INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana legislators passed several criminal justice bills Tuesday that will limit prosecutorial discretion and change how Indiana treats incarcerated youth.
Sen. Mike Young, R-Indianapolis, authored two bills that would allow the appointment of a special prosecutor to replace “noncompliant prosecutors” and another decriminalizing motorists who test positive for cannabis.
Young claimed his bill, Senate Bill 200, didn’t target Indianapolis — though most committee members and witnesses didn’t seem to believe him — but was introduced last year shortly after Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears announced he wouldn’t prosecute marijuana possession in small quantities.
“What type of society do we want to live in? Where an elected prosecutor — for whatever reason — decides not to do their job?” Young asked.
Under the bill, the attorney general may ask the Indiana Supreme Court justice to appoint a judge to determine whether a special prosecutor should be appointed. If appointed, the county must pay for the unelected prosecutor.
The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council opposes the bill.
Marijuana users who legally purchase and use the drug in Indiana’s neighboring states can be charged with a felony if they’re involved in an accident — even as a victim and not the instigator. Under Young’s law, users could only be charged if they cause a crash.
Young said that because the body metabolizes marijuana differently, the drug may show up on screenings weeks later even if the user isn’t impaired. He emphasized that officers on-site could determine whether marijuana had impaired a driver.
Both of Young’s bills passed, 29-20, and go to the House for further consideration.
Cities and other law enforcement agencies couldn’t punish officers who “lawfully (exercise) their rights to self-defense” and use prohibited force, such as a chokehold, to save themselves. Officers may be suspended temporarily but must be paid.
“Police undergo training on paltry budgets to try to curtail their emotional and physiological responses to danger and stress,” author Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, said. “But the fact remains that they are human.”
Baldwin’s bill sailed through with just eight “no” votes but may face opposition in the House, where representatives have prioritized a police oversight bill, House Bill 1006. That bill emphasizes deescalation training and prohibits chokeholds under certain circumstances.