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Your Indianapolis Criminal Case: The Basics

Your brother just can't seem to keep himself out of trouble. Last night he went out with his buddies in downtown Indy and once again had too much to drink. This is the second time in two years he's been picked up for drunk in public and fighting. He broke some guy's jaw for talking to his girlfriend. The guy with the broken jaw went to the Bork Emergency Center, but your brother went to the Marion County Jail.

Indianapolis criminal cases can be scary, especially when you aren't sure what to expect. Here at FindLaw, we've put together some basic information to help you get acquainted with the misdemeanor and felony laws in Indiana should you or a loved one get arrested.

Getting Arrested in Indy

There are several law enforcement agencies in Marion County. If you're arrested in downtown, it's probably going to be by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police. Other agencies include the Marion County Sheriff and the Indiana State Police.

What are my rights?

We know. You've seen all those TV shows where the cops break the law, harass "innocent" people, and beat confessions out of otherwise upstanding citizens. That's Hollywood and this is real life. The cops are required to follow a certain set of rules or their actions could jeopardize the Marion County prosecutor's case against you.

You have a certain group of criminal rights such as the right against illegal searches and seizures and right to have a lawyer present during questioning.

One of the most important is your Miranda rights. The police need to tell you these warnings anytime you are in custody and the subject of interrogation. Here they are:

  • You have the right to remain silent;
  • Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law;
  • You have the right to consult with a lawyer and have that lawyer present during the interrogation;
  • If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you.

Two important points -- You can invoke your right to be silent before or during an interrogation, and if you do so, the interrogation must stop. You can invoke your right to have an attorney present, and until your attorney is present, the interrogation must stop.

Can you tell me about bail?

If the cops take you to jail, you'll likely be booked and either released with a promise to appear at a later date or you had to post bail. Bail is money that you he has to pay to the courts in order to be released from jail pending trial. He'll likely have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

What are my options for an attorney?

After your arrest, you'll deal with the Indianapolis court system. It's advisable to speak with an attorney about the specifics of your case. You can hire an Indianapolis criminal attorney or ask for a Marion County public defender.

What happens next depends on if you're charged with a felony or a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor offenses have a maximum penalty of up to 1 year in jail. Felony offenses are more serious, and can result in significant prison times. Some felony charges have mandatory minimum sentences.

Indianapolis Felony Cases

Felonies are a big deal. In Indianapolis, they carry huge penalties including years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life. Examples of Indianapolis felonies include drug dealing, aggravated assault, burglary, fraud, drugs sales and robbery.

In Indiana, there are five different classes of felonies that range from Murder to Class "A" through Category "E".

Murder obviously carries the highest penalty--The sentence for a murder conviction is a fixed term between forty-five (45) and sixty-five (65) years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.00. In certain cases a murder conviction can result in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Murder is also a capital offense, meaning that in certain cases a murder conviction can result in the death penalty being imposed.

Class A felonies carry a penalty of between 20 and 50 years in prison. Class B felonies carry a penalty of between 6 and 20 years in prison. Class C felonies carry a penalty of between two and eight years. Finally, a Class D felony is the lowest level of felony crime in Indiana. A Class D felony conviction carries a penalty of six months to three years in prison. In addition, in certain circumstances, a D felony conviction can be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor through a procedure known as Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing (AMS).

You may also be sentenced to fines of up to $10,000 if convicted of any felony charge.

Habitual Offenders

In some circumstances, if you've been charged with a felony and have accumulated 2 prior felony convictions, the prosecutor may seek to have you sentenced as a "Habitual Offender."

There is no time limit on how long ago the prior convictions happened. If the prosecutor is seeking to have you sentenced as a habitual offender, you are looking at a lot more time in prison and should speak to an attorney immediately to figure out your options.


Misdemeanors are the least serious type of criminal offense under Indiana law. They're less serious than felonies, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have consequences on your career and your freedom. If you're a non-citizen, a misdemeanor conviction can impact his immigration status.

Misdemeanors are classified into 3 classes, with Class A being the most serious and Class C being the least. Here's the breakdown:

  • Class A Misdemeanors Up to 1 year in jail Fines up to $5,000
  • Class B Misdemeanors Up to 180 days in jail Fines up to $1,000
  • Class C Misdemeanors Up to 60 days in jail Fines up to $500

An Indianapolis misdemeanor can be as simple as being drunk in public or something as serious as committing domestic violence. Some misdemeanors have mandatory jail time, while other carry only a fine. Some crimes carry additional penalties such mandatory counseling or substance abuse classes. In some instances you won't be able to own a gun.

Get Professional Legal Help With Your Indianapolis Criminal Case

Criminal charges range from relatively minor offenses such as trespassing and shoplifting to very serious offenses such sexual assault and murder. But regardless of the seriousness of the charges, defendants always have the right to defend themselves in a court of law. Get a head start on your case by speaking with an Indiana defense attorney today.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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  • Complex criminal defense situations usually require a lawyer
  • Defense attorneys can help protect your rights
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate criminal penalties

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