Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on September 30, 2022.
Typically, the police file drug charges right after an arrest. However, not every drug investigation concludes immediately, and some can even last months or years. But, the police cannot wait forever to file charges against you. Indiana’s statute of limitations will prevent them from leaving you in a state of uncertainty for too long.
Having the government charge you with a drug crime is no trivial matter. A drug conviction can have serious repercussions—from going to jail, paying fines, completing lengthy probation terms, and possibly losing certain rights. A tough, dedicated, and experienced criminal defense lawyer from Eskew Law, will protect your rights and help get your life back on track.
How Long Do the Police Have to File Drug Charges?
Indiana law protects people from facing criminal charges after too much time has passed. The law that institutes the time restriction, called the statute of limitations, prevents police and prosecutors from seeking criminal charges after a specific amount of time. The length of time specified by the statute of limitations depends on the charges.
Indiana’s statute of limitations for drug cases, found in Indiana Code § 35-41-4-2, depends on the severity of the drug offense. Misdemeanor drug charges have a two-year statute of limitations. On the other hand, felony crimes have different statutes of limitations based on their seriousness levels.
There is no statute of limitations for the most serious Level 1 and Level 2 felonies—so prosecutions for things like murder can happen at any time. However, felony Levels 3, 4, 5, and 6 have a five-year statute of limitations.
Common Misdemeanor Drug Charges in Indiana
Most drug crimes in Indiana are felonies. However, Indiana law does classify some drug offenses as misdemeanors. For instance, possession of marijuana, hashish, hashish oil, and salvia are either Class A or B misdemeanors, depending on the circumstances of your arrest. Growing and dealing marijuana are also misdemeanor offenses.
Possessing a Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V drug is also a misdemeanor drug offense unless the substance is methamphetamine, cocaine, or narcotic drug. Dealing a Schedule IV or V drug is a misdemeanor charge as well.
You should bear in mind that certain sentencing enhancements, such as the weight of the drug or your history of drug convictions, may apply in your case. These factors could elevate the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The police have to file charges within two years if they want to prosecute you for a misdemeanor.
Common Felony Drug Charges in Indiana
All other drug charges not mentioned above are felonies. The severity of the felony charge will depend on the nature of the drug, the quantity found, and whether you have any prior drug convictions on your record.
Under Indiana law, manufacturing, delivering, and possessing with the intent to distribute Schedule I, II, and III drugs are felonies. Additionally, financing drug distribution operations is a felony.
Felony drug offenses range in severity from Level 6 to Level 2. Level 6 is the least serious drug offense, and Level 2 is the most severe drug offense according to Indiana law.
Drug investigators must file charges within five years to prosecute you for these drug offenses unless the charge is a Level 2 felony.
“Tolling” the Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations starts running when the crime occurs. For example, the statute of limitations clock starts running when you buy drugs from someone. The clock stops, and the prosecution begins when the police either arrest you, charge you with a crime, or obtain a warrant for your arrest.
Indiana law accounts for circumstances where it would be unfair to the state to let the time tick off the statute of limitations. The time “tolls” or pauses under the statute of limitations if the accused:
- Conceals themselves from the police so they cannot be served with an arrest warrant;
- Conceals evidence of the offense, and there is not sufficient evidence to charge someone; or
- Does not reside in Indiana.
An experienced Indiana drug crimes defense attorney from Eskew Law can explain when the statute of limitations tolls.
What Happens if the Statute of Limitations Runs Out?
The statute of limitations protects people from trying to defend against charges that happened long in the past. Bringing charges after the passage of time often deprives the accused of locating evidence that could help their defense. For instance, finding witnesses who remember the incident clearly many years after the crime can be almost impossible. Only the most serious offenses have no statute of limitations, like Level 2 felonies and murder charges.
The court will dismiss your case if the police charge you after the statute of limitations expires. Having a knowledgeable defense lawyer on your side is important to ensure the correct time calculations under the statute of limitations. A skilled lawyer will understand how to argue persuasively on your behalf so you don’t have to face drug charges from incidents that arose long ago.
How Long Does the Prosecutor Have to Bring You to Trial?
You have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. Generally, that means you have a right to go to trial without unjust delay. The rule has numerous exceptions and is highly technical, but the implication is clear. You have a right to get to trial as soon as possible.
The trial process begins in Indiana with an initial hearing. An initial hearing is the first court event after an arrest. At an initial hearing, the court will inform you of your charges, your right to have an attorney if you do not have one, and the right to be admitted to bail if you did not post bond after your arrest. Usually, a person under arrest who did not post bail has to see a judge promptly. Promptly usually means within 48 hours. However, posting a bond at the jail means that your arraignment could be delayed by as much as 20 days.
Award-Winning Lawyers Fighting for You
At Eskew Law, we focus all of our efforts on helping you. We customize our legal advice to your specific situation, and we always keep you informed of the progress of your case. Keeping you informed enables you to make decisions in your best interest. Call Eskew Law, at 317-279-5092 to discuss your case with an experienced defense lawyer.