Misdemeanor summonses, small claims filing limit bills pass House

Bills that would allow for summonses to appear instead of arrests in misdemeanor cases and that would raise the small claims filing limit statewide have passed the Indiana House of Representatives.

House Bills 1076 and 1313 are headed to the Senate after favorable third-reading votes in the House on Tuesday.

House Bill 1076, authored by Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, would allow law enforcement officers to issue summonses to appear to misdemeanor defendants who commit offenses in the presence of law enforcement. The bill is backed by Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears, who says the measure would save judicial resources, help ease jail overcrowding and keep misdemeanants from the collateral consequences of arrest. Mears also announced last year that Marion County no longer would prosecute simple marijuana possession.

The bill does require arrest for certain misdemeanors, including “a violent misdemeanor offense that involves a victim or a weapon” or “an offense involving the impaired operation of a motor vehicle.” Also, a defendant who “poses a safety risk to the person, the officer, or the public” or who “has falsely identified the person to the officer” must be arrested.

Pryor’s bill passed 97-1, with Rep. Justin Moed, an Indianapolis Democrat, voting against it. It has not yet been assigned to a Senate committee but is being sponsored in the other chamber by Sens. Mike Young and Greg Taylor, a Republican and Democrat, respectively, from Indianapolis.

House Bill 1313, brought by Franklin Republican John Young, received unanimous support with a 96-0 vote.

Young’s bill covers several court matters, the most significant of which, he said, is raising the small claims filing limit to $8,000. All counties except Marion currently have a $6,000 limit, Young said, while Indianapolis courts already use an $8,000 limit.

Young described the higher filing limit as a good move for small businesses and sole proprietors.

The bill also clarifies that magistrates have all the powers of judges, except the power of judicial mandate. In earlier testimony, Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch said there are conflicting statutes regarding the powers of magistrates, so HB 1313 brings clarity.

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