What’s new in the Indiana Rules of Criminal Procedure?

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Effective January 1, 2024, Indiana’s Rules of Criminal Procedure underwent a significant overhaul. The Indiana Supreme Court approved the new Rules of Criminal Procedure after a yearslong process of study, proposed rules, commentary, and deliberation by stakeholders in the criminal justice system. The new rules should be of great benefit to both criminal defendants and their attorneys, as they largely standardize practice in courts across the State of Indiana. In updating the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Indiana Supreme Court specifically noted that any county’s local rules which conflict with the new Rules of Criminal Procedure are abrogated, meaning any conflicting provisions are without effect.

The overhaul of the Rules was done logically, as the new Rules are generally in sequential order with respect to the flow of a criminal case. What follows are some of the important changes to the Rules, some of which are completely new provisions.

Rule 2.3(C) deals with unrepresented defendants, and it prohibits the state from engaging in plea negotiations or diversion agreements with an unrepresented defendant who has not waived the right to counsel. This Rule also prohibits a court from accepting a plea of guilty from an unrepresented defendant who has not waived the right to counsel. These prohibitions will have an impact on practice in a number of courts where such negotiation and pleas were fairly common. While an unrepresented defendant may waive counsel and enter a plea or diversion, judges and prosecutors may be hesitant to permit this to happen given Rule 2.3(C). And of course it’s always wise to have an attorney before waiving any rights or entering a guilty plea.

Rule 2.3(D) permits the waiver of an initial hearing upon a request from defense counsel. Different counties and judges have previously taken different approach to waiver, with some allowing only for misdemeanors or not at all. Now this Rule explicitly permits waiver in any case, but still provides judges with discretion in granting waiver. Time will tell whether or not this rule encourages judges to more broadly grant waiver of an initial hearing.

Perhaps the most significant change, which is also a new provision, is Rule 2.5. Rule 2.5 is an automatic discovery rule, requiring certain disclosures by the state and defendant in every criminal case. This Rule should be a welcome change for practitioners, as it standardizes the discovery process across the state and should create more efficiency as well.

Rule 2.5(B)(1) requires a prosecutor to provide discovery within 30 days of the initial hearing or the filing of an appearance for a defendant, whichever is later. Among the items the prosecutor must provide the defense is following:

  • Names and last known addresses of witnesses, and their statements
  • Any statements of a defendant or co-defendant
  • Grand jury transcripts for witnesses the prosecutor will call at trial
  • Any expert statements or reports
  • Any “books, papers, documents, photographs, or tangible objects” the prosecutor intends to use at trial, or which were obtained from or belong to the defendant
  • Any documents obtained through the use of a subpoena duces tecum
  • Any exculpatory or mitigating evidence
  • For witnesses, any prior convictions or other evidence which may be used for impeachment

Within 30 days after the prosecutor’s disclosure, the defense must furnish the names and last known addresses of witnesses for trial, any books, papers, documents, photographs, or tangible objects intended to be used as evidence, and any expert reports or statements. This rule also requires the defense to disclose any statutory defense in writing by the statutory deadline, or within a reasonable time if there is no statutory deadline.

Another significant new provision is Rule 2.5(F)(4), which deals with depositions. This rule now provides that depositions may be taken without the use of a stenographer, and that a deposition may be taken through audiovisual communication unless it is intended to be introduced in lieu of testimony at trial. Marion County’s local rules have permitted “taped statements” without the use of a court reporter or stenographer for years, which led to more efficiency and less cost for defendants. This rule change should be of benefit to defendants across the state who need to obtain sworn testimony from witnesses prior to trial.

Rule 2.7 applies to written motions and legal memoranda, and it requires that any motion include specific contentions supported by cogent reasoning and pertinent legal authorities. This language seems to have been borrowed from our appellate courts, which will generally not consider arguments that are unsupported by cogent reasoning and legal authority. The purpose here is to ensure that all parties and the judge have the information necessary to adequately respond to or rule on any request.

If a defendant files a motion to dismiss, Rule 2.7(A) requires that an accompanying memorandum be filed. Rule 2.7(B) “strongly encourages” the filing of a motion to suppress at least 10 days before a jury trial, and it also requires that the defense clearly state the items or statements to be suppressed, as well as the basis for suppression. Under this Rule, attorneys must now file more specific motions to suppress than might have been done previously.

Rule 3 governs trials and guilty pleas, and it first states that the court and the state must consent to any waiver of trial by jury that a defendant may seek. For misdemeanor cases, Rule 3.1(B)(3) prevents the state from requesting a jury trial.

Rule 4 governs delay in criminal trials, and encompasses what are commonly known as the speedy trial rules. The new speedy trial rules largely mirror the previous rules, but the language has been clarified for ease of application. In addition, Rule 4.1 clarifies the computation of time. Periods of delay are calculated from continued trial/hearing date to new trial/hearing date, and this Rule resolves a split in appellate opinions as to how the time periods should be calculated under Rule 4.

Overall, the changes to the Rules of Criminal Procedure are intended to streamline and simplify the process of a criminal case in the State of Indiana. Between automatic discovery and the allowance for taped statements, defendants and their attorneys should benefit greatly. If you need legal representation for a criminal case in Indianapolis, call the experienced attorneys at Banks & Brower (317) 870-0019 for help today.