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Your Gary Criminal Case: The Basics

Last updated: February 18, 2016

Graffiti is art, and our downtown could use a little beautifying. Unfortunately, the copper who spotted you tagging the overpass has a different definition of art than you, and now Indiana wants to throw you in jail. Criminal charges run the gamut from minor traffic offenses up to murder, but every crime committed in Gary shares many of the same basic procedures. To help you navigate the murky criminal justice system, and to give you the best chance at a favorable resolution, FindLaw has created this guide to prepare you for what to expect from your Gary criminal case.

You are under arrest…

If you've been arrested by Gary police and are in custody, you have a right to remain silent.  Many attorneys recommend against speaking with police under such circumstances. The reason is that the things you say, however innocent, could potentially be used against you by the prosecutor if you later demand a trial. You have a constitutional guarantee against self-incrimination, and the Supreme Court found this right so important that the police are required to read your Miranda rights before interrogating you.

Along with your right to remain silent in an interrogation, you may also wish to exercise your right to speak with an attorney. Even if you don't have an attorney and can't afford one, there is a decent chance you will qualify for a Public Defender.
 
After you've been handcuffed and Mirandized, you will likely be transported to either the Lake County Jail or one of the Gary police divisions, located at 555 Polk St., 601 S. Lake St., or 4491 West 5th Ave. The police will ask you some biographical questions (you should answer these), search your person, and confiscate any personal belongings before leading you to a holding cell.

Initial Hearing and Bail

Within 48 hours of your arrest (not counting weekend and holidays) you will attend an initial hearing, called an arraignment in most other states. If you weren't arrested, your initial hearing will be your first appearance. You should take this court date seriously, as failing to appear is a criminal offense in and of itself. The hearing will probably be held at the Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point, at 2293 N. Main St.

At the initial hearing the charges against you will be read, but this is usually waived to save time. At that point, you can enter a plea. It may not be a good idea to plead guilty at this early stage, as you have not had a chance to evaluate the strength of the state's evidence or consider possible defense strategies. You can also ask the judge to appoint a Public Defender.

At the end of arraignment, the judge will either release you "on your own recognizance," or send you back to jail and set bail. Bail is a monetary deposit you make in exchange for your freedom before trial. If you blow off one of your court dates you may forfeit bail, but if you attend the court date all of the deposit will be returned to you. The purpose of bail is to dissuade people from fleeing the jurisdiction the second they are released. If you cannot afford bail, try speaking with a Gary bail bonds company, which will typically loan you the bail deposit in exchange for 10%.

Plea Bargain

Most criminal cases do not end in trial. Going to trial is a risky proposition for a defendant. It's possible you'll get acquitted, but you could be convicted and sentenced without the benefit of favorable plea agreement terms. If you agree to plead guilty, part of the deal will likely be that the prosecutor will recommend a reduced sentence or dismiss some of the tougher charges.

Preliminary Hearing

A preliminary hearing is basically a mini-trial. The prosecutor must call enough witnesses to prove to the judge that probable cause exists to justify holding a trial. There will be no jury, but you will get a sneak peak at the evidence against you and your attorney will have an opportunity to cross examine witnesses. The burden of proof on the prosecutor is quite low, so at this stage a judge often holds a defendant to answer for the charges and sets a trial date.

Motions

Before trial your attorney can file motions on your behalf. The most common motion in a criminal case is a motion to suppress evidence. This type of motion typically alleges that, when obtaining evidence, police violated your Constitutional guarantees, particularly the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unlawful searches and seizures. The "exclusionary rule" means that any evidence gathered unlawfully will be inadmissible at trial; neither the judge nor jury will consider it when deciding your guilt. In some circumstances, such as when an initial traffic stop was conducted without reasonable suspicion, 100% of the State's evidence will be thrown out and a case will be dismissed.

Trial

The final stage of your criminal case is the jury trial. All felony cases automatically go to jury trial, but in Indiana you must make a written request for a jury trial for misdemeanor cases. There will be 12 jurors for a felony case, but only six jurors for misdemeanors.

The attorneys will begin by giving opening statements and presenting evidence. Evidence is usually oral testimony, but can also be physical objects, maps or audio and video recordings. At the end, the lawyers will have a chance to comment on the evidence in closing argument. Finally, the judge will instruct the jury on the law and allow them to deliberate in private.

You can only be convicted of a crime if every juror unanimously agrees on your guilt. If even a single juror disagrees, the trial ends in a mistrial. A mistrial is a victory for the defendant, but beware -- the State may be able to re-file the same criminal charges if they wish. If all jurors remains skeptical you could be acquitted, and in that case, the State will not be able to re-file charges.