If you’ve been convicted of a misdemeanor in Indiana, you may serve up to a year in prison and pay a fine of up to $5,000. Felonies carry much stiffer penalties, but misdemeanors aren’t criminal charges to be taken lightly. After you’ve completed your sentence, you have a criminal record that may impact your life for many years to come.
Crimes that are misdemeanors in Indiana include some DUI, drug and theft charges. Other charges are public intoxication, battery, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and harassment.
Potential Sentences for Indiana Misdemeanor Charges
In Indiana there are three types of misdemeanors:
- Class A: Jail sentence up to a year. A fine up to $5,000.
- Class B: Jail sentence up to 180 days. A fine up to $1,000.
- Class C: Jail sentence up to 60 days. A fine up to $500.
Most of those charged with misdemeanors won’t serve the maximum sentence, especially for the first arrest. With the help of a defense attorney, charges may be reduced or dropped; if you accept a plea bargain, you may spend little or no time in jail. You may go into a diversion program allowing you to complete community service or attend drug counseling. If you complete the program successfully the charges may be dismissed.
Some misdemeanor charges and defendants with prior criminal records may not qualify for a diversion program. The penalty after a conviction or a guilty plea may be probation instead. You will have a criminal conviction on your record and will be supervised by your local probation department. They will hold you accountable to the terms of probation which, depending on your situation, may be difficult to comply with.
For each misdemeanor classification there is an “advisory sentence.” This is the starting point for the judge in deciding what your actual sentence will be. It may be increased up to the maximum, depending on the facts of the offense, what the judge sees as your character and your criminal history. This is called an “aggravated” sentence.
The judge may also reduce the sentence from the advisory to the minimum based on whether the judge positively views your character and the nature of the offense (including the fact that no violence or threats were used). This is known as a “mitigated” sentence.
Unofficial Punishments for an Indiana Misdemeanor Conviction
No one wants to spend time in jail; but even if you can avoid that, there are still serious consequences you may face. Misdemeanor convictions can seriously impact your life and your family. Only about 10% of all federal convictions in 2010 were for misdemeanors, reports Time magazine, but most people in state criminal courts face misdemeanor charges. A conviction can cause problems, known as collateral consequences, like a felony conviction but it’s more difficult to remove, or expunge, them from your criminal record.
There are thousands of potential state and federal consequences for convictions. They can impact your housing options, prevent you from being employed or joining the military, prevent you from getting loans and impact your rights to get child custody. You may be unable to get a license in order to perform a wide range of work. These consequences are often called the ”secret sentence” or the “silent punishment” for a misdemeanor conviction.
Don’t Try to Defend Yourself Against Indiana Misdemeanor Charges
Because there are less serious penalties for misdemeanor charges compared to felonies, you may be tempted to try to defend yourself. Nothing would make the prosecution happier. They would love to clear a case by dealing with someone who doesn’t know the law, doesn’t understand what defenses may be available and doesn’t know what a favorable plea bargain agreement would be.
Your case could have any number of problems for the prosecution:
- The arresting officer may have violated Indiana law or the state or federal Constitution while investigating the crime or during the process of arresting you.
- Critical evidence may be missing.
- Witnesses may be able to show you didn’t commit the crime.
- Evidence collection may have been sloppy, making it unusable in court.
If you represent yourself and hope to be able to do something “quick and easy” to put this behind you, you’ll never know that you may have been able to have the charges dropped completely, allowing you to avoid serving a sentence and all the consequences that come with a criminal record.
If you or any member of your family has been arrested or charged with a misdemeanor in Indiana or Kentucky, get help today. Contact us for a free consultation so we can talk about your situation and how you may be able to protect yourself with the seasoned, experienced criminal trial lawyers of your New Albany Legal Team.