The prescribed laws for processing an individual who has been accused of a criminal act are collectively known as the Indiana Criminal Code. In keeping with these legislations, the power of the state is brought into a criminal case with the issue of an active warrant which is released by the state judiciary. While most cases start when information is filed in court pertaining to a matter, in some cases, the state prosecution may file an indictment.
However, in Indiana, a Grand Jury indictment is not a legal requirement even in cases where the crime could warrant capital punishment. When information is filed with a tribunal, it has to be signed by the prosecuting attorney and it should be submitted in court with a probable cause affidavit that outlines the evidence in the case which points to the involvement of the accused in the criminal incident.
In order for a warrant to be issued, the magistrate of the criminal court has to be convinced that there is enough proof in the matter to hold the offender culpable. In case, the defendant is already being held in custody, the evaluation of probable cause is done to keep him in detention till such time that he can be produced in court for bail or trial.
Once the accused has been apprehended, the police will go through the usual round of questioning to collect more evidence in the matter. The offender has the right to call in his/her attorney at this point. The police are legally obligated to present the accused in court at the earliest possible opportunity; this usually means within 48 hours of arrest.
The bail hearing: Also known as the initial hearing, this court session is held to set bail for release. While the actual bail amount is set during the initial hearing, most counties of Indiana do have a bail amount schedule. In keeping with this, a person can secure release by posting a bond or cash in court to the amount of $1500 for Class A misdemeanors, $2500 for Class D felonies, $5000 for Class C felonies, $10,000 for Class B felonies and $25,000 for Class A felonies.
Discovery: This is the process through which lawyers on both sides exchange information held by them. This is a legal perquisite hence there are very few chances of surprise witnesses or evidence being brought in during the trial. In discovery sessions, witnesses from both or one side can be subpoenaed.
The motions: Before the actual trial, several motions may be filed by the prosecution and the defense. For instance, the attorneys for the offender may file a motion to reduce the bail amount or to change the venue of the trial. Because motion hearings are held separately, these may delay the start of the actual trial.
The trial proper!
Plea bargain: This refers to an agreement between the state and the defendant in which the accused agrees to enter a guilty plea in exchange for the dismissal of certain charges or a specific sentence.
Trial rights: All suspects, regardless of the offense that they are being charged of, have the right to be represented by a competent legal counsel. If an offender cannot afford to hire the services of an attorney, one will be provided to him free of charge by the state. The defendant also has the right to a bench trial if the prosecution, the magistrate and the defendant agree on this. Otherwise, a jury trial is held in which 12 people decide on the matter.
During the trial: The case starts with opening statements made by both sides. The prosecution gets the first chance to present their evidence and witnesses before the jury after this the defense puts forth their rebuttal evidence and argument. The conclusion of the trial is marked by closing arguments from both sides. The jury has 20 minutes to 20 days to decide on the matter and to hold the defendant guilty or to acquit him.
In cases where the accused is found guilty of the criminal act, the judge considers the Presentence Investigation Report filed by the Probation Department along with the evidence presented during the trial when fixing an appropriate sentence.