Pence approves mandatory minimums for drug dealing

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Gov. Mike Pence toughened sentences for drug dealers Monday, signing legislation that would mandate repeat offenders serve at least 10 years if their crime involves methamphetamine or heroin.

The measure, House Enrolled Act 1235, was included in a bill-signing ceremony the governor held this morning at Hope Academy in Indianapolis, a high school for students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

“Drug abuse problems are not unique to our state, but I’m determined to meet this challenge head-on here in Indiana,” Pence said. “To start, I believe that any strategy to address drug abuse must start with enforcement. We need to make it clear that Indiana will not tolerate the actions of criminals, and I’m pleased to sign into law HEA 1235 to increase penalties on drug dealers.”

The other three bills Pence signed focused on treatment and were based on recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force on Drug Enforcement, Treatment and Prevention. All coming from the Senate, the measures were:

•    SEA 271, which repeals the Commission for a Drug Free Indiana and establishes the Indiana Commission to combat Drug Abuse;
•    SEA 187, which issues a statewide standing order for overdose intervention drugs, such as naloxone, and is expected to increase access to the medication; and
•    SEA 297, which requires Medicaid coverage for inpatient treatment of opioid or alcohol dependence.

HEA 1235 was authored by Rep. Greg Steuerward, the architect of the state’s criminal code reform that took effect July 1, 2014. The bill prohibits a judge from suspending the sentence if the offender has been convicted of a Level 2 controlled substance felony that involves meth or heroin and has a prior conviction for dealing. These felons will now have to serve a minimum of 10 years in state prison.

An analysis by the Legislative Services Agency noted the bill would not significantly increase the Department of Correction’s population. Of the 119 offenders sentenced to DOC as Level 2 felons since July 2014, only 14 had prior convictions for dealing in either cocaine, heroin or meth. And of those 14, four offenders received a sentence of less than the minimum of 10 years.

Still, the Indiana State Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section and the Indiana Judicial Conference along with the Indiana Public Defender Council spoke out against HEA 1235. They argued the state should continue to emphasize treatment over incarceration and give judges the freedom to impose the sentences they believe are appropriate.

The bill also drew opposition from legislators. Although mostly Democrats voted against the measure, some Republicans, including Sens. Luke Kenley and Pete Miller and Reps. Robert Behning and Dave Wolkins, also cast no votes.

Still awaiting the governor’s signature is Steuerwald’s funding bill, HB 1102, which allows the DOC to make grants of up to $11 million total to county jails for mental health and addiction treatment. The money is coming from savings realized because the criminal code reform is lowering the state prison population by keeping lower-level offenders in the county jails where they can participate in treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Key provisions in the measure emphasize cooperation among the agencies and programs serving offenders. Under the bill, the DOC must coordinate with the Division of Mental Health and Addiction. Also, the counties that seek financial aid must have a plan of collaboration among the probation department and community corrections program along with other local criminal justice agencies such as the courts, prosecuting attorneys and public defenders.

The bill gained overwhelming bipartisan support with the lone no vote coming from Kenley.



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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....