The Indiana criminal code defines criminal conduct and its consequences. The Indiana General Assembly has ranked offenses into categories based on the seriousness of the offense, with more serious offenses having more significant consequences. The more serious offenses are felonies, which are also ranked from murder, the highest offense in the state, and then by a numbering system from Level 1 to Level 6 felonies.
Although it is the least serious felony, conviction for an Indiana Level 6 felony still has serious consequences. If you are facing a felony charge at any level, you should seek experienced criminal defense representation as soon as possible. At Keffer Hirschauer LLP, we defend individuals against all manner of criminal charges in the Indiana courts on a daily basis. With our team on your side, you’ll have dedicated and savvy defenders who will give you 100 percent of their effort to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible.
Misdemeanors and Felonies: Understanding the Hierarchy of the Indiana Criminal Code
The Indiana legislature has determined that not all offenses have the same weight. In recognition of that determination, the legislature has defined two major categories of criminal offenses: misdemeanors and felonies.
A felony in any state is an offense that is considered to be more serious than a misdemeanor. Felonies carry more than a year in prison while misdemeanors carry up to a year. A misdemeanor is any offense for which a defendant may be sentenced to less than one year of incarceration or even lesser sanctions such as a fine or community service. A felony is a more serious offense, which carries a potential sentence of more than a year in prison or even capital punishment.
Indiana’s criminal laws are found in Indiana Code Title 35. The criminal code defines the level of conduct deemed to be criminal in this state and ranks the seriousness of the offense as a certain level of misdemeanor or felony. The level of an offense may vary depending on facts. In this way, a misdemeanor charge may be elevated to a felony.
Before 2014, the criminal code divided the most serious offenses into four felony levels, A through D. However, the legislature revised the criminal code effective July 1, 2014, to establish six Indiana felony levels. Now, anyone charged with and convicted of a felony is sentenced according to the Indiana sentencing guidelines for the revised Indiana felony levels.
Indiana Felony Levels
As of July 1, 2014, there are six Indiana felony levels, with murder and Level 1 reserved for the most serious offenses and Level 6 for the least serious felonies. The table below gives examples of criminal offenses at each level to help illustrate the hierarchy of the Indiana felony levels.
As anticipated, the criminal penalty depends on the level of the felony, with longer sentencing ranges for more serious offenses at the higher levels, like Level 1.
The Trial Process for an Indiana Level 6 Felony
If you are arrested, the criminal process that could follow is fairly routine, but slight mistakes at any of these stages can have disastrous consequences for your case. Not all Indiana criminal defense lawyers have the skill and experience to represent your interests and protect your rights. With so much at stake, you need the skill and experience of veteran criminal defense attorneys like those found at Keffer Hirschauer LLP.
If the State decides to file charges against you, the facts surrounding the conduct underlying a criminal charge often determine the level of the offense. Sometimes an offense may be charged as a misdemeanor, but the State elevates the offense and alleges a felony charge based on the facts of the case. For example, Indiana Code § 35-43-4-2 defines theft to be a Class A misdemeanor, but the State may charge a Level 6 felony if the value of the property is greater than $750 but less than $50,000. Alternatively, you may be charged with a higher level felony that is reduced to a Level 6 felony through a plea bargain. Examples of other offenses that may be charged as a Level 6 felony include:
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Possession of methamphetamine
- Dealing in a controlled substance (not marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia divinorum)
- Sexual battery
- Auto theft
- Failure to register as a sex offender
If you are charged with an Indiana Level 6 felony, the criminal process that could follow is fairly routine. After the prosecutor files an information charging you with one or more offenses, the court will hold an initial hearing. At this hearing, the court informs you of the charges and the maximum penalty. The court also advises you of your constitutional rights, which include the right to have an attorney appointed for you if you cannot afford one, the right to a jury trial, and the presumption of innocence. You may also enter a plea, guilty or not guilty.
If you enter a plea of not guilty, the court will set the matter for trial. Prior to the trial date, the prosecutor and your attorney may attempt to negotiate the terms of the case through a plea bargain. If no resolution is reached, the prosecutor and your attorney will conduct discovery, which is the process of collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses in preparation for trial.
At either a jury or bench trial, the State has the burden of proving that you committed the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor presents evidence and witnesses first, although your attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine each of the State’s witnesses. After the State rests, your attorney will have an opportunity to present evidence and witnesses in your defense. Just as when the State was presenting its case, the prosecutor will have an opportunity to cross-examine defense witnesses. After the State and your attorney have presented their cases, the jury or the judge, depending on whether it is a jury or bench trial, will consider all of the evidence to determine whether the State proved its case.
If you are found not guilty, the criminal proceedings end without a conviction. If you are found guilty, the court orders the probation department to prepare and file a pre-sentence investigation report in advance of sentencing. After receiving that report, the court will hold a sentencing hearing.
Level 6 Felony Penalties and Collateral Consequences
Indiana Code § 35-50-2-7 sets out the penalty for an Indiana Level 6 felony. The court could sentence you to a period of incarceration between six months and two and one-half years and to pay a fine up to $10,000. Under Indiana Code § 35-38-3-3, incarceration for a Level 6 felony generally is not with the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC). However, the court may order an offender to incarceration with IDOC if any of the following apply:
- The Level 6 felony is to be served consecutively to the sentence for another felony
- The sentence for the felony is enhanced, such as after adjudication for being a habitual offender
- The court has found the offender to be a violent offender as defined by statute
- The offender has two prior felony convictions unrelated to the present offense and the earliest possible release date is more than one year after the date of sentencing
- The commitment is pursuant to an agreement between IDOC and the sheriff
Conviction for a felony at any level also brings other consequences. A felony conviction eliminates your right to own or possess a firearm or ammunition and can impact your job, housing, and professional licensure opportunities as well.
We Are Your Indiana Criminal Defense Lawyers for an Indiana Level 6 Felony
An Indiana Level 6 felony is the lowest level of felony you can face, but the cost of a conviction is substantial. To make sure your rights—and your future—are protected to the greatest extent possible, you need one of the Indiana criminal defense lawyers from Keffer Hirschauer LLP. We are passionate about protecting your rights throughout the process. Don’t delay. For a free consultation, call (317) 857-0160 or complete our online contact form.