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How To Modify a Sentence in Indiana

Navigating the complexities of legal processes can be daunting, especially when it involves modifying a criminal sentence in Indiana. This how-to guide will break down the concept of sentence modification, who qualifies for it, and the step-by-step breakdown of what it takes to successfully modify a sentence in Indiana. Ultimately, this guide aims to empower readers with knowledge and guidance before embarking down a complex legal path. However, this guide is no substitute for real legal advice. Anyone who truly hopes to obtain a sentence modification should seek the counsel of an experienced Indiana modifications lawyer.  

The Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have helped dozens of Hoosiers modify their sentences. They have a strong understanding of Indiana’s sentence modification laws and can capably identify the modification grounds that best apply to your case. To increase your chances of having your petition granted by the court, contact our Indiana sentence modification attorneys today by calling 317-857-0160 or completing our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 

Looking for a Criminal Defense Attorney in Indiana? Call Keffer Hirschauer LLP Today.

What is Sentence Modification?  

Sentence modification in Indiana is a critical process for individuals seeking to alter the terms of their criminal sentences. By successfully utilizing this legal procedure, a person may be able to reduce the length of their incarceration, alter their probation conditions, make a placement modification, or other adjustments to their original sentence. That said, it’s important to understand sentence modification is not a right, but a privilege granted under specific grounds.  

What are the Indiana Laws on Sentence Modification? 

The specific laws governing sentence modification in Indiana are located in Indiana Code 35-38-1-17. This section of Indiana law defines the scope and limitations of sentence modifications, as well as petitioner eligibility. Under this law, the possible modifications that may be made to a sentence include:  

  1. Reduction of Incarceration Duration: This could involve shortening the length of time an individual is required to spend in prison. 
  1. Change in Probation Terms: Modifications may adjust the conditions or duration of probation. 
  1. Conversion of Sentence Type: For example, changing a jail sentence to house arrest or community service, based on specific circumstances and compliance. (Note: this is often referred to as a modification of placement.)  

What’s the Difference Between Sentence Modifications and Appeals? 

Although both may feel like the same fight, sentence modification is a separate and different legal process from a criminal appeal. Not only do sentence modifications involve different courts and procedures, but they also involve different grounds. On top of that, criminal appeals must be filed in compliance with strict deadlines, while petitions to modify a sentence in Indiana may be filed at any time during the petitioner’s sentence. 

Who Qualifies for Sentence Modification in Indiana?  

Not all sentences are eligible for modification. In fact, individuals convicted of violent crimes (with some exceptions) or deemed to be credit-reduced felons may not petition to modify their sentence in Indiana.   

Convictions Exempt from Sentence Modification 

What are the Grounds for Sentence Modification in Indiana?  

Offenders may seek to modify their sentence in Indiana under any of the following grounds:  

  • New information exists that is relevant to the underlying criminal case 
  • The sentence imposed was illegal or erroneous in some manner 
  • The offender has successfully completed rehabilitative or other self-improvement programs while serving the sentence 
  • The sentence imposed inflicts substantial hardship on the offender’s family 

Of all of the grounds provided for sentence modification, requests purporting an illegal or erroneous sentence are the most likely to prevail. This is especially true if the petitioner shows that the sentence imposed is ambiguous, illegal, or doesn’t match the sentencing transcript. That said, in some situations, arguing that the sentence was illegal could result in the petitioner being given an even more harsh sentence.  

The most common ground asserted by petitioners is the successful completion of self-improvement or educational programs while incarcerated. Typically, petitioners demonstrate this ground by showing their participation in certain programs offered by the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) in the following areas:  

  • Addiction treatment/recovery 
  • Character improvement (reformative programming) 
  • Educational or employment 
  • Support/treatment therapy 

The most challenging path towards sentence modification is arguing that the sentence imposed creates significant hardship on the offender’s family. The reason for this is that hardship upon the family unit is an inherent fact when a person is being sentenced for a crime. Therefore, courts will typically only modify a sentence in Indiana due to hardship if the situation is exceedingly rare and unique.  

How Do You Modify a Sentence in Indiana?  

In order to modify a sentence in Indiana, you’ll first need to make sure that the sentence you are serving qualifies for sentence modification. This means the sentence cannot be for an offense listed in Indiana Code 35-38-1-17(d), unless the request is filled within the 365 days of the date of sentencing, or any offense listed in Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-72. On top of that, an otherwise eligible offender may not petition for sentence modification more than: (a) once per 365 day period of incarceration; and (b) twice during any consecutive period of incarceration.  

If an offender is deemed eligible to petition for sentence modification in Indiana, they may proceed to draft and file their petition in the trial court that issued their sentencing order. Contained in this petition should be the following information:  

  • The offense(s) the petitioner was convicted of 
  • The date the petitioner was sentenced 
  • The terms of the petitioner’s sentence 
  • The grounds for the petitioner’s request to modify the sentence 

In many cases, upon receipt of the petition, the court will set a hearing for the matter. When this happens the court will notify the prosecutor’s office, who then must notify the offender’s victim (if relevant). At the hearing, the court may consider a variety of factors when determining whether to grant or deny the petitioner’s request. Some of the more common factors considered by courts include:  

  • Whether the statutory sentencing range has changed since the offender’s sentence was imposed (was the petitioner convicted prior to the 2014 updates to the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines?) 
  • The offender’s age (are they of an advanced age?) 
  • The offender’s cognitive abilities (are they of sound mind?) 
  • The offender’s health (are they terminally ill?)  

In limited circumstances, however, the court may issue a ruling on a petition to modify a sentence in Indiana without a hearing being set. This can occur when the prosecutor chooses to file a written agreement to the modification request. It may also occur in situations where the petitioner has waived the right to be present when the court considers their request.  

Limitations on Sentence Modification 

For the most part, sentence modification is a clear-cut, straightforward process, but that doesn’t mean every request is guaranteed to be granted by the court. In addition, Indiana law places certain limitations on sentence modification. For instance, petitioners may only file petitions requesting modification two times during any consecutive period of incarceration and may do so only once every 365 days.  

It’s also important to understand that sentence modification may not be available for sentences imposed by plea bargain in Indiana. This is because plea bargains are fixed agreements, contractual in nature, between prosecutors and offenders. So, if the fixed agreement does not authorize future modification, courts are prohibited from modifying the agreed upon sentence. That said, under Indiana Code 35-38-1-17(e)(2), a sentence agreed upon in a plea agreement could be modified with the consent of the prosecuting attorney.  

Need Help Petitioning to Modify a Sentence in Indiana? 

The process of sentence modification is a complex legal path that offers offenders a chance to reduce, modify, or suspend a sentence, but it must be navigated with careful consideration of legal protocols and judicial discretion. Most often, successful modification requests require thorough preparation, a clear understanding of the legal criteria and court culture, and most importantly, persuasive legal advocacy. Given this, offenders can put themselves in an optimal position by retaining the services of a sentence modification lawyer in Indiana.  

The criminal defense lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have successfully argued sentence modifications in the past and understand what it takes to have a request of this nature granted by the court. Those who choose to work with our firm will receive a comprehensive review of their criminal history, an evaluation of their eligibility for sentence modification and the best possible grounds to assert in their petition. Our firm will also handle drafting and filing the petition with the trial court that handed down their sentence, and ultimately, represent them in court, arguing the best possible case for the request.  

If you’d like to explore the possibility of having your sentence modified in Indiana, contact our Indiana sentence modification lawyers today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation. 


How To Modify a Sentence in Indiana
Article Name
How To Modify a Sentence in Indiana
This article discusses laws and steps on how to modify a sentence in Indiana
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Keffer Hirschauer LLP

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