties are subject to change. However, there are several constants that tend to remain the same when discussing criminal procedure for those charged with criminal offenses.

Crimes in Indiana are divided between two categories; Felonies and Misdemeanors. All types of crimes including, but not limited to, Drug Crimes - Impaired Driving Offenses- Theft, Conversion & Shoplifting, are comprised of both felony and misdemeanor classifications, often depending upon the severity of the crime and/or the criminal history of the person accused.

Misdemeanor offenses carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail and up to a five thousand dollar fine. The statute of limitations for the bringing of misdemeanor charges in Indiana is two (2) years. This means that the prosecutor must file misdemeanor charges within two years of the misdemeanor offense in question. Unlike, felony cases, one does not generally lose rights such as the right to vote or the right to possess firearms based solely on a misdemeanor conviction.

Felony cases are divided up into level classifications. For most felonies, the minimum times for imprisonment can be “suspended” or not imposed if one does not have a prior felony conviction. The statute of limitations for most Felonies is five (5) years in Indiana. A crime such as Murder has no statute of limitations.

Criminal penalties within juvenile court or for a probation violation are somewhat different in application. Although criminally classified as a felony or misdemeanor, Indiana juvenile judges have different sentencing options available to a child convicted of what would otherwise be a an adult criminal conviction. For example, a child in need could be sent to out of state placement, “boot camp,” treatment programs designated for juvenile offenders only or correctional facilities not available to adult defendants. Further, in the case of an adult Indiana probation violation, the sentencing options available to a judge are governed by the amount of imprisonment or other potential penalties dictated within a judge’s sentencing order for the conviction one is on probation for.

Through the years many creative souls facing criminal penalty have asked me if the charges they face can be dismissed if they are not apprehended within the applicable statute of limitations. The answer: no. As long as a prosecutor has filed the charges in court within the statute of limitations, a Defendant’s time on the run does not count against the state. However, once criminal charges have been filed in Indiana, a criminal defendant must be brought to trial within one year unless any delays are caused by the Defendant. This is called Criminal Rule (4) in Indiana, and is often the subject of much discussion within a court of law between prosecutor, judge and defense attorney. Delays are quite common in regard to a defense attorney’s attempts to acquire discovery information, taking and scheduling depositions, etc. This time of delay if requested or caused by a Defendant’s non appearance or attorney’s request is not held against the state for Criminal Rule (4) purposes.

If what is called a “speedy trial” request is made by a Defendant being held in jail pending the outcome of charges, the accused must be brought to trial within seventy days subject to the above referenced exceptions for delays caused by the defense.

In Indiana one accused of a crime can secure his or her release from jail while charges are pending by the posting of bail or by being released on one’s own recognizance. At an initial or first hearing in Indiana where one learns of the charges and allegations against them, the issue of the amount of bond and who will legally represent the Defendant is usually discussed. Unfortunately, one with limited financial resources is often at a disadvantage while criminal charges are pending. If such a person cannot afford to post bail and cannot afford a private attorney, he or she is often at the mercy of an overworked public defender who must find the time to discuss trial preparation within the confines of a jail.

If one has the money to post bond, it is often posted before the Initial Hearing, whereby a Defendant will often be in position to freely retain a defense attorney of their choosing to represent them. The issue of when to post bond and when not to is frequently an important issue to be addressed. For example, for a Defendant admitting guilt, if it is likely that he or she will need to return to jail it is often preferable for the individual to accumulate jail credit time and not waste financial resources on securing one’s release pending case resolution. Monetary funds in such cases are often better utilized to retain a capable defense attorney. For minor misdemeanor cases, a Defendant can be released from jail following an initial arrest on what is called “Own Recognizance” or promise to appear. In such cases no money must be posted to secure one’s release from jail while a case is pending.

The most common forms of bond for bail are called a “Surety Bond” or “Cash Bond.” A Surety Bond is one that is paid to a bail bondsmen. In return for paying the bondsmen ten percent of the bond (ex. a $10,000 bond would require $1,000) the bondsmen assumes the risk of ensuring that the Defendant appears at all court proceedings. Should the Defendant fail to appear the bondsmen can lose the full amount of the bond. For the bondsmen’s risk he or she is paid with the ten percent payment that is not returned.

If one can afford to pay a cash bond for the full amount of the bond that has been set (ex. $10,000 bond $10,000 posted by Defendant or on Defendant’s behalf) the full amount of the cash bond will be returned to who has posted the bond, provided the defendant has appeared at all hearings until case conclusion.

Two types of dismissals are possible for criminal cases in Indiana; “Dismissals With Prejudice” and “Dismissals Without Prejudice.” Often in the case of Misdemeanor cases in Indiana, a case brought against a Defendant will be “Dismissed Without Prejudice.” For many this is a confusing an unsettling outcome. Such dismissals often occur if an officer cannot appear in court for a scheduled trial date with there still time within Criminal Rule (4) to refile charges. Sometimes, such dismissals occur pending further investigation of witnesses etc. As a trial tactic, such a dismissal will allow a stoppage of time within which to explore whether refiled charges are warranted and feasible with criminal rule (4) in mind.

Dismissal “With” Prejudice is the desired outcome for one accused of a crime and where the concept of “Double Jeopardy” attaches. Where one has been tried in a court of law, barring a hung jury, the decision of a jury to dismiss charges is final.

At Stark Law Offices we help make sense of Indiana criminal laws and protect those facing criminal penalties. As criminal attorneys it is our job to help you understand all of the legal protections you possess, and importantly, how to make those protections work for you.