News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

January 18, 2013

Indiana looking at rewriting criminal code

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana may join a growing number of states reducing penalties for low-level drug crimes while increasing the punishment for violent criminals and sexual predators.

Under legislation filed Monday that rewrites much of the state’s criminal code, someone caught near a school with three grams of cocaine would no longer face a harsher penalty than a rapist, for example.

“It’s about restoring some fairness and proportionality to our system of criminal justice,” said Republican state Sen. Brent Steele, a key supporter of the bill and chair of the Senate courts and corrections committee.

The legislation calls for significantly reduced penalties for marijuana possession – though not decriminalization of pot, as Steele had advocated in the past.

Among the other changes: It increases the number of felony levels from the current four to six and spells out new rules for how prisoners could earn “credit time” for early release. It also gives judges more discretion over when to suspend prison sentences for some low-level crimes, but would add more violent crimes to the list of offenses with mandatory prison time.

The bill, more than 400 pages in length, is modeled on recommendations from a legislature-appointed commission that called for overhauling the state’s criminal laws to make punishment more proportionate to the crime. Other states, including Kentucky, have followed a similar path.

Steele said the legislature’s history of being “tough on crime” has resulted in unfair and inconsistent laws and a criminal code that no longer contains like sentences for like crimes.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tightened the screws down in my 16 years of being here,” said the veteran lawmaker. “But I also understand what we’ve got right now isn’t fair.”

Steele, a lawyer from Bedford, is the lead author of the Senate version of the bill. It’s identical to the bill being carried by Republican state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, a lawyer from Avon who chairs the House judiciary committee.

Both are seen as conservative legislators, as is one of the bill’s champions, Republican Rep. Jud McMillin, a former deputy prosecutor from Brookville.

One of their central arguments for the bill is that Indiana’s prisons house too many low-level, nonviolent offenders who could be better served in community-based correction programs that cost much less to operate. The bill’s fiscal impact statement estimates about 1,100 offenders a year would end up in local corrections programs rather than state prison.

“People who want to advocate being tough on crime need to be tempered by the fact that being tough on crime is tough on taxpayers,” McMillin said.

Steele said there are elements of the bill that some legislators won’t like because of fear they’ll be accused of being “soft on crime” when they face re-election.

The bill, for example, reduces the size of the “drug-free zones” around schools that give prosecutors the ability to bring tougher charges with longer prison terms. It would reduce the zone from 1,000 feet from a school to 500 feet.

While it restricts the amount of “credit time” that some offenders could earn by getting a college degree, it would make it easier for some low-level, nonviolent offenders to get out early if they got training in a vocational trade while in prison.

Under current Indiana law, marijuana possession is a felony unless it’s a first time offense or the amount is less than one ounce. Under the proposed bill, possession of marijuana is reduced to a misdemeanor.

“There are some things in it that could be politicized,” said Steele. “But that’s why some of the things we need to do in the legislature don’t get ever done, because we’re afraid of what it’s going to look like.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Today in History for April 18th Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes
NDN Video
My name is Cocaine Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News