News From Terre Haute, Indiana

News

September 20, 2013

Automatic driver’s license suspension laws under review

INDIANAPOLIS — The legislative study committee that proposed the massive rewrite of Indiana’s felony code will soon take on another tough issue: The automatic penalty that causes thousands of Hoosiers to lose their driving privileges for committing transgressions ranging from unpaid parking tickets to drunken driving.

Some members of the committee are advocating that fewer crimes carry the automatic penalty of a suspended driver’s license. That would allow judges more discretion over how the punishment is doled out.

Among the remedies for which they’re advocating: Allow judges to suspend a driver’s license with conditions that include the use of technology — such GPS tracking and interlock ignition devices — to monitor in real-time when a driver gets behind a wheel.

Republican State Rep. Jud McMillin, a former prosecutor from Brookville who supports the change, said the legislature has imposed the automatic driver’s license penalty on scores of offenses to be “tough on crime.”

“We didn’t have the technology advances available to us to do it in a really smart way, so we did it the only way we could, in a really tough way,” McMillin said. “I have no problem with doing it the tough way, but now that we’re able to use these technological advances, we can combine being tough and being smart. I think that would be beneficial to everybody.”

McMillin is a member of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee, whose members represent prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, judges and lawmakers. The committee is scheduled to take up the issue of the automatic driver’s license suspension penalty at its Sept. 26 meeting at the Indiana Statehouse.

A slew of traffic offenses, including driving under the influence, carry the automatic penalty of a suspended license. But there are a multitude of other non-traffic crimes that carry the penalty too, such as failure to pay child support. According to Indiana law, a minor charged with the class-C misdemeanor of being “recklesslessly” in a tavern or other place where alcohol is served “shall” have a driver’s license suspended for a year. And a teenager expelled from school may have a license suspended.

Almost all the drug crimes — even some minor ones — carry the penalty, because of a 1993 federal law that said all states had to automatically suspend driver’s licenses of convicted drug offenders or risk losing part of their federal highway funds. The only states that could opt out were those in which the legislature and the governor agreed to go on the record against the automatic suspensions

When the 1993 law passed, its supporters said it would deter crime and make offenders more accountable.

But opponents of the automatic suspensions say such laws have just made it harder for people who make mistakes to redeem themselves. About 350,000 Hoosiers have suspended driver’s licenses. That’s caused them to lose their auto insurance, yet some are out driving on the road anyway.

Larry Landis, executive director of Indiana Public Defender Council, said the loss of a driver’s license can trigger a downward spiral: People who lose their license don’t want to lose their job, so they drive on a suspended license, without insurance, and risk getting caught and hit with another tough penalty. Someone caught twice driving on a suspended license faces a class-D felony; caught three times and it’s a class-C felony.  

“That’s what we’ve got to stop. We’ve got to give people a way back,” Landis said. “That’s what we all want. If you’re going to be on the road, we want you [to be] insured, but you can’t get insurance without a license.”

Landis, who also serves on the sentencing policy study committee,  agreed with McMillin that there is technology that would allow a court to impose “conditional” license suspensions on people who’ve lost driving privileges for traffic offenses.

Several counties in Indiana are already piloting projects involving new technology that allows courts to monitor a person who’s been convicted of a drunken driving charge. The offender must breathe into a portable Breathalyzer machine several times a day and transmit the results and a live photo to a court office or a court-appointed contractor.

David Powell, head of Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, is also on the study committee but is reserving judgment. Powell said “IPAC is  reviewing various legislative proposals and believes the topic needs additional discussion.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for CNHI, the Tribune-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
News
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Video Shows Smiling American Bomber in Syria Fox Dons 'Bondage Strap' Skirt at Comic-Con Raw: Airstrike Shatters Fragile Calm in Gaza Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Maine Police Investigate Deaths of Family of 5 Raw: Sirens After Explosions in Israel
NDN Video
GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" Trailer is Here! Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
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