Arrest to Sentence Guide

The criminal justice system is complex and may be confusing to people who are not familiar with criminal law and procedure.

The following Arrest to Sentence Guide has been made available to provide answers to those who need clarification as to how the criminal justice process works in Floyd County, Indiana.

The Police and the Arrest:

Police officers investigate crimes and arrest individuals who are suspected of committing crimes. Most criminal actions begin when someone is taken into police custody.

What is a lawful arrest?

First, a police officer must have reasonable suspicion, based upon articulate facts, to launch an investigation. An officer needs to meet the burden of “probable cause,” in other words having more evidence for than against, to believe that the person being arrested has committed a particular offense.

What happens after someone is arrested?

Once a defendant is taken into custody, he may be searched for officer safety and for jail administrative requirements. Police officers are entitled to seize any contraband or evidence found during this search. Evidence includes the proceeds of the crime, any tools or instruments used to commit the crime, distinctive clothing; any items that may help to connect the defendant with the scene of the crime, including any items that may connect the victim or any witnesses to the scene of the crime.

Evidence is handled according to agency protocol; however, it is generally standard procedure to establish a chain of custody and photograph, catalog, and seal all items of evidentiary value before depositing those items into the arresting agency’s property room.

The defendant is transported to the Floyd County Jail, or the Clark County Juvenile Detention Facility. The jail book-in staff will photograph the defendant and any distinguishing features they may have, such as tattoos. Fingerprints are taken and sent to a central repository in Indianapolis. The arresting officer prepares an arrest report, probable cause affidavit, and records any other information that may be required by the prosecutor or jail policy.

For some crimes, the officer has discretion in whether or not to arrest the person or to issue them a summons into court. However, if the defendant does not appear before a court when instructed, a bench warrant will be issued for their arrest.

Are all crimes the same?

In Indiana, there are three categories of violations of Indiana Law: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.

An infraction is a violation of state law or statute, but it is not  a crime. An infraction is  civil in nature, which is the least serious type of offense. There is no term of imprisonment for infractions; however, fines can range from $10,000 for a Class A Infraction to $25 for a Class D Infraction.

A misdemeanor violation is the least serious type of crime. Misdemeanors are punishable by a term of imprisonment of zero to 365 days,and a fine of zero to $5,000. Misdemeanors are divided into three classes: A, B, and C. Class A Misdemeanors carry higher penalties than Class B or C Misdemeanors.

Felonies are the most serious crimes. Felonies are divided into four classes: A, B, C, and D. The advisory amount of imprisonment for someone convicted of a Class A Felony is 30 years; however, a judge has the discretion to either subtract 10 years or add 20 years to the sentence for a penalty range of 20-50 years of incarceration.  The Class B Felony penalty range is six to 20 years. The Class C Felony range is two to eight years. The offense of murder is in a class by itself and carries the highest potential penalty range: 45-65 years or, in some cases, death. A Class D Felony, by contrast, is the least serious type of felony and carries a six month to three year range of incarceration.

In addition, Indiana law provides for basic felony enhancements under certain circumstances such as when a defendant is a Habitual Offender or a Repeat Sex Offender, or if a firearm is involved in the commission of certain offenses.

The Floyd County Prosecutor’s Office:

What is the role of the Prosecutor’s Office?

The Floyd County Prosecutor’s Office represents the State of Indiana in prosecuting crimes that have occurred within Floyd County. The Prosecutor’s Office has the responsibility and authority to investigate crimes that occur within the jurisdiction of Floyd County. All of its investigators and prosecutors retain arrest powers.

What does the Prosecutor’s Office do when someone is arrested?

Police agencies forward their probable cause affidavits for warrant-less arrests and police reports to the prosecutor’s office so that they can be reviewed by investigators. Once charges are approved, the charging information is drafted. The charging information is the formal document that brings charges against an individual. The charging information accompanies the probable cause affidavit and must present the facts providing reasonable cause to believe that the person who is being charged committed specific offenses.

The police report, probable cause affidavit, and charging information are forwarded to the Prosecutor for final review and approval by him before charges are filed in court. In deciding which charges to file, the Prosecutor must consider the sufficiency of the evidence and the facts surrounding the commission of the crime and the arrest.

The Floyd County Courts:

What is the function of the Court?

A court is charged with ensuring the fair application of the law. Judges are elected into office every six years. It is the judge’s responsibility to preside over all legal proceedings in court.  The Magistrate of Floyd County, who works for the judges as a judge, is hired and reports to the judges. There are currently four courts and one magistrate that serve Floyd County.

Floyd Circuit Court presides over civil and criminal cases and has exclusive jurisdiction over all probate/estate, trust, and juvenile cases.

Floyd Superior Court 1 is a court of general jurisdiction that hears felony criminal, civil, divorce, and criminal non-support cases. Approximately two-thirds of the cases heard in Superior 1 are felony criminal matters.

Floyd Superior Court 2 hears Class D traffic felonies, misdemeanors, infractions, and certain violations of local ordinances and some types of civil cases.

Floyd Superior Court 3, established January 1st, 2009, is a court of general jurisdiction that hears felony criminal, civil, and divorce cases.

The Floyd County Magistrate hears cases on assignment by each of the other four courts.

Initial Hearings:

In Floyd County, defendants are assigned to a court by the Floyd County Clerk’s Office based on the class of crime that they are accused of committing and by previous agreement by the judges. Defendant’s are brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest, or if they were arrested over the weekend, on the next business day.

At the initial hearing, the defendant is informed of the charges pending against him and a bail determination is made. A not-guilty plea is made on the defendant’s behalf. If the defendant does not have money or means to hire an attorney, the judge will appoint a public defender. Future court dates may be set at this time. If the defendant is a first-time offender, or if the crime  is of a non-violent or less serious nature, the judge may decide to release the defendant on their own recognizance.

What is Bail and how is it set?

Bail is collateral in the form of cash or bond, which must be posted by the defendant, or the defendant’s agent, for the defendant to be released from custody. If the defendant posts a cash bond, that money will be returned to the defendant upon completion of his case. However, if he pays a bail bondsman, that money will be kept by the bondsman as payment. This collateral is to ensure that the defendant will appear at future court dates. In some cases, if a defendant is already on probation, a mandatory 15-day hold is placed on the defendant, and bail cannot be posted until after that time period has elapsed. In the case of murder, the court may remand the defendant without setting a bond according to Indiana law.

Court Dates:

Defendants must be present at all court dates unless they are instructed otherwise by their attorney. Failure to appear may result in a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest.

Typically, the judge will schedule a pre-trial conference, an omnibus date, and a final pre-trial conference, and a trial date. Historically, the majority of cases are resolved by means of a plea agreement before the case goes to trial. Pre-trial conferences are opportunities for the defense attorney and the prosecutor who is handling the case to discuss issues associated with the case. The omnibus date is the deadline for the state and the defendant to file certain documents relating to the case.

The Trial:

What is a trial?

A criminal trial is a formal examination of evidence before a court of law or a jury to determine whether or not a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the criminal charges against him.

How is a jury selected?

A bench trial is a trial heard only by a judge, and the judge has sole discretion over the verdict in the case. A jury trial is a trial where evidence is presented to a jury of one’s peers. For Class C felonies and above, 12 jurors are selected and alternates may be chosen. For Class D felonies and lesser charges, six jurors are chosen.

The process of jury selection is termed Voir Dire. A pool of potential jurors is notified by the County Clerk’s Office when a trial is scheduled to begin. Potential jurors are called before the court and questioned by both the prosecution and the defense attorney. The goal of jury selection is to  choose a fair and impartial jury for that particular case. Both sides have the right to excuse a potential juror for cause if they believe that the juror should not sit in judgment on that particular case. The jurors that are selected are sworn in by the judge and they are given rules that they must abide by as jurors.

After jury selection, how does a trial proceed?

Opening Statements: At the beginning of the trial, the Prosecutor or Deputy Prosecutor assigned to the case makes an opening statement explaining what the State must prove during the trial. The defense attorney may make an opening statement if they wish, but they are not required to do so.

Direct Case: The direct case is brought by the prosecution and involves the calling of witnesses and the introduction of physical evidence. The prosecution asks questions of each witness. The defense attorney may ask questions on cross-examination. The prosecution may ask clarifying questions on redirect. This process continues until all of the prosecution’s witnesses have testified.

Defense Case: The defense case may involve many witnesses, including the defendant, or they may decide to interview no witnesses. The defendant is not required to present any evidence or to testify at trial. However, if defense witnesses are called, the prosecution may cross-examine them.

Rebuttal: The prosecution may have a rebuttal case, and if this occurs, defense counsel may cross-examine the rebuttal witnesses.

Closing Arguments: The prosecution is the first to deliver closing arguments. Closing arguments typically review the evidence that has been presented in the case, puts arguments for the defendant into perspective, and affirmatively asserts reasons for finding the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Next, the defense will deliver a summation that questions the evidence and the credibility of witness testimony in an attempt to convince the jury that there is reasonable doubt to believe that the defendant committed any crime. Lastly, the prosecution ends the trial with a final argument.

Deliberation: The Court instructs the jury on the law and explains any legal concepts that may need clarification. Jury deliberation begins after these instructions are given and may last any length of time. During deliberation the jury may ask to review any evidence presented during the trial or to have instructions or testimony re-read. A jury may find the defendant guilty, not guilty, or be unable to agree. A jury that cannot reach a unanimous verdict is called a hung jury.  When there is a mistrial, as in the case of a hung jury, a defendant may be retried. A not guilty verdict means that the case was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A not guilty verdict does not mean that the defendant is innocent. It simply means that the state did not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt in the opinion of the jury.

Sentencing:

What types of sentences are imposed if a defendant is found guilty?

If a jury delivers a guilty verdict, a sentencing hearing will be scheduled by the judge and a pre-sentence investigation will be conducted by the Adult Probation Department. Sentencing is governed by statutes that indicate those crimes for which imprisonment is mandatory, and the permissible minimums and maximums for each class of crime. To determine a defendant’s punishment, the judge considers the defendant’s criminal history, his or her level of involvement in the crime, their background, and the range  of incarceration permitted by law.

A term of probation may be given in addition to or in lieu of incarceration.  Mandatory classes as part of probation are often ordered and can provide training, guidance, or assistance to the defendant as part of their rehabilitation.

A conditional discharge may be imposed in a limited number of offenses if the judge feels that neither jail time nor probation is appropriate. The court can order the defendant to follow certain conditions such as to lead a law-abiding life, find employment or further job training, and to abstain from alcohol and controlled substances.

In addition, a fine or restitution may be imposed as a supplement to any other prescribed punishment if it was part of a plea agreement, or it may be the only sentence imposed.

  • Prosecutor’s Victim Assistance Coordinator

    A victim of crime in connection with criminal charges filed by this office may be eligible to receive assistance from our Victim's Assistance Coordinator.

    The Victim’s Assistance Coordinator provides information for victims through interactions with law enforcement, prosecutors and during court proceedings; by providing support and guidance to victims and their families; by informing victims of their rights; and by advising victims and/or their families of case developments and any upcoming trial court or hearing dates.