Drug offenders in Indiana are charged based on the type and amount of controlled substances found in their possession. Individuals who obtain small amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or other illegal drugs for their own personal use generally face charges that carry relatively light penalties, but those found in possession of large quantities of controlled substances can be sent to prison for decades.
Most drug distribution and trafficking charges in Indiana are felonies that carry prison sentences of between six months and 30 years. To prevail in these cases, prosecutors must show that the defendant planned to manufacture, distribute or finance the manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs. They usually meet this burden by introducing items that are commonly used to weigh and package controlled substances. However, this evidence may not be of much use to prosecutors if criminal defense attorneys convince the judge that police officers violated rights protected by the Fourth Amendment when they recovered it.
Drug trafficking charges and penalties
Individuals accused of violating Indiana’s drug laws face the following charges and penalties:
• Class B misdemeanor charges carry a custodial penalty of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $1,000.
• Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
• Level 6 felony charges carry a prison sentence of between six and 30 months and a fine of up to $10,000.
• Level 5 felonies are punishable by between one and six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
• Level 4 felony charges carry a custodial sentence of between two and 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
• Level 3 felony convictions lead to prison sentences of between three and 16 years and fines of up to $10,000.
• Level 2 felonies are punishable by between 10 and 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
These sentences are only handed down when prosecutors can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is not always straightforward in narcotics cases. The items prosecutors introduce to establish intent can be used to weigh and package benign substances as well as illegal drugs, and warrantless searches that lead to narcotics seizures may be considered unconstitutional if the police officers involved acted without probable cause.