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Understanding Sentencing Guidelines in Indiana

Updated: Jun 17

Introduction

Indiana courts have discretion in sentencing after a conviction, but this discretion is regulated by the Indiana sentencing guidelines. Consequently, offenders convicted of the same level of offense may receive different sentences. An experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial as they understand how a court may apply these guidelines and what considerations are permissible when determining a sentence, making your defense counsel choice vital for safeguarding your rights.


Recent Developments in Indiana Sentencing Guidelines

In 2014, the Indiana General Assembly reformed the criminal code under Indiana Code title 35. The reform aimed to reduce recidivism and optimize the use of Indiana Department of Correction resources. The revised law, effective for offenses committed after July 1, 2014, significantly altered sentencing exposures in some cases.


The most notable change was the reconfiguration of felony classifications from five lettered categories to six numbered levels. This restructuring lowered the maximum sentences for non-murder felonies, redistributed total felony sentences across six levels, and aimed to align nonviolent sentences with the severity of the crime.


Understanding the application of these guidelines in your case involves more than just reading the statutes or an Indiana sentencing chart. Effective navigation of the Indiana criminal code and protection of defendant rights require experienced legal counsel with extensive knowledge and courtroom skill.


Indiana Sentencing Chart Breakdown

The Indiana sentencing guidelines are detailed in Indiana Code article 35-50, setting ranges for each offense level. Generally, the guidelines impose higher sentences for felonies than for misdemeanors.


For each offense level, sentencing statutes provide minimum, maximum, and advisory sentences. Indiana Code § 35-50-2-1.3 defines an advisory sentence as a guideline that courts may use but are not required to start with, except in specific circumstances such as nonviolent offenses arising from a single criminal episode or repeat sexual offenses. Consequently, trial courts have significant discretion within the statutory ranges.


As of 2024, Indiana Code chapter 35-50-2 sets the following felony sentencing parameters:

  • Murder: 45-65 years, $10,000 fine

  • Level 1 Felony: 20-40 years, 30 years advisory, $10,000 fine

  • Level 2 Felony: 10-30 years, 17.5 years advisory, $10,000 fine

  • Level 3 Felony: 3-16 years, 9 years advisory, $10,000 fine

  • Level 4 Felony: 2-12 years, 6 years advisory, $10,000 fine

  • Level 5 Felony: 1-6 years, 3 years advisory, $10,000 fine

  • Level 6 Felony: 6 months-2.5 years, 1 year advisory, $10,000 fine


The code still includes former felony sentencing guidelines for offenses committed before the 2014 revisions, where sentences differ from the new guidelines.


For misdemeanors, the 2014 overhaul retained the letter classifications, with Indiana Code chapter 35-50-3 providing the following ranges:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: 0-365 days, $5,000 fine

  • Class B Misdemeanor: 0-180 days, $1,000 fine

  • Class C Misdemeanor: 0-60 days, $500 fine


Criminal defense attorneys, such as Brinkley Law, play a crucial role in influencing the charges, conviction outcomes, and sentencing advocacy. Experienced legal counsel, particularly those with prosecutorial backgrounds, can offer unique insights into effective defense strategies.


Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing

Indiana criminal defense attorneys can advocate for alternative misdemeanor sentencing for Level 6 felony convictions, potentially reducing sentence exposure and associated fines, as well as avoiding collateral consequences such as impacts on employment, licensure, housing, education, and custody matters.

For Level 6 felonies, alternative misdemeanor sentencing options include:


  1. Judgment of Conviction for a Class A Misdemeanor: Under Indiana Code § 35-50-2-7, the court may enter a judgment of conviction for a Class A misdemeanor instead of the felony.

  2. Petition for Alternative Misdemeanor Sentencing: Under Indiana Code § 35-38-1-1.5, with court and prosecutor agreement, the offender pleads guilty to the Level 6 offense and complies with court-imposed conditions.


Both options have specific eligibility requirements, highlighting the importance of choosing a knowledgeable defense attorney.


Aggravators and Mitigators in Sentencing

Indiana sentencing guidelines allow courts to use aggravating and mitigating factors to adjust sentences. These factors, detailed in Indiana Code § 35-38-1-7.1, can increase or decrease the period of incarceration:


Aggravating Factors:

  • Prior criminal record

  • Significant harm caused

  • Victim’s age (under 12 or over 65)

  • Violation of protective orders

  • Crimes committed in the presence of minors

Mitigating Factors:

  • Lack of significant harm

  • Victim’s role in the offense

  • Likelihood of positive response to probation

  • Offender’s attitude and character

  • Restitution efforts

Similar factors apply for murder sentencing under Indiana Code § 35-50-2-9.


Earned Credit Time

Incarcerated individuals can reduce their sentences through good time credit and educational credit. Good time credit accrual rates depend on the credit time class:

  • Class A: 1 day of credit per day served

  • Class B: 1 day of credit per 3 days served

  • Class C: 1 day of credit per 6 days served

  • Class D: No good time credit

  • Class P: 1 day of credit per 4 days on home detention, no accrued time.

Conclusion

Navigating Indiana sentencing guidelines requires expertise, making the choice of a criminal defense attorney critical. Contact Brinkley Law at 317-742-9222 for legal assistance.

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