Felonies in Indiana: Low-Level Charges Can Have Big Consequences

May 20, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Felonies in Indiana: Low-Level Charges Can Have Big Consequences

Felony charges can change your life forever. Despite being low-level felonies, Level 5 and Level 6 felonies in Indiana still carry significant consequences that can make your life challenging and interfere with future opportunities. No matter the level of felony, it is best to contact an Indianapolis felony lawyer for help.

While Level 5 and Level 6 felonies are the lowest felony charges in Indiana, you can still face a significant period of incarceration and heavy fines if you are convicted. An Indianapolis felony lawyer at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can defend your case and help you prepare and work through the legal process surrounding your charge or charges.

Low-Level Felonies in Indiana Still Carry Heavy Sentences

While they are less serious crimes, low-level felonies in Indiana still carry significant penalties. Additionally, these sentences can be enhanced or extended when a habitual offender is found guilty of a low-level felony. Understanding what’s at stake with these felonies is only the first step in your defense strategy. Taking these charges seriously—and hiring an experienced felony defense lawyer right away—is essential to protecting your rights, future, and freedom.

Indiana Level 6 Felony Charges

Level 6 felonies carry the lightest sentence of all Indiana felonies. When convicted of a Level 6 felony in Indiana, you face between six months and two and a half years in prison with a fine of up to $10,000.

A habitual offender receives a higher sentence if he or she was previously convicted of three prior unrelated felonies and less than ten years have passed between the time the defendant was released from jail, probation, or parole and the date when the current offense was committed.

Fortunately, the judge has the discretion to reduce your Level 6 felony to a misdemeanor. If this happens, your potential jail time goes down, and your maximum fine is $5,000. There are three ways to reduce your Level 6 felony to a misdemeanor:

  • Your attorney negotiates a plea agreement
  • The judge reduces the charge at the sentencing hearing
  • Your attorney successfully requests and argues for a sentence modification

Indiana Level 5 Felony Charges

Indiana Level 5 felonies carry a sentence between one year and six years in jail with a maximum fine of $10,000. Habitual offenders face a higher sentence if, at the time of the offense, the defendant had two prior unrelated felonies, at least one of the prior offenses is not a Level 6 felony, and not more than ten years have passed from the time the individual was released from jail, probation, or parole.

Under Indiana Code § 35-50-2-8, habitual offenders convicted of a Level 5 or Level 6 felony face an additional two to six years in jail. If you have questions regarding your potential for additional jail time due to past crimes, contact an Indianapolis felony lawyer at Keffer Hirschauer LLP.

Examples of Low-Level Felonies in Indiana

Low-level felonies in Indiana include all Level 5 and Level 6 felonies. Level 6 felonies are the least serious felonies and are the first step up from a misdemeanor in Indiana.

The most common felony charge in Indiana is a Level 6 felony. Level 6 felonies can include the following offenses:

While still a low-level felony, a Level 5 felony includes more violent offenses, even those in which the result is death. Examples of Level 5 felonies include:

A Level 6 felony also occurs when an individual violates the requirements of parole or commits specified acts that are prohibited by someone on lifetime parole in Indiana. This violation may be raised to a Level 5 felony for a second or subsequent offense. For help defending low-level felony charges, contact an Indianapolis felony lawyer.

The Legal Path for Low-Level Felonies in Indiana

For those charged with low-level felonies in Indiana for the first time, the legal situation can seem overwhelming. Not only are you facing incarceration, but you also must navigate an unfamiliar legal system. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the legal process so there are no surprises during your legal fight.

Initial Hearing

Those charged with felonies in Indiana have a right to an initial hearing. State law in Indiana requires a person who has been arrested to be granted a timely appearance before a county judicial officer in the jurisdiction where the arrest occurred or where the trial will take place. Generally, an initial hearing should be held within 48 hours of the arrest to be considered reasonable unless this timeframe is extended due to a weekend or holiday.

When a defendant posts bond before the initial hearing, the initial hearing must be scheduled within 20 days of the arrest to be considered timely. At the initial hearing, the judge informs the defendant of the felony charges and advises them of their rights as a defendant. Additionally, the court will inquire whether you plan to hire an attorney and inform you of your right to have an appointed attorney if one is needed.

In most cases, the defendant or defense counsel enters a not guilty plea at the initial hearing. While some courts allow a guilty plea at the initial hearing, it is not generally recommended. An Indianapolis felony lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you determine the best defense strategy for entering a plea at your initial hearing.

Discovery and Investigation

The discovery phase of the criminal process for felonies in Indiana includes the prosecutor turning over to the defense all of the prosecution’s evidence. This evidence includes the prosecution’s witness list, witness statements, police reports regarding the incident in question, and any other evidence the state intends to use. Indiana law requires the prosecutor to provide to the defense any evidence the state plans to use against you at the trial.

The defendant or their attorney should also perform their own investigation to gather additional evidence. This can include interviewing witnesses, gathering photographic or video evidence, and discussing evidence with experts who can offer a relevant evaluation and opinion.

The discovery and investigation phase may lead to evidence one side may prefer to keep out of the trial. Defendants use pretrial motions to request an order keeping evidence out of court and preventing the prosecutor from using it against them.

Plea Negotiations, Trial, and Sentencing

After discovery and the filing of pretrial motions, the parties will focus on the trial and plea deal negotiations. This is a good time to attempt to reach a plea agreement with the prosecution, so the defendant might receive a lower sentence than if found guilty at trial. An experienced Indianapolis felony lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP can work to negotiate a plea on your behalf, giving you the best chance at a positive outcome.

Should a plea deal fail to be reached, you should start preparing for a trial. Your trial can be held in front of a judge or, upon request, before a jury. Navigating a trial is a difficult task that is best left to an attorney with experience handling felonies in Indiana.

If the trial results in a finding of guilt, the next step is the sentencing phase. The defendant can argue for a sentence that is significantly lower than the state’s advisory sentence. An Indianapolis felony lawyer can help you evaluate your options and appeal to the court to receive a shorter sentence or an alternative sentence such as house arrest, work release, or probation.

Indiana House Bill 1004 and Low-Level Felonies in Indiana

Generally, defendants convicted of an Indiana Level 6 felony are sent to county jail instead of serving their time in an Indiana Department of Correction facility. However, to address overcrowding in local jails, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Bill 1004 in 2022. For local jails, this new law aims to help alleviate the crowds and the costs associated with having more defendants placed in their custody by allowing such defendants to serve time under the Indiana Department of Correction instead.

The push behind Indiana House Bill 1004 was to help the vast number of individuals in jail who suffer from mental health or substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, local jails do not have the resources to help those suffering from such issues, and the Department of Correction is better prepared to meet those needs.

The Department of Correction has mental health and addiction programs available to defendants immediately upon their arrival. However, it is important to note that those convicted of low-level felonies in Indiana may be sent to county jail if the facility has treatment resources available.

Under HB 1004, a court may commit a person convicted of a Level 6 felony to the Indiana Department of Correction for an offense committed after June 30, 2022. In circumstances like those described below, the court also has this option for a Level 6 felony committed before July 1, 2022:

  • The conviction resulted from the revocation of the defendant’s sentence for violating probation, parole, or community corrections, and the revocation resulted from a new offense
  • The defendant is convicted of a Level 6 felony committed in a penal facility
  • The defendant is convicted of a Level 6 felony, sentenced to be served consecutively for another felony, convicted of a Level 6 felony that is enhanced by an additional fixed term, received an enhanced sentence, is a violent offender, has two prior unrelated convictions, and the earliest possible release date is more than one year after the sentencing date
  • The commitment is due to an agreement between the sheriff and the Indiana Department of Correction.

If you’re at risk of being sentenced for a Level 6 felony, your sentence may result in incarceration under Indiana Department of Correction. To learn whether this might happen in your case, contact an Indianapolis felony lawyer at Keffer Hirschauer LLP to learn your options.

Do You Need an Indianapolis Felony Lawyer?

Should you face charges for even a low-level felony in Indiana, you face the potential for massive upheaval in your life. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help fight charges involving Level 5 and 6 felonies in Indiana. An Indianapolis felony lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP has the experience you need to fight to protect your rights. For a free consultation to learn more about how we can help, contact us by calling (317) 857-0160 or send us a message.

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