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Criminal Process in Indiana

The criminal process can be complex and confusing. But it's important to know your legal rights. The best way to be informed is to contact an attorney in your area as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney will understand the law as it relates to the crime you've been charged with, and will be able to help you in making informed decisions as your case moves through the process.

You may be stopped for questioning by the police. A stop is not the same as an arrest because, although you may be detained, you aren't moved to a different location. During a stop the police officer may ask you questions, but you have the right to refuse to answer.

A search warrant authorizes police to conduct a search of a specific, place such as your residence. In order for a warrant to be issued by a judge, "probable cause" is necessary. Probable cause to search means that:
- It is more likely than not that the specific items to be searched for are connected with criminal activities
- Those items will be found in the place to be searched

The general rule is that warrants are required for searches. But search warrants are not required for the following:
- Searches incident to arrest: Police officers are permitted to search your body and/or clothing for weapons or other contraband when making a valid arrest.
- Automobile searches: If you're arrested in a vehicle, the police may search the inside of the vehicle. To perform a complete search of the vehicle (such as in locked glove compartments, for example), probable cause is necessary.
- Exigent circumstances: Searches may be conducted if there are "exigent circumstances" which demand immediate action, such as to avoid the destruction of evidence.
- Plain view: Police do not need a search warrant when they see an object that is in plain view of an officer who has the right to be in the position to have that view.
- Consent: If you consent to a search of your body, your vehicle, or your home, police are not required to have a warrant. You aren't required to consent to any police searches.

In order to be arrested, there must be what's called "probable cause." This means that there must be a reasonable belief that a crime was committed and you committed the crime. An arrest warrant is not necessary.

After you're placed under arrest, you are protected by constitutional rights. Two important rights to be aware of are right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. After your arrest, you aren't required to say anything else to police or investigators, until you have an attorney present. You must be given the opportunity to contact an attorney.

Appointment of an Attorney
In Indiana, if you cannot afford to hire an attorney, an attorney will be appointed to defend you. Usually a public defender will be appointed as your attorney.

Once a public defender has been appointed to defend you, you may ask the court to appoint a substitute attorney only for good cause. Good cause requires more than mere dissatisfaction with your appointed attorney and may include:
- A conflict of interest between you and the attorney
- Your attorney becomes ill and cannot continue to represent you
- There is reason to believe that your attorney is not providing effective assistance.

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