All criminal charges should be treated seriously. While misdemeanor charges may be less serious than felony charges, you could still face jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record if you are convicted. Some misdemeanor charges in Indiana carry severe penalties for a conviction.
If you are arrested for a misdemeanor charge, it can help to know some information about common misdemeanors in Indianapolis. However, having that knowledge might not be sufficient to defend yourself in court before a judge.
What Crimes are Considered Misdemeanors in Indiana?
Examples of misdemeanor charges include:
- Disorderly conduct
- Possession of marijuana
- Criminal mischief
- Public intoxication
- Check fraud
- Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI)
- Carrying a handgun without a license
- Illegal possession of alcohol by a minor
The above crimes are a small sample of the crimes that can be charged as a misdemeanor. It is important to remember that some misdemeanors can be bumped up to a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case.
What are the Punishments for Misdemeanor Convictions?
Misdemeanors are punishable by less than one year in jail. Indiana classifies misdemeanors as Class A, Class B, or Class C misdemeanors. The potential punishments for misdemeanors are:
- Class A Misdemeanors – Up to one year in jail and up to a $5,000 fine
- Class B Misdemeanors – Up to 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine
- Class C Misdemeanors – Up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine
As stated above, some misdemeanors can be increased to felony charges. The punishments for felony convictions are much more severe. In addition to prison and fines, you lose some of your civil rights when you are convicted of a felony.
Some of the additional consequences of a misdemeanor conviction include:
- Difficulty getting a new job
- Loss of a professional license
- Increased automobile insurance premiums
- Loss or restriction of driving privileges
- Reduced earning potential
- Limited or no access to college loans, grants, or scholarships
- Loss of commercial truck driver’s license
- Difficultly in a child custody case
- Revocation of Second Amendment rights
The potential for negative or adverse consequences depends on the nature of the misdemeanor charges. However, do you want to take a chance that you could be convicted if you represent yourself?
Reasons Why You Need a Lawyer to Fight a Misdemeanor Charge
You have the right to legal counsel when facing criminal charges. The court appoints a public defender to represent you if you cannot afford to hire a private lawyer. However, many public defenders have heavy caseloads and limited resources.
It is better to hire a criminal lawyer to handle your case whenever possible. An attorney has the time, resources, skills, and experience necessary to prepare the best defense strategy available for your case.
If you are unsure whether you need a lawyer to handle a misdemeanor charge, you might want to consider the following:
Your Misdemeanor Charge Could Become a Felony
As stated above, a minor criminal charge could become a serious felony charge. If so, it can be beneficial to have an attorney already working on the case. Your attorney can argue that the legal requirements to bump up the charge to a felony have not been met.
Your Charges Could Be Reduced
Your attorney analyzes the circumstances of your case to determine whether the charges against you are appropriate. If the facts of the case support a lesser charge, your lawyer may be successful in reducing the charge or even having the charges dismissed.
Your Attorney Protects Your Legal Rights
An arrest is not a guilty verdict. You have legal rights before, during, and after your arrest. Those legal rights continue through the conclusion of your case.
If your legal rights were violated, your attorney might be able to get the charges against you dismissed. If not, your attorney can petition the court to exclude any evidence gathered as a result of your rights being violated. The result could be a dismissal of the charges or a not-guilty verdict.
You Could Spend Less Time In Jail and Less Money in Fines
If the evidence against you is overwhelming, your criminal lawyer can negotiate a plea deal. A skilled criminal attorney can make a persuasive argument for the lowest sentence available, especially when there are mitigating circumstances. The attorney may also identify weaknesses in the state’s case that could convince a prosecutor to accept a favorable plea agreement instead of going to trial.
An Attorney Can Assist You With Expunging Your Criminal Record
A criminal record can have a negative impact on your education, career, and custody case. You could lose the job of your dreams because of a mistake you made ten years ago.
If you are found guilty, an attorney can work with you to have your criminal record expunged. He understands the process of clearing criminal records in Indiana.
Emotional Support and Guidance
Facing criminal charges can be very stressful, even when the charges are misdemeanors. Having a legal advocate to fight for your rights and best interests can be comforting. Your lawyer guides you through each phase of your criminal cases, while providing support and legal advice.
What Should You Do if You Are Arrested for a Misdemeanor?
Try to remain calm. An arrest is not a conviction. You have the opportunity to fight the charges in court.
Do not resist arrest because you could add another criminal charge to the list. Instead, be polite and speak as little as possible. You are required to provide your name and address, but you are not required to answer questions without a lawyer present.
Tell the police officers that you want an attorney. Then, clearly state that you are invoking your right to remain silent. Even if the police officers continue to question you, do not answer the questions.
You might assume that you can talk your way out of the arrest because the charges are minor. You cannot. The more you talk to the police, the more information you give them to use against you.
Many individuals facing misdemeanor charges are released on bail quickly. Make sure that you request bail at your arraignment hearing. You can pay the bail or use a bail bond agent if you do not have enough money to pay bail.
When you get out of jail, stay away from anyone involved with your criminal case. Do not talk to anyone other than your attorney about the case because talking to a person could result in the person being called as a witness at trial.
Stay out of trouble, following your attorney’s advice, and let your lawyer do his job.
Call Our Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyers for More Information
If you have questions about a misdemeanor case or other criminal charge, contact our office to speak with an attorney. We understand that this is a stressful time. Our lawyers want to hear your story and help you fight the criminal charges you face.
You are not alone. You can have a legal team working to give you the best chance of a positive outcome in your case.