Like other states, Indiana defines and classifies its crimes according to a certain system, under which offenses are categorized as being either misdemeanors or felonies. How an offense is classified depends on its severity. For instance, crimes involving injury to someone’s person are usually charged as felonies. However, even being convicted of a misdemeanor can lead to jail time, fines, and the creation of a permanent record, which in turn can make it difficult to secure employment, find housing, join the military, or take advantage of educational opportunities.
Generally, misdemeanors are considered to be less serious criminal offenses than their felonious counterparts. Some of the most commonly charged misdemeanors in Indiana include public intoxication, petty theft, disorderly conduct, marijuana possession, and a first offense of driving under the influence. Misdemeanors are divided up based on their seriousness into three sub-categories, including:
When an offense involves serious physical, financial, or emotional injury, it is usually considered a felony. Sentences range from six months to life in prison, and some offenses are even punishable by the death penalty. Felonies, like misdemeanors, are divided up into subcategories, of which there are six. Level 6 felonies are the least serious type of felony and are punishable by up to 2 1/2 years in prison, while Level 1 felonies are the most serious and could result in a prison sentence of up to 40 years. Murder is considered a separate class of offense and so does not fall under any of the six classes. Judges are also given discretion to order probation, community service, driver’s license suspensions, and mandatory enrollment in therapy or out-patient programs.
With the exception of murder and Level 1 and 2 felonies, crimes in Indiana can only be prosecuted if they fall within a specific time limit. For instance, Level 3, 4, 5, and 6 felonies have a five year statute of limitations, so if prosecutors do not file charges within five years of the date that the crime was allegedly committed, a person cannot be charged for that offense. There are, however a few exceptions to this rule. If, for example, the state discovers or could have discovered DNA evidence that supports a charge, prosecutors have an additional year to prosecute a Level 3, 4, or 5 felony. Similarly, in cases involving child molestation and solicitation, charges can be brought until the victim reaches the age of 31 years old. Finally, all misdemeanors have a two-year statute of limitations.