Note: This page covers information specific to Indiana. For general information concerning access to and use of court proceedings see the Access to Courts and Court Records section of this guide.
You have a right to attend most court proceedings in Indiana state courts. However, your right of access is not absolute, and a court can restrict your access under certain circumstances. If you are interested in attending a court proceeding, visit the Indiana judiciary's website to find the locations, phone numbers, and websites for the state's Trial Courts, Courts of Appeal, and Supreme Court. Additionally, the Indiana judiciary also has a terrific guide for the media on how best to use the court system.
In Indiana, you have both a First Amendment, Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580 (1980), and statutory, Ind. Code. Ann. 5-14-2, right to attend all stages of criminal trials. This includes the preliminary hearing and the jury selection process.
You may be denied access to the courtroom only if there would otherwise be serious and imminent danger to the defendant's rights. For example, the court may exclude you if the media's presence will deprive the defendant of her right to a fair trial because media coverage will influence the jury. If the trial court closes the proceeding, the closure must be no broader than necessary to protect the interest of the party asserting the need for closure. The court must consider reasonable alternatives to closing the proceeding, there must be a substantial probability that the exclusion will be effective in protecting against the perceived harm, and it must make findings adequate to support the closure. See generally Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Ct., 478 U.S. 1 (1986).
Grand Jury Proceedings
You will not be able to attend grand jury proceedings. These are proceedings in which the prosecutor presents evidence before a group of jurors who will determine if there is a sufficient basis to bring criminal charges against a person. Grand jury proceedings are held in secret and are not considered to be a part of the criminal trial process. Ind. Code. Ann. 35-34-2-4.
Other Proceedings and Conferences
You will not be able to access a few other hearings that have traditionally been closed to the public. These include “side-bar” or “in-chambers” conferences between the lawyers and the judge, and plea-bargaining sessions between the prosecutor and the defendant.
Juvenile Court Proceedings
You may attend juvenile court proceedings where the juvenile is accused of murder or another felony. Ind. Code Ann. § 31-32-6-3. However, you do not have a right to attend all juvenile court proceedings as the presiding judge has the discretion to close the proceedings to the general public. Ind. Code Ann. § 31-32-6-2.
You may be also be excluded from attending the testimony of a child witness or victim if the court finds that the allegation or defense involves matters of a sexual nature and that closing the proceeding protects the child's. In making its findings, the court should take into account the nature of the allegation or defense, the age of the child, the psychological maturity of the child, and the child's desire to testify in a closed proceeding. Ind. Code Ann. §§ 31-32-6-4, 31-32-6-5.
In general, you should be able to attend civil proceedings, which are presumptively open to the public, in Indiana state courts. A civil proceeding may only be closed when the denial of access “is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.” See Grove Fresh Distributors, Inc. v. Everfresh Juice Co., 24 F.3d 893, 897 (1994) (internal citation omitted).