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Criminal law committee sends sentencing bill to Legislature

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What was called the key to making Indiana’s new criminal code work has received a nod of approval and is now headed to the Legislature.

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee concluded its work Dec. 19 by approving a handful of proposed bills, including one on sentencing. Committee Chair, R. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, said he felt good about what the interim group was able to accomplish this summer and fall.

Much of the focus of the committee’s agenda has been on reducing the rate of recidivism in the state and devising a sentencing grid for the new criminal code contained in HEA 1006, passed during the 2013 session. Sentencing became the hot-button issue as prosecutors pushed for stiffening the penalties and public defenders advocated for lowering the maximum prison terms for low-level offenders.

Young appointed four committee members – Republicans Sen. Brent Steele, and Reps. Greg Steuerwald and Jud McMillin, along with Democrat Rep. Matt Pierce – to draft changes to the sentencing portion of HEA 1006.

The bill’s provisions include:
* limiting the number of times an offender may file a petition to modify a sentence
* removing the requirement that courts hold a hearing on petitions to modify
* requiring additional prison terms for habitual offenders
* increasing advisory sentences for Level Three, Four and Five felonies
* increasing the number of crimes for which sentences are nonsuspendible
* requiring education credit time be deducted from the release date
* removing the requirement that the courts explain their reasoning when imposing the advisory sentences

Steele, chair of the sentencing workgroup, said the four legislators took ideas from prosecutors and public defenders to craft a bill that would lower the inmate population at the Indiana Department of Correction and provide effective treatment alternatives for low-level offenders.

He said sentencing policy is the key to making HEA 1006 work.

The committee passed the draft on a 9 to 4 vote. David Powell, executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council voted yes. Both Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council, and Randy Koester, deputy commissioner of re-entry for the DOC, voted against the measure. They cited concerns that the sentencing structure would increase the prison population and overload the state’s penal system.

The committee also unanimously approved a draft proposal that established a mental-health pilot project in Marion County to provide mental health and addiction services to offenders who are released from prison.

A bill establishing another pilot project in Marion County drew heavy opposition. Authored by Young, the measure would create a three-year program to consolidate community corrections and the probation department.

Stakeholders in the criminal justice system asked the committee to scrap the bill and allow them to write the legislation. They were concerned about what they saw as a top-down approach.

Young emphasized the bill will only impact Marion County and that he intends to listen to the stakeholders to improve the draft during the legislative session. Other committee members noted the measure was imperfect but it offered a good starting point to craft something better.

The proposed legislation narrowly passed with an 8 to 5 vote.

Finally, the committee unanimously approved a proposal by Rep. Christina Hale, D-Indianapolis, to study the underreporting of certain crimes.

Hale’s bill requires the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to study the underreporting of crimes against children. It also requires the Indiana Department of Health or its Office of Women’s Health to conduct a study of the number of victims of domestic and sexual violence and why these crimes are underreported.   
 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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