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Indiana Criminal Law: An Overview

Indiana criminal laws are meant to protect residents and punish offenders. The rate of violent crime rate in Indiana has been on the rise of late. In 2015, Indiana's violent crime rate was up 19 percent since 2010. The state ranked 20th in violent crime (Indianapolis ranked 10th among cities with more than 200,000).

Indiana's criminal justice system is played out in courthouses from Fort Wayne to Evansville. This article will help lay out how Indiana criminal laws are handled throughout the state.   

Indiana Statute of Limitations

There is a time limit for when specific crimes can be prosecuted in Indiana. Every state defines its own statute of limitations for certain crimes. A statute of limitations sets a time limit for when particular crimes may be prosecuted. If that time limit expires, criminal charges may not be filed. Indiana's criminal statute of limitations are:

  • No limit for murder felonies and Class A felonies (the original felony classification before July 1, 2014) or Level 1 or 2 felonies (after July 1, 2014)
  • Five years for felonies Class B, C, or D (before July 1, 2014) or Level 3 through 6 (after July 1, 2014)
  • One year for felonies Class B or C or Level 3, 4, or 5 after the state first discovers or could have discovered DNA evidence supporting the charges
  • Two years for all misdemeanors
  • Until the victim reaches 31 years of age for child molestation, solicitation, or seduction, vicarious sexual gratification, and incest crimes
  • Five years for forgery

Indiana OWI Laws

Drunken driving offenses are called Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Indiana. OWI is an umbrella term for when a driver's ability to operate his or her vehicle is affected by any type of intoxicating substance, including alcohol, prescription medications, and drugs.

Alcoholic intoxication is the most common type for drivers. A driver is chemically tested by law enforcement if he or she is suspected of drunk driving. If the test shows a driver's blood-alcohol content (BAC) level as 0.08 percent or higher, he or she is illegally intoxicated while driving.

Refusing to take a chemical test in Indiana applies an automatic penalty of a two-year driver's license suspension. Failing a chemical test automatically applies a 180-day suspension on top of OWI penalties. The first OWI offense is penalized with up to $5,000 in fines, up to one year in prison, and two years of license suspension. Penalties scale up greatly with repeat offenses, higher BAC levels, and aggravating conditions like if a minor passenger was present at the time.

Indiana Felonies and Misdemeanors

Indiana, like other states, defines and classifies crimes in its own way. This means that a crime that's a Class C felony in Raleigh, North Carolina may not be classified or penalized similarly in Indianapolis, Indiana. Like most other states, though, Indiana classifies crimes as either felonies or misdemeanors depending on their seriousness.

Misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies and include public intoxication and petty theft. There are three classes of misdemeanors with penalties ranging from fines of $500 up to $5,000 and jail sentences of up to one year.

Felonies are the most serious crimes. There are six classes of felonies plus a separate class for murder. Level 1 through 6 felonies can range from a fine up to 40 years in prison. Murder convictions can result in sentences from 45 to 65 years or life without parole. Those convicted of murder can also face the death penalty in Indiana.

Capital Punishment in Indiana

The death penalty is sentenced only with murder felonies in which the prosecution is able to prove, at minimum, one of the 17 aggravating circumstances outlined in the Indiana Code section 35-50-2-9. The death penalty is carried out by execution using lethal injection.

Contact an Indiana Criminal Defense Attorney

Anyone facing criminal charges in Indiana has the right to mount a vigorous defense. A qualified Indiana criminal defense attorney familiar with local criminal procedures and laws can be a crucial advocate.

Make sure you talk with an attorney about your case and your needs before hiring one. Most criminal defense lawyers should be able to handle any misdemeanor or low-level crime. Not all attorneys are qualified to handle serious charges.

A qualified criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between going to jail and going free.

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