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Indiana Murder Laws

Many states divide their murder laws into different degrees or levels for various types of homicidal conduct, such as first degree murder (premeditated murder) and second degree murder (killing without premeditation). Indiana, on the other hand, has only one murder statute. However, Indiana does have separate manslaughter laws for voluntary manslaughter ("heat of passion murder") and involuntary manslaughter (an accidental killing). The penalties for murder in Indiana are based on the circumstances of the crime, including the age of the defendant and victim and how the victim was murdered.

Defenses to Murder Charges

Many defenses may apply to a murder case. Some defenses, such as innocence, lead to a not guilty verdict, if believed by the court. Other defenses, including self-defense or intoxication, can be partial defenses, meaning they may only reduce the crime to manslaughter or are mitigating factors to consider at sentencing. Common murder defenses include:

Penalties and Sentences

Indiana law allows the death penalty. A capital murder case is bifurcated, or in two parts. First, guilt or innocence is decided. Then a second phase of the trial on sentencing begins. At the sentencing hearing, the judge or jury would hear evidence on both aggravating and mitigating factors involved in the crime and issue a penalty, including death, based on those factors.

To be sentenced to death, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that at least one of the following aggravating circumstances exist and that the mitigating circumstances don't outweigh these factors:

  • The Defendant:
    • Killed the victim while committing or attempting: arson, burglary, child molesting, kidnapping, rape, robbery, carjacking, or criminal gang activity
    • Killed by detonating an explosive intentionally
    • Murdered by "lying in wait"
    • Murdered for money or hired someone to kill
    • Was previously convicted of or committed murder
    • Was under the custody of the department of corrections or county sheriff, on felony probation, or on parole when the murder was committed
    • Burned, mutilated, or tortured the victim while alive or dismembered the victim
    • Intentionally fired a gun into a home or vehicle
  • The victim was:
    • A corrections or probation officer, police officer, judge, or fireman who was killed while on-duty or the murder was motivated by their job
    • A child under 12 years old
    • A victim of battery, kidnapping, criminal confinement, or a sex crime by the defendant, for which he or she was convicted
    • A witness against the defendant who was murdered to prevent the testimony
    • Pregnant and the murder killed the fetus

Additionally, the defense can present mitigating circumstances, including:

  • The defendant:
    • Had no significant criminal history
    • Was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance when the murder was committed
    • Was an accomplice in a murder committed by another and his or her participation was minor
    • Acted under the substantial control of another person
    • Lacked capacity to appreciate the actions and follow the law due to mental disease or defect or intoxication
  • The victim participated in or consented to the defendant's conduct
  • Any other appropriate circumstances to consider

If the jury can't decide on a sentence after reasonable deliberations, the judge will discharge the jury and determine the appropriate sentence. After the sentence is announced, a representative of the victim's family and friends may present a statement regarding the impact of the murder on them, in the presence of the defendant.

Indiana Murder Statutes

The following table outlines Indiana's murder law.

Code Sections

Indiana Code Section 35-42-1-1: Murder

What is Prohibited?

A person commits murder if he or she does any of the following:

  • Intentionally kills another human being
  • Kills another person while committing or attempting to commit arson, burglary, child molesting, consumer product tampering, kidnapping, rape, robbery, human or sex trafficking, carjacking, or narcotic or meth dealing or manufacturing (the "felony murder rule")
  • Intentionally kills a fetus that has attained viability


Murder in Indiana can be punished by the death penalty, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, or between 45 and 65 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Note that defendants who were 16 or 17 at the time of the murder can’t be sentenced to death, but can receive life imprisonment without parole unless found to have intellectual disabilities. Children in the U.S. cannot be sentenced to death.

Also, although Indiana law permits the suspension of any part of a sentence in most cases, for murder, the court may only suspend the sentence that is beyond the minimum of 45 years.

Civil Case

A killer can be sued for wrongful death by the family of the victim, even if he or she wasn’t convicted of the crime. This happened to O.J. Simpson, for example. Simpson wasn't convicted of murder, but did lose his wrongful death lawsuit. If you're sued for a wrongful death, you should consult with an experienced personal injury defense attorney.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- it's important to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Research the Law

Missouri Involuntary Manslaughter Laws: Related Resources

Charged Under Indiana Murder Laws? Get Legal Help

Being charged with murder is an overwhelming experience and requires the help of a trained legal expert. If you or a loved one are facing a murder charge in Indiana, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Indiana for help. An Indiana defense lawyer will be able to advise you on the law and what defenses you may be able to raise.

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