Indiana Senate committee advances crime bill package

The Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee has endorsed five criminal justice bills aimed at reducing violent crime.

Amended versions of Senate Bills 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 each passed the Senate committee on Tuesday, sending them to the full Senate for consideration. They were not on the Senate’s second reading calendar for Thursday at IL deadline.

Last week, the committee heard four hours of testimony on the bills. Among those to testify on Jan. 11 included representatives from the Indiana Judges Association, Indianapolis Metro Police Department, American Bail Coalition and other stakeholders, as well as citizens such as a mother whose son was murdered last year.

SB 6 deals with bail for violent arrestees, defining a “violent arrestee” and the “minimal bail amount.” The bill would require a court to review the probable cause affidavit or arrest warrant before releasing a violent arrestee on bail; bail to be set following a hearing in open court; and a violent arrestee released on bail to pay 100% of the minimum bail amount by cash deposit.

During testimony last week, Grant Circuit Judge Mark E. Spitzer, representing the Indiana Judges Association, expressed concerns that the bill would impact judicial discretion and could also have constitutional issues.

Some criticism has also come from the fact the bill, which passed by a 7-2 vote, is written by a group of senators from Indianapolis: Sens. Mike Young, Jack Sandlin and Aaron Freeman, all Republicans.

Sen. Rodney Pol

“The issue I particularly see is there are 90-some-odd other counties that could address this at the ballot box as opposed to through state legislation,” Sen. Rodney Pol Jr., D-Ogden Dunes, said Tuesday. “When I look at this, I understand exactly what the intent is and could see this as steps … for Marion County. It does concern me that it essentially does remove a lot of discretion for judges outside of Marion County and essentially imposes what is a Marion County fix on the rest of the state and the judges across the state.”

Sen. Sue Glick, R-La Grange, said last week that it appeared the bill targeted the poor.

SB 8, which also passed 7-2 on Tuesday, deals with nonprofit bail funding. It would allow a charitable organization to pay bail on behalf of a defendant if the organization meets certain criteria — including that defendants charged with a felony would not be able to receive bail assistance from a nonprofit.

Voting against SB 8, Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said the bill “clearly” makes a distinction between charitable bail organizations and for-profit organizations.

“I think that’s a dangerous precedent for this committee to make,” he said. “… My discussions, although outside of the discussion the author may have had with the judges, is that in a lot of these cases there is a combination of surety bail for for-profit entities as well as charitable organizations.

Sen. Greg Taylor

“The problem that we’re creating here is, what if there’s a combination?” Taylor continued. “Let’s say the surety is paid partly by a for-profit bail entity and then the charitable bail organization actually pays the remainder amount. We don’t have anything in this legislation that would handle that situation, and that’s the problem with creating a different system for these two. I think this legislation, even with the changes the author (Freeman, Sen. Kyle Walker, Sen. Michael Crider) made, is going to make it more difficult for people to get out on bail.”

SB 10, which would establish a Marion County violent crime reduction pilot project, passed by a 9-0 vote.

Relatedly, SB 7 would create the Marion County crime reduction board as part of the pilot project. That bill passed 6-2.

Sen. Mike Bohacek, R-Michiana Shores, noted on SB 10 that he wished it would extend to other counties like St. Joseph, as it has also seen an increase in violence like “any urban area.”

SB 9, which establishes electronic monitoring standards, passed 9-0.

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