House Courts and Criminal Code Committee to hear sentencing bills

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A trio of Republican Indiana House bills will be heard before the Courts and Criminal Code Committee on Monday, including two pieces of legislation focused on sentencing.

Among the three bills is House Bill 1369, authored by Rep. Robert Morris, R-Fort Wayne, which would allow inmates to petition for relief from their sentences for certain offenses committed before July 1, 2014. Offenses include theft and dealing in or possession of cocaine, narcotic drugs, methamphetamines, Schedule I through V controlled substances, marijuana, hash oil, hashish or salvia.

Inmates would only be eligible if they have no prior felony conviction for battery, domestic battery, strangulation or one of 26 violent crimes under Indiana Code § 11-12-3.7-6.

The bill would reduce the number of consecutive years an inmate must be confined in the Department of Correction for an offense committed before July 1, 2014, before the DOC identifies the inmate to the parole board and provides the parole board with the inmate’s offender progress report.

In addition, the bill provides that, upon recommendation of the DOC, the parole board may consider certain factors and discharge an inmate if: the inmate has served a sentence for an offense that was committed before July 1, 2014, that meets or exceeds 75% of the current advisory sentence including any credit time earned or accrued for the offense on the date the inmate files for a petition for discharge; or the inmate has served a sentence for an offense that was commuted before the July 1, 2014, date that meets or exceeds 75% of the maximum sentence for the same offense that the inmate is currently petitioning for relief.

Finally, the bill provides that when determining whether an inmate has served 75% of their sentence, the parole board must consider the substantially equivalent offense committed before July 1, 2014, and any enhancing circumstance.

The Legislative Services Agency estimated that 440 inmates who were confined in DOC facilities on July 1, 2021, would’ve been eligible for a review of their records. In a fiscal report, LSA determined it couldn’t estimate the number of inmates who might qualify for early release under the bill because of the limited information available about prior offenses.

The report offers a table that describes the three methods the parole board may use to discharge eligible inmates.

Another bill the committee will address regarding sentencing is House Bill 1032.

Authored by Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, HB 1032 would remove sentencing enhancements for battery and malicious mischief that relate to the human immunodeficient virus, or HIV.  The bill would also repeal offenses concerning the donation, sale or transfer of blood or semen that contains HIV.

In the bill’s fiscal note, LSA states that any reduction in the Department of Correction’s population due to the bill would be minor and that it found no convictions or sentences since 2014 for felonies involving the transmission of HIV.

Also up for discussion will be House Bill 1292, regarding compensation for victims of violent crimes.

The bill, authored by Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, would change the definition of “claimant” to include certain family members of a victim and expand the list of expenses eligible for compensation to include crime scene cleanup and replacement windows or doors or locks.

Additionally, the bill would allow the Victim Services Division of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to accept proof that evidence was collected during a forensic exam as a claimant’s cooperation with law enforcement. Further, the bill would allow the ICJI to award more than one claimant per victim, but the maximum award would still be $15,000 per claimant for expenses resulting from injury or death.

The Courts and Criminal Code Committee is chaired by Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, and the vice chair is Rep. Donna Schaibley, R-Carmel. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday in Room 156-B of the Indiana Statehouse. It will also be livestreamed. 

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