If you're suspected of a crime, the details of the criminal process you face depend on where the crime occurred. Even so, the general procedure is similar in all states, including Indiana.
Police officers may only arrest you if they have good reason to believe you have committed a crime. There are exceptions, but in general they must either:
- Have an arrest warrant for you, or
- See you commit a crime
The arresting officer should tell you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. These are called your Miranda rights.
After your arrest, you will go through the booking process, which involves being fingerprinted and photographed, and having your personal belongings confiscated. An officer will then take you to a holding cell.
With a few exceptions, you have the right to bail. Many counties set standard bail amounts for minor crimes. You can usually pay these at the police station or county clerk's office.
For more serious crimes, a judge will set bail at your initial hearing, which must happen "promptly" In general, this means within 48 hours, although it can be longer on weekends and holidays.
If you are already on probation, the police may hold you for up to 15 days without bail while deciding whether to charge you with a probation violation.
Attending an Initial Hearing
In Indiana, the initial hearing is generally your first court appearance. In other states it is usually known as the arraignment. If there is no statutory amount of bail for your crime, the judge will set your bail or refuse bail.
Most state courts automatically enter a not guilty plea on your behalf, although you may choose to plead guilty. If you have not already hired an attorney, the court will ask if you intend to do so or if you need a public defender.
Striking a Deal/Plea Bargaining
Most criminal cases are resolved with plea agreements, not trials. In this deal with the prosecutor, you plead guilty in exchange for concessions such as a lesser sentence or dismissal of other charges. A judge must approve your plea agreement.
In most Indiana criminal cases, the prosecutor evaluates the facts, decides what crimes they support, and files the charges in a document called an Information.
Although state law does not require using a grand jury even for felonies, the prosecutor may choose to convene one. The grand jury decides if the evidence supports bringing charges, called an Indictment.
Going to Trial and Getting Sentenced
If you do not make a plea deal, your case will go to trial. Felonies automatically go to a jury trial. To get a jury trial for a misdemeanor, you need to make a written request.
At trial, the prosecution and defense take turns making their cases. If the verdict is guilty, the judge sets your sentence based on state sentencing guidelines and any mitigating or aggravating factors.
Consult Legal Help
If you're facing criminal charges in Indiana, it's important to have the help of an experienced criminal lawyer. Assert your right to an attorney right away to protect your rights.