Court of Appeals Decision Limits Authority of Trial Courts to Reduce Class D Felony Convictions to Class A Misdemeanors
A Court of Appeals decision decided on August 6, 2010 has limited the ability of trial courts to reduce Class D felony convictions to Class A misdemeanors. In a case of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals has held that a trial court may only reduce a Class D felony, to a Class A misdemeanor, at the time of the original sentencing hearing; or, by the entry of a conditional Class D felony, whereby the Class D felony will automatically be reduced to a Class A misdemeanor within three years, provided the Defendant completes certain terms of probation.
This case does not address the situation in which a defendant has entered a plea agreement that specifically provides that the "Defendant may petition the Court for misdemeanor treatment upon the successful completion of probation." However, I anticipate that trial courts will interpret the case to continue to allow for argued hearings on misdemeanor treatment in such cases, for plea agreements entered prior to the Court of Appeals decision. Otherwise, defendants would be able to seek post-conviction relief to set aside their previous felony convictions.
I handle criminal cases in dozens of Indiana counties, and throughout the State judges have routinely reduced Class D felony convictions to Class A misdemeanors through sentence modification. This Court of Appeals decision will dramatically affect plea negotiations, sentencing hearings, and decisions on whether to proceed to jury trial, in Class D felony cases. Class D felony crimes include theft, receiving stolen property, operating while intoxicated with a prior conviction, possession of a controlled substance, resisting law enforcement in a vehicle, maintaining a common nuisance, and driving while being a habitual traffic violator. If you have a pending Class D felony charge, it is crucial that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal attorney who is familiar with this recent change in interpreting Indiana law.