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Understanding Criminal Recklessness in Indiana

Understanding the nuances of legal terms can be critical, especially when they pertain to criminal charges that carry significant consequences. In Indiana, one such term that often surfaces in legal discussions is “Criminal Recklessness.” This concept, while seemingly straightforward, encompasses a range of behaviors and actions under Indiana law. It is a term that anyone in Indiana, from legal professionals to everyday citizens, should be familiar with, as the implications of being charged with criminal recklessness in Indiana are far-reaching.

This post aims to breakdown the specific statute that covers criminal recklessness and provide examples of the offense, so as to inform the public of how this offense is interpreted and pursued by prosecutors across the state of Indiana. We’ll also address the potential criminal penalties associated with a conviction for this offense and outline several strategies that an Indiana criminal defense lawyer may deploy when defending cases of this nature.

If you have, however, already been arrested and charged with criminal recklessness in Indiana, we highly recommend you contact the criminal defense team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may be facing criminal charges that have the potential to completely alter your life. If this is the case, then you’ll want our team to begin working on your case immediately. This will better ensure that everything is being done in an effort to reduce, minimize, or dismiss the charges made against you.

To speak with one of our Indiana criminal defense attorneys today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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What is Criminal Recklessness?

Criminal recklessness in Indiana encompasses a set of behaviors that are considered dangerously careless or indifferent to the safety of others. As contained in Indiana Code 35-42-2-2, a person who “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally performs an act that creates substantial risk of bodily injury to another person,” commits criminal recklessness.

Initially, this offense is considered to be a Class B misdemeanor. However, this charge may be escalated to a Level 6 felony if the offense was committed while armed with a deadly weapon or the offender committed an act of aggressive driving that resulted in serious bodily injury to another person. In addition, a person may be charged with a criminal recklessness as a Level 5 felony if they committed the offense by shooting a firearm into an inhabited dwelling or other building or place where people are likely to gather; or they committed an act of aggressive driving that resulted in the death or catastrophic injury of another person.

Examples of Criminal Recklessness in Indiana

The law detailing criminal recklessness in Indiana is rather broad; allowing for a wide variety of actions to be considered illegal, provided they “create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person.” Therefore, when attempting to understand what constitutes criminal recklessness, it may be helpful to review some examples of incidents that resulted in a person’s conviction under the statute.

Firing a Gun into Store: In 2018, a man shot at the windows of a Walmart in Hobart, Indiana, wounding a man, who was aggressively pursuing him, and his nine-year-old son. Although he claimed he was acting in self-defense, the court ultimately found him guilty of criminal recklessness as a Level 5 felony. This was because, although he was acting in self-defense originally, he continued to fire his weapon into a place where people are gathered after the purported aggressor had already been disabled (in this case, shot and on the ground).

Driving Through a Crowd: In the summer of 2020, amid nationwide protests against racial injustice, a man in Northwest Indiana was charged with criminal recklessness as a Level 6 felony. The prosecution argued he “caused a substantial risk of injury by knowingly driving at a slow speed over traffic cones set up by police and into a crowd on a bridge on July 4, 2020.” The man was eventually found guilty in 2022, but his charges were reduced to a Class A misdemeanor by the Court. He was sentenced to one year probation and a fine of $1,000.

Firing Weapon During Fight: In June of 2021, a fight among a group of people broke out in a small town outside of Terre Haute. During the course of events, two armed individuals opened fire; one of them shooting at the ground, the other shooting towards a group of people. Ultimately, a 15-year-old girl was killed as a result of the shooting. Upon their arrests, both individuals were charged with murder. However, the individual who fired the weapon into the ground entered into a plea agreement and cooperated with the prosecution’s efforts against his co-defendant. As a result, he was convicted of criminal recklessness as a Level 5 felony and sentenced to six years in prison.

Potential Criminal Penalties for Criminal Recklessness in Indiana

As is evident in the examples provided above, the potential criminal penalties a person may face when convicted of criminal recklessness in Indiana range depending on the severity and circumstances of the crime. In the least serious situations, a Class B misdemeanor conviction could result in a person being incarcerated for a period of up to 180 days and issued a fine not exceeding $1,000. However, if enhancing circumstances exist and the individual is convicted of a Level 6 felony, they could face criminal penalties as serious as 2.5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000; and in the most serious cases of criminal recklessness, those convicted of a Level 5 felony face a potential prison sentence of 1-6 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

In some situations, a person may have a Level 6 felony conviction for criminal recklessness reduced to a Class A misdemeanor. While the criminal recklessness statue does not state that any form of the offense is considered to be a Class A misdemeanor, alternative misdemeanor sentencing in Indiana is not uncommon. Per Indiana Code 35-50-2-7, courts may, on their own initiative, enter a judgment of conviction for a Level 6 felony as a Class A misdemeanor and impose the misdemeanor sentence accordingly.

Prosecuting Criminal Recklessness in Indiana

When attempting to understand how Indiana prosecutors approach the offense of criminal recklessness, it’s important to explore the basis of criminal liability in Indiana. First, under Indiana Code 35-41-2-1, a person commits an offense only if they voluntarily engage in conduct in violation of the statute at hand. Second, in cases of criminal recklessness in Indiana, a person must be deemed culpable for their actions, hence the phrasing, “recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally.” As defined in Indiana Code 35-41-2-2, a person engages in conduct:

  • Intentionally: if, when they engage in the conduct, it is their conscious objective to do so.
  • Knowingly: if, when they engage in the conduct, they are aware of a high probability that they are doing so.
  • Recklessly: if they (a) engage in the conduct in plain, conscious, and unjustifiable disregard of harm that might result; and (b) the disregard involves a substantial deviation from acceptable standards of conduct.

Once the prosecution has found that the person committed the offense voluntarily and may be deemed culpable for their actions, they’ll then attempt to show that the person’s created a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person. If successful, they’ll have achieved a strong argument that a person has, in fact, committed an act of criminal recklessness.

Take, for instance, the example of the man driving his vehicle into a protest. In this situation, the man voluntarily engaged in the conduct that was in plain, conscious, unjustifiable disregard for the harm it might cause the protestors; and that conduct created a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person. Furthermore, the man committed the offense using a vehicle, which means it is an act of aggressive driving, and caused serious bodily injury to a man; thus, making it an act of criminal recklessness as a Level 6 felony.

Defending Criminal Recklessness in Indiana

Facing a charge of criminal recklessness in Indiana can be a daunting experience, given the potential legal consequences. However, with effective defense strategies and skilled legal representation, individuals have avenues to challenge such charges. This section explores common defense tactics used by Indiana criminal defense attorneys when representing clients charged with criminal recklessness. However, it’s important to remember that every case is different, and requires a strategy that is tailored to the specific situation under scrutiny.

Common Defense Strategies Used in Criminal Recklessness Cases

  • Challenging the Recklessness Element: One key strategy involves disputing the recklessness aspect of the charge. Defense might argue that the defendant’s actions did not meet the legal definition of recklessness under Indiana law.
  • Lack of Intent: Demonstrating the absence of intent to harm or disregard for safety can be a crucial defense. This strategy focuses on proving that the actions were not conducted with a conscious disregard for risk.
  • Mistake of Fact: In some cases, the defense may argue that the defendant was mistaken about a crucial fact, which led to the seemingly reckless behavior. This could negate the recklessness component of the charge.

Navigating the complexities of Indiana criminal law requires expertise and experience. Criminal defense law firms in Indianapolis, like Keffer Hirschauer LLP, are well-equipped to handle such cases and can provide clients with the knowledge and skills required to ably guide them through the criminal justice process and secure the optimal outcome in the case against them.

When an Indianapolis defense lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP is hired to defend a person accused of criminal recklessness in Indiana, they would begin their work on the case by meeting with the client and gathering the specifics of the incident. From here, they would proceed to evaluate the legal landscape, gathering information on the prosecution’s case.

Then, while considering the context of the case, they would develop a tailored defense strategy aimed at either having the charges dismissed or reduced; pursuing a generous plea deal or minimizing the potential criminal penalties. This part of the process requires an attorney to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter and gather as much relevant evidence as possible. This may include witness statements, surveillance footage, etc. It may also include bringing in an expert witness, like an accident reconstruction expert or a forensic analyst. Depending on the circumstances of the case, these witnesses could play a significant role in building a sound defense.

As it should be evident by now, building a defense against a criminal recklessness charge in Indiana not only requires a deep understanding of legal statutes, case law, and court procedures, but also a commitment to thoroughly investigating the charges placed against the defendant. Contrary to what may be shown in movies or television, criminal defense is not just about presenting a sound counterargument. It’s about crafting a defense that comprehensively addresses the charges legal elements and the prosecutions grounds for convictions. Given this, the role of a proficient, aggressive and experienced legal team cannot be overstated.

Facing Charges of Criminal Recklessness in Indiana?

From arrest to investigation to trial; with each passing stage of the criminal justice process, the stakes increase, and the weight of the potential consequences looms larger. Given this, it’s vital that anyone charged with criminal recklessness in Indiana secure the representation of an experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. This will ensure that all avenues are being pursued in an effort to secure the best possible outcome in the criminal case against you.

The Indianapolis-based criminal defense law firm of Keffer Hirschauer LLP was founded by Bradley Keffer and Tom Hirschauer III, two former deputy prosecutors who know both sides of the criminal justice system. They understand the local courts in Indianapolis, as well as those across the state. They also have a keen understanding of how prosecutors typically approach cases of criminal recklessness, providing our clients with defense strategies tailored towards having the charges against them reduced or dismissed altogether.  

To speak with one of our Indianapolis defense attorneys today, call 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Criminal Recklessness Indiana
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Criminal Recklessness Indiana
This article addresses the various laws governing the offense of criminal recklessness in Indiana
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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