Each county within the state of Indiana customarily will have their own independent criteria by which to judge a defendant’s potential suitability for a program that allows one to avoid straight incarceration. While in some communities a respective probation department will be in control for all home incarceration and/or employment related alternatives to incarceration, this is not the case within Hamilton County.
At present the Hamilton County Community Corrections agency and not the probation department handles the approval process for one seeking to become eligible for an applicable alternative release sentence that allows one to potentially maintain employment and any other associated familial responsibilities.
Making the assumption that evidence is sufficient by which to sustain the viability of a criminal prosecution, a lawyers’s ability to keep up to date as far as the most recent eligibility considerations for all options short of incarceration are critical to the most successful outcome possible.
I say this in reference to a recent occurrence that I witnessed on the part of another lawyer who was advocating such an alternative sentence on behalf of his client within one of the Hamilton County Superior courts. The attorney in question had apparently negotiated an “open” plea sentence within one of the Noblesville courtrooms. This agreement had called for a “cap” of time that would be the limit that his client could potentially serve in jail if the plea in question had been accepted.
The tragic problem that presented itself against his unsuspecting client was the fact that the lawyer, passionate as he may have been, simply did not know the practice of one of the Noblesville courts in question. In this instance it is customary in many other counties for an “open” sentence with a cap to mean just that; an ability to argue for any potential sentence under the cap that would meet with the judge’s approval. However, within the specific judge’s court at hand, an open sentence without a specific reference to an attorney’s ability to argue for where potential incarceration may be served (home incarceration/employment allowance) caused this judge to enunciate that the only alternative for his client was not whether straight incarceration was warranted, but only the amount of time up to two hundred and forty days that his client would be subject to imprisonment within the Hamilton County jail.
In this instance absent an allowance for a continuance to remedy the terms of a potential negotiated agreement within Hamilton County, a client will be left without potentially critical alternatives to incarceration due entirely to an ignorance of the procedural process for securing such alternative sentencing alternatives within Hamilton County. I was thankfully able to suggest some measures to this attorney that I believe had ultimately resulted in a modification of the originally proposed agreement that will not necessarily enable for an alternative sentence to incarceration be secured, but at least preserved the ability for argument in favor of such an outcome.
Further, understanding the often changing criteria for acceptance by the community corrections agency within Noblesville is essential to properly preparing a client for the interview process by which to secure written approval as a pre requisite to a judicial sanction that allows for home monitoring or employment release from a secure facility so as to maintain employment/familial responsibilities.