Study committees for the 2019 interim period have been approved by Indiana’s Legislative Council and will address dozens of issues for review in the coming months, including several legal-focused topics.
Lawmakers approved of the extensive list last week, which includes more than 40 study topics divided among 14 committees. Of those, two created committees will focus primarily on legal-related issues.
Among those issues to be addressed are court costs for indigent individuals, the adjudication and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders, and legislative proposals to increase criminal penalties.
The Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code
Among the approved topics:
• A multiyear review of trends with respect to criminal behavior, sentencing, incarceration, and treatment. Those reviews include issues related to the implementation of criminal code reform bills HEA 1006 (2014) and HEA 1006 (2015) and criminal laws concerning fraud and deception.
• Proposals to create crimes or increase penalties.
• Court costs for indigent individuals and the look-back time period for prior unrelated convictions in Indiana’s criminal code. Democratic Senator Karen Tallian requested both issues be studied after she noted concerns surrounding the topics had repeatedly surfaced in various bills discussed in committee during the 2019 legislative session.
Tallian previously expressed concern with adding extra sentencing to those with prior unrelated convictions. She also raised concerns regarding what qualifies someone as indigent, noting that numerous courts have different ways of deciding whether someone meets that determination.
“We need to have some idea of what indigency means,” Tallian previously said in committee. “And maybe we could give some direction to the courts.”
Committee on Courts and the Judiciary
Among the approved topics:
• Requests for new courts, additional magistrates or judges, and changes in jurisdiction to existing courts, including magistrate judge requests for Gibson and Jennings Counties.
• Laws and policies concerning the adjudication and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Republican senators Victoria Spartz and Aaron Freeman presented concerns about the numerous laws and policies that currently regulate the juvenile justice system, finding them to be “overwhelming.”
“I just want to suggest that we have a system that’s working properly, a good framework and to make sure these kids don’t fall through the cracks,” Spartz, of Noblesville, previously told the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, “and that there are incentives to keep kids from crimes and that we have the right tools and techniques in place.”
A representative from the Indiana Public Defenders Council also advocated for the study committee, saying that it could help address the council’s unmet goals, including securing the appointment of trained and effective counsel for children in every proceeding.