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Steuerwald: Lawmakers rewriting Indiana's outdated criminal code

January 30, 2013
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

By Rep. Greg Steuerwald
 

steuerwald Steuerwald

Rewriting Indiana’s criminal code is an issue that my colleagues and I have spent years analyzing. The code has been enhanced in the past, but there has not been a significant overhaul since 1977. I believe that the time has come to change that and provide Hoosiers with an appropriate, updated criminal code, which is the focus of House Bill 1006.

In 2009, the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission was created and charged with the task of “evaluating the criminal laws of Indiana.” I was a member of this commission, which consisted of elected officials and a number of experts in the criminal justice field. From March 2011 to July 2012, the CCEC met over 43 times to discuss the merits of the criminal code and possible revisions.

The guiding principles that the commission strived to achieve in rewriting Indiana’s criminal code included the following: consistency, proportionality, like-sentences for like-crimes, new criminal penalties and sentencing schemes designed to keep dangerous offenders in prison, but avoid using scarce prison space for non-violent offenders.

Before I was a lawyer, I served two years as a certified Probation Officer with the Indiana Department of Correction. During my time in that position, and in my current position, I witnessed the need to restructure our current system. One of the biggest issues facing our judicial system is the correct sentencing policies, which is causing violent offenders to be released early.

With 28,378 inmates housed in the Indiana Department of Correction, an estimated 15,000 are being held solely on the lowest felonies. The cost per day to house an inmate is $56.88. The proposed criminal code revisions, as recommended by the commission, will create a way for the state to cut prison costs while providing a sentence grid that applies a more specific sentence to criminal offenses.

There are four classes of felonies in our current criminal code (Classes A-D). The changes that the CCEC recommended would expand the four classes to six by dividing Class A and Class B into two parts. Murder will be its own separate classification. As proposed, all criminal defendants sentenced to Department of Correction will serve 75 percent of their sentence as opposed to 50 percent served under the current criminal code. The recommendations from the commission to the General Assembly will become effective July of 2014.

HB 1006 was heard in the Courts and Criminal Code Committee on Jan. 16. The new criminal code has bipartisan support and was also supported by Ralph Foley, former chair of Courts and Criminal Code, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Indiana Public Defender Council and the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association. HB 1006 passed out of committee unanimously and will be sent to the Ways and Means Committee on its next step in the legislative process.

As we move forward this session, it is imperative that the issue of rewriting Indiana’s criminal code remains a priority. These changes will make Indiana’s laws work for Hoosiers, creating a safer and more responsible state.•

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Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, has been a member of the Indiana House of Representatives since 2007. He is an attorney with Steuerwald Hannon Zielinski & Witham. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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