Who Qualifies for Sentence Modification in Indiana?
Prior to 2014, it was incredibly difficult to obtain a sentence modification in Indiana. Under the statutory “one-year rule,” the only offenders who qualified for sentence modification were those who were within one year of the date that their sentence was imposed. Any offender seeking sentence modification after one year needed consent from the prosecutor, which only happened on rare occasions. However, Indiana lawmakers repealed the “one-year rule” in July of 2014, thus allowing more offenders to qualify for modification in Indiana without prosecutorial consent, regardless of how much time has passed since sentencing.
Today, the question of who qualifies for sentence modification is rather clear. However, successfully reducing a sentence through modification is no slam-dunk, and deciphering the statutory language is not easy. Whether you’ve recently been sentenced, served several years of a lengthy sentence, violated community correction, or violated probation, the Indianapolis sentence modification lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you understand if you qualify for sentence modification, advise you of the pros and cons of seeking a modification, and which grounds may apply in your case. Set up a free consultation with a sentence modification attorney today or give us a call at 317-751-7186.
How Can You Qualify for Sentence Modification in Indiana?
To qualify for a sentence modification in Indiana you must be free from certain convictions and free of a sentence imposed by a plea bargain with fixed terms. You must also be in compliance with modification request limits, and ultimately, make a successful argument for your request using the established grounds for sentence modification in Indiana.
Convictions Not Eligible for Sentence Modification
Not all convictions are eligible for sentence modification. In particular, the right to request a modification does not apply to:
- A credit-restricted felon under Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-72, meaning someone convicted of certain child molesting offenses or murder
- A violent criminal convicted of any of the crimes listed in Indiana Code 35-38-1-17(d) (With some exceptions), such as the following:
- Attempted murder
- Voluntary manslaughter
- Involuntary manslaughter
- Reckless homicide
- Aggravated battery
- Certain sex-related crimes
- Higher levels of robbery
- Higher levels of burglary
- Unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon
If you have committed a crime listed above, you may file a single petition for sentence modification within the first 365 days of your sentence under Indiana Code 35-38-1-17(k). Additionally, per Indiana Code 35-38-1-17(m), if you were convicted of a crime listed above between June 30, 2014, and May 15, 2015, you may request one sentence modification in Indiana. However, there are no guarantees that your sentence modification request will be granted.
Fixed Plea Bargains and Sentence Modification
If the sentence that you’re requesting to modify has been imposed via plea bargain with fixed terms, you won’t qualify for sentence modification in Indiana without prosecutor approval. For example, if your plea bargain explicitly stated that you must serve a specific sentence, you must serve out the entirety of that sentence.
However, if your plea bargain contained open terms, using phrases like “up to,” or “no more than,” or it leaves certain aspects of your sentence up to the court, then you may still qualify for sentence modification.
Limitations on Sentence Modification Requests
There are some limitations on sentence modification requests in Indiana. Per Indiana Code § 35-38-1-17(j), an offender eligible for sentence modification can file a petition for sentence modification only one time in a 365-day period and only two times total during any consecutive period of incarceration.
Grounds for Sentence Modification in Indiana
To have your sentence modification request granted, it must meet one of several grounds for sentence modification in Indiana. These grounds include:
- New information exists that is relevant to your underlying criminal case
- Your sentence was illegal/erroneous/ambiguous
- You have completed a rehabilitative program and/or other self-improvement programs while serving the sentence
- Your sentence inflicts substantial hardship on your family
In addition to the grounds listed above, the court also considers several factors when deciding whether to grant a sentence modification request. These factors include any changes to statutory sentencing range since your sentence was imposed; your age; your physical health; and your cognitive health.
How Do You Get a Sentence Modification in Indiana?
If you qualify for sentence modification in Indiana, you’ll begin the process by filing a modification request with the trial court that issued your sentencing order. Most often, the court will set a hearing set to evaluate the request, however, courts may make a ruling without a hearing if: (a) the prosecutor has filed a written agreement to the modification requested by the offender; or (b) the offender has waived their right to be present when the court considers their request.
If a hearing is set, the trial court will notify the prosecutor’s office, who then must give notice to your victim(s), if applicable. At the hearing, you and your legal counsel will present your arguments for sentence modification, relying on established grounds and common factors that the court considers when deciding whether to grant or deny a modification request, and present any necessary evidence.
When comparing all the established grounds for sentence modification, the most likely to prevail is an illegal or erroneous sentence. However, this will require you and your attorney to successfully demonstrate that the sentence imposed upon you is in some way illegal, ambiguous, or not aligned with the sentencing transcript. The latter can occur when the abstract of judgment does not match the transcript or written order from the sentencing hearing, or when the sentence imposed doesn’t comply with the statute. The only drawback to arguing for sentence modification on this ground is that you would also run the risk of being given an even harsher sentence.
The most cited ground for a sentence modification request is the successful completion of a self-improvement or educational program during the course of your incarceration. These programs are offered by the Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) and cover the following areas:
- Educational or employment
- Character improvement (reformative programming)
- Addiction treatment/recovery
- Support/treatment therapy
While this process may seem straightforward, having your sentence modification request granted by the trial court is far from a sure thing. Therefore, working with attorneys who focus on criminal law and sentence modification is crucial to increasing your chance of reducing or altering your sentence. The Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have extensive experience with these types of requests. Our sentence modification lawyers can help you identify whether there are grounds for requesting a sentence modification, prepare all of your court filings, and ultimately, represent you in court. Set up a free consultation with a sentence modification attorney today or give us a call at 317-751-7186.
Possible Outcomes of Sentence Modification in Indiana
Sentence modifications in Indiana, if granted, allow offenders to reduce or eliminate their sentence, and/or modify their placement within the Indiana Department of Corrections. If a placement is modified, the supervision of the offender’s sentence will be transferred from a Department of Corrections facility to home detention, the court, a work release facility, or a Community corrections program.
Established in 1979, Community Corrections is a supervision agency that provides sentencing alternatives and transitional programming for felony offenders. Offenders who are placed in a community corrections program may require 24/7 monitoring and/or supervision via GPS, a home detention device, or residency at a secure facility with designated curfews. They may also participate in various programs, including educational programs, skills building, or several types of cognitive-behavioral therapies, all aimed at helping them re-enter society in a positive, constructive manner
Example of a Sentence Modification: You file a sentence modification request to the trial court that issued your sentencing order requesting that you serve the remainder of your sentence in a community corrections program. Your request is granted, and you will be transferred to a community corrections program in the county where you were sentenced.
Ready to Begin Working on a Sentence Modification in Indiana?
Whether you are trying to figure out if you qualify for a sentence modification in Indiana or are preparing to file your modification request, you will want to speak with an Indiana sentence modification attorney as soon as possible. Making the most robust case possible will require high-level legal experience and skill. Thankfully, the Indiana criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP criminal law and sentence modification experts. Our team can help you weigh the pros and cons of seeking sentence modification, identify the grounds for which it may apply to your case, and in the end, can increase your chance of a successful sentence modification. Set up a free consultation with Keff