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Securing A Sentence Modification

By: Jon A. Keyes May 2014

For various reasons, defendants often want (and deserve) to have their sentence modified after being convicted. Maybe the individual has completed educational or rehabilitation programs while incarcerated. Maybe continued incarceration would cause an undue hardship on the individual’s family. Maybe new facts have arisen indicating the original sentence was unjust. There are many situations that might justify a sentence modification.

For decades, it has been very difficult to obtain a sentence modification in Indiana due to the statutory “One Year Rule.” Pursuant to this statutory “One Year Rule,” a trial court must have the consent of the Prosecutor to modify the length of a defendant’s sentence if more than a year has gone by since the defendant was sentenced. For various reasons, Prosecutors rarely agreed to sentence modifications. Thus, most defendants were barred from modifying the length of their sentence unless the modification occurred within a year of sentencing. A defendant serving a 5, 10, or 20 year sentence had almost no hope of a sentence modification.

But there is new hope for defendants serving long sentences. Effective July 1, 2014, the Indiana legislature repealed the “One Year Rule.” A defendant no longer needs the consent of the Prosecutor to obtain a sentence modification–regardless of whether the modification request is made within a year of sentencing. A defendant can now request a sentence modification 5, 10, or 20 years after being sentenced. If the trial court believes a defendant is worthy of a modification, the trial court can now modify the defendant’s sentence to any sentence it could have given the defendant at the time of the original sentencing.

There are still some limitations on sentence modifications. First, a trial court cannot modify a sentence if the defendant was sentenced to a plea agreement that set the specific length and placement of the sentence. A plea agreement is a contract. Both the State of Indiana and a defendant are bound by that contract and cannot later ask to modify it’s terms. Second, a defendant cannot make unlimited requests for a sentence modification. A defendant may only make 1 modification request per year and a total of 2 modification requests during the entire sentence.

These new sentence modification rules could greatly help those serving long prison sentences. For the first time, those individuals will have the chance to explain to a trial court why their sentence should be reduced. Contact an attorney at | Allen Wellman Harvey Keyes Cooley, LLP at (317) 462-3455 if you are interested in learning more about how to potentially obtain a sentence modification in Indiana.