Understanding the Habitual Offender Sentence Enhancements
Being charged with a crime, on its own, is one of the scariest things a person can face. Regardless of the facts, regardless of the level of crime alleged, it can be a daunting situation for anyone — even for the smallest of crimes. Yet, not much is more terrifying for a defendant than when the State files a sentence enhancement on their case. After all, an enhancement adds a multiplier index to your underlying cause — so, in layman’s terms, it has the potential to add a much larger sentence to your case if proven.
Whether it’s a sentence enhancement for the “Habitual Offender” status or “Habitual Substance Offender” status, the stakes are raised exponentially. In this blog the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys have put together what is meant as an educational tool for those who have been put on notice or have been officially charged with a sentence enhancement by the State of Indiana.
HABITUAL OFFENDER STATUS: (NON-SUBSTANCE RELATED OFFENSES)
To qualify as a Habitual Offender a number of rules apply. If your underlying crime is Murder or a Level 1 through Level 4 felony then you can be charged as a habitual offender if you have two unrelated felonies and at least one of the two prior felonies must be higher than a Level 6 or D Felony.
If the underlying offense is a Level 5 felony, then a different set of rules apply. For a person charged with a level 5 felony to be charged as habitual offender there again must be 2 unrelated felonies one of which has to be higher than a Level 6 or Class D Felony. Additionally, if any of the priors being used are a Level 5, Level 6, Class C, or Class D felony then no more than 10 years can have elapsed since completion of the sentence on that prior felony(completion includes imprisonment, probation, or parole(whichever is latest).
Regardless of the levels, a person with 3 prior unrelated felonies can also be charged as habitual. However, the 10 year time requirement from above applies to this scenario as well if any of the prior are a Level 5, Level 6, Class C or Class D felony.
One more tricky rule, if the underlying offense is a misdemeanor that is enhanced to a felony due to a prior conviction, then habitual offender can not be added. However, a prior unrelated felony that was enhanced from a misdemeanor can be used as the qualifying prior. As can be seen, the process of determining whether someone is “habitual eligible” can be complex. If you are concerned about this issue or have been charged as a habitual offender contact the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower to help.
As a habitual offender, you face significant additional time in prison. If your underlying offense is murder or a level 1 through level 4 felony then the court must sentence you to an additional 6 to 20 years. If your underlying offense is a level 5 or 6 felony, then the court must sentence you to an additional 2 to 6 years. Any sentence under this provision is considered non-suspendible.
HABITUAL VEHICULAR SUBSTANCE OFFENDER:
There are two ways you can be charged as a Habitual Vehicular Substance Offender. First, is for having two prior unrelated vehicle substance offenses. Under this scenario at least one of your two prior convictions must have been within the last 10 years. Second, you can be charged with this enhancement if you have at least 3 unrelated prior Vehicular Substance Offenses. Under this scenario the age of the prior convictions does not matter. A person convicted of being a habitual vehicular substance offender can receive and additional 1 to 8 years in prison.
As anyone can see, a sentence enhancement charge can be a life changing and incredibly chilling event. If you or a loved one is facing a habitual enhancement, it’s essential that you hire an attorney that understands what prior convictions count towards qualifying, what the possible penalties can be, and have a great working relationship with prosecutors throughout the State. As former prosecutors, the attorneys at the Indianapolis Criminal Defense firm of Banks & Brower have the experience you need to help you through this difficult situation.
Give the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower a call today. Our number is 317.870.0019. We answer our phones 24/7/365. Or, shoot us an e-mail today at email@example.com.