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What is a Misdemeanor Charge?
A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that is less serious than a felony and more serious than an infraction. There are three types of misdemeanors in Indiana.
1)Class A Misdemeanors: Class A Misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Example: Possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana is a Class A Misdemeanor. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-3-2 (2019).
2) Class B Misdemeanor: Class B Misdemeanor are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Example: Public Intoxication is a Class B Misdemeanor. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-3-3 (2019).
3)Class C Misdemeanor: Class C Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Example: Driving under the influence (DUI) is a Class C misdemeanor if it is the person’s first DUI offense and the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) is over .08 but less than .15. (Ind. Code Ann. § 35-50-3-4 (2019). Although DUI offenses in Indiana can be elevated to higher level offenses depending on the circumstances of the arrest. (Check out our other blogs for more information.)
What happens after I am arrested?
- Initial Hearing: You will stand in front of a judge at an initial hearing to usually ask for bail in order to be released from jail. In some circumstances, a person may post bail before the initial hearing, in which case it will be scheduled within 20 days of their arrest. During this hearing you can ask the judge for court appointed counsel if you cannot afford an attorney.
- Obtaining Counsel. If you did not have an attorney helping you prior to this point, it’s crucial that you get an attorney. An experienced attorney can better explain the charges and the possible consequences of conviction. After learning your situation, they can also advise you on legal defenses and strategies.
- Seeking Bail. People who have been arrested and are in jail can seek release upon posting bail. If they don’t appear in court, the bail money or property is forfeited. Usually, the money or bond is released at the end of the trial – no matter the outcome. For lesser charges, Indiana has a bail schedule so an individual can post bail based on this. For more serious charges, the defendant’s bail amount is set by the judge at the initial hearing.
- Entering a Preliminary Plea of Not Guilty. You may have the opportunity to plead guilty at the initial hearing but this is generally advised against. Pleading not guilty at the initial hearing allows you more time to seek legal advice and does not prejudice your future trial and will not be used against you. You can change your plea to guilty later if you and your attorney believe that is the best course of action.
- Discovery. There is usually plenty to do before a defendant heads to trial. Your attorney will investigate the case and through the discovery process, obtain information from the Prosecutor regarding their evidence and witnesses. Your attorney can take preliminary statements from witnesses. However, the Defendant is not required to provide any statements before trial.
- Pre–Trial Diversion Agreements/Plea Agreement: One of the options that is normally allowed for first time offenders is to enter into a diversion program. This program allows a person to complete some requirements such as community service or drug counseling and if it is completed successfully the charges are dismissed.
- Change of Plea Hearing: If the Defendant and the Prosecution reach an agreement, this is called a plea agreement. The change of plea hearing is a time for the judge to review the plea agreement and either accept or reject the agreement. In misdemeanor cases, the judge will almost always accept the plea agreement. The judge will also ask a series of questions to the Defendant to make sure the Defendant understands what he or she is agreeing too.
Contact Vanderpool Law Firm
Have you been charged with a misdemeanor charge in Kosciusko or in the surrounding area? If so, our criminal defense attorneys at Vanderpool Law Firm, PC can provide the tough legal representation you need. We have assisted several clients in Kosciusko, Wabash, and throughout Northern Indiana with their criminal cases. Give us a call or use our contact us form for a consultation today!