Sentence modifications exist to reward good behavior for those serving sentences. As a practical matter, sentence modifications allow offenders to have a second chance in a less restrictive environment. However, modifications for offenders serving sentences for violent offenses have been extremely difficult to come by.
IC 35-38-1-17 governs sentence modifications in Indiana. The statute defines “violent criminals” as any person that is convicted of murder, attempted murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, aggravated battery, kidnapping, rape, criminal deviate conduct, child molesting, sexual misconduct with a minor (as a level 1 or 2 felony), robbery (as a level 2 or 3 felony), burglary (as a level 1, 2, 3, or 4 felony), and unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.
The statute goes on to state that a “violent criminal” can file one modification request without prosecutor consent within 365 days of being sentenced. While on its face this provision appears to give a break to violent offenders, the reality is that anyone convicted of one of the above offenses is likely serving significant time and any modification request within a year of being sentenced will quickly be dismissed by the judge.
For violent offenders, any modification request after a year of being sentenced has historically required consent from the prosecutor. Clearly, prosecutors most always decline modification requests from individuals convicted of a violent offense. From a prosecutor’s perspective, they have everything to lose and nothing to gain by allowing a violent offender to file a modification request. If a prosecutor allows a modification to be filed, and if the modification were to be granted, and the offender goes on to commit another violent crime shortly after the modification, the prosecutor would likely be subject to intense scrutiny for allowing the modification to be filed in the first place. Therefore, prosecutors routinely decline requests from violent offenders to modify their sentences.
The provision in the modification statute that requires prosecutorial consent has been especially difficult for offenders serving lengthy sentences for violent crimes committed when they were under the age of 18. A new addition to the modification statute addresses this issue and will hopefully provide some relief to these individuals.
IC 35-38-1-17(n) went into effect on July 1, 2023. It states that:
“A person sentenced in a criminal court having jurisdiction over an offense committed when the person was less than 18 years of age may file an additional petition for sentence modification under this section without the consent of the prosecuting attorney if the person has served at least:
- Fifteen (15) years of the person’s sentence, if the person is not serving a sentence for murder; or
- Twenty (20) years of the person’s sentence, if the person is serving a sentence for murder.
The legislature has recognized that individuals can do much to better themselves after committing an unfortunate act as a juvenile. Clearly, the legislature believes that prison can reform violent offenders, and much change can occur in a person after 15-20 years of rehabilitation. The new provision to the modification statute at least allows these individuals a chance to file a petition and potentially get their case in front of judge without the prosecutorial roadblock that had previously been in place.
Do you know someone that was convicted of a violent crime as a juvenile and has been able to reform their life? Email the experienced attorneys at firstname.lastname@example.org or call anytime at (317) 870-0019.