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Steuerwald: Lawmakers rewriting Indiana's outdated criminal code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.•

__________

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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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