Request for study of court costs receives initial Senate approval

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Questions regarding certain Indiana court costs might be addressed this summer if a study committee is approved to look into the issue in the coming months.

Proposed by Sen. Karen Tallian D-Ogden Hills, Senate Resolution 52 requests that the Legislative Council assign the topics of court costs for indigent individuals and the look-back period for prior unrelated convictions in Indiana's criminal code to a summer study committee.

The request to study the issues comes after Tallian noted that concerns surrounding both topics have repeatedly surfaced among discussion of various bills in committee this session. That has created a continual stumbling block, she said.

First, the senator noted there are inconsistencies with Indiana’s look-back period on prior unrelated convictions. She said issues regarding that matter were discussed in at least five pieces of legislation up for consideration this year, including House Bill 1078 and Senate Bills 163, 551, 243 and 336.

“We constantly add extra sentencing if we have prior unrelated convictions,” Tallian said. She noted that while some portions of Indiana code list a look-back time of not more than 10 or 15 years, other places in the code lists no look-back period at all.

“I think we should take a look at that and make a decision as to whether we should do something,” she said.

Tallian also raised concerns regarding what qualifies someone as indigent.

“We have a lot of courts who make decisions about whether a person is indigent and whether they are then qualified for a public defender,” the senator said. “One of the things we’ve noticed is that different courts have a lot of ways to decide whether you are indigent or not.”

For example, Tallian pointed out that if a person receives a minimum wage salary at a fast food restaurant, they still may not qualify as an indigent individual.

“We need to have some idea of what indigency means,” she said. “And maybe we could give some direction to the courts.”

The resolution passed the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee 8-0 March 26 and passed the full Senate on second reading on a voice vote Monday.

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