Alternative misdemeanor sentencing (AMS) can be a useful tool for criminal defense attorneys and their clients. AMS comes in especially handy for defendants charged with low-level felonies, including many offenses involving or related to drug possession. 

For example, let’s say the State charges you with dealing in marijuana as a Level 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Indiana’s AMS statute allows for the possibility of this conviction being entered as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Depending on your case, this conversion may take place at the beginning of your criminal sentence or at the end. If you get AMS up-front, this means you plead guilty, and the judge enters your conviction as a Class A misdemeanor. In this case, the State can’t sentence you to more than a year behind bars.

Back-end AMS is a little trickier. In that event, you plead guilty to the Level 6 felony and receive your criminal sentence. You then have certain specific, sentencing-related hoops to jump through to prove your good will to the court. 

To be eligible for AMS, you must complete your criminal sentence and all probation obligations. After that, you must wait an additional three years from the time your sentence concludes. When the time comes for you to petition the court for AMS, you need to show that you haven’t gotten in any more trouble. This means no subsequent felony convictions and no pending criminal charges.

To qualify for AMS, you must also:

  • not be a sex offender;
  • not be a violent offender;
  • not have been convicted of a felony that resulted in bodily injury to another person; and
  • not have been convicted of perjury or official misconduct.

No one wants to be stuck with the felon label attached to their name. This can cause all sorts of problems in respectable society. Whether we’re talking about job or school applications, military service, or any other kind of background check, you don’t want to have to answer questions about past mistakes.

Anyone who has the option should absolutely take advantage of Indiana’s AMS statute. Remember, you only get one AMS conversion every three years, so make sure you consult with an experienced attorney. If you’re facing felony charges, call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!