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Thursday, February 27, 2014
Ind. Law - HB 1006 on its way to passage [Updated]
Maureen Hayden reports today for CNHI:
INDIANAPOLIS — Judges who’ve been clamoring for more control over prison sentences may be exercising some of that discretion this summer.HB 1006 was voted out of Senate Appropriations this morning, to which it had been recommitted. Hayden's story, which was written before that happened, continues:
A long-in-the-making rewrite of Indiana’s felony criminal code removes some mandatory sentences added during decades of tough-on-crime policies, which led to higher prison costs.
The updates, passed last year, take effect July 1 and give judges more leeway by removing the binding, “non-suspendable” sentences for many low-level drug and property crimes.
“If somebody deserves to go to prison for 80 years for the crime they’ve committed, we’ll still be sending them there,” said Superior Court Judge Robert Freese, of Hendricks County. “But sending people to prison when it’s not appropriate isn’t justice.”
Like many of his colleagues, Freese says minimum sentences handcuff judges from doling out appropriate punishment — such as assignments to community-based treatment programs. * * *
The criminal code reform passed last year repealed many of mandatory minimum sentences.
As legislators revised the bill this year, adding new sentencing guidelines, they kept mandatory sentences for high-level crimes such as murder, rape and drug dealing. But they left intact language that eliminated mandatory terms for lower-level crimes including theft and drug offenses.
John M. Marnocha, a St. Joseph County judge who spent three years on the commission that helped rewrite the criminal code, said increasing judges’ discretion can reduce recidivism and bring down the prison population.
Judges may dole out alternative sentences to low-risk defendants who’d benefit, for example, from drug or alcohol treatment, he said. They could also start using options such as house arrest or work release.
But, Marnocha cautions, multiple factors are at play. Prosecutors and judges may risk being seen as “soft on crime” if they opt for prison alternatives. All of Indiana’s county prosecutors and most state judges are elected.
“It’s almost too early to tell what’s ultimately going to happen,” Marnocha said. “It’s still a work a progress.”
Larry Landis, head of the Indiana Public Defender Council, worries the increased judicial discretion will be offset by other changes made to the criminal code this year. Under pressure from prosecutors, legislators increased advisory sentences for some crimes, mandated minimum sentences for some habitual offenders and jacked up penalties for gun-related crimes.
“You can’t call this criminal code ‘reform’ anymore,” Landis said.
The impact all of the changes will have on the prison population remains in dispute. Last summer the state Department of Correction predicted an increase in the prison population while the Legislative Services Agency — the research arm of the General Assembly — forecast an eventual drop.ILB: I can't right now determine what the Senate Appropriations Committee did this morning to solve the funding issues, other than pass the bill out. Here is their report.
The biggest unresolved issue remains funding. The General Assembly has yet to allocate money for communities to expand local programs that judges would use as part of new sentences.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the issue Thursday. Reps. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, and Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, are expected to argue for local funding.
Both may cite a recent study that says the new criminal code, once in effect, will drive down the projected state prison population. They’ll argue that the resulting savings should be passed on to communities for programs that offer sentencing alternatives.
“We’re so close to getting this done,” Steuerwald said. “We know there are too many people in prison who don’t need to be there.”
[Updated at 4:10 PM] Here are links to the text of the two amendments made to HB 1006 in Senate Finance this morning:
- Amendment 10. The digest:
Adds the provisions of SB 43 as passed by the senate. Makes it child seduction, a Level 6 felony, for a law enforcement officer who is at least five years older than a child who is: (1) at least 16 years of age; and (2) less than 18 years of age; to fondle or touch the child with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of either the child or the law enforcement officer, if the law enforcement officer's contact with the child occurred in the course of the officer's official duties. Makes it child seduction, a Level 5 felony, if the law enforcement officer engages in sexual intercourse or other sexual conduct with the child.
- Amendment 13. The digest of the 8-page amendment:
Provides that before March 1, 2015, the
department of correction (department) shall estimate the amount of any operational cost savings that will be realized in the state fiscal year ending June 30, 2015, from a reduction in the number of individuals who are in the custody of the department of correction that is attributable to the sentencing changes made under the bill. Specifies that if the department estimates that such operational cost savings will be realized, the department may, after review by the budget committee and approval by the budget agency, do the following: (1) Make additional grants to counties for community corrections programs from funds appropriated to the department for the department's operating expenses. (2) Transfer funds (from funds appropriated to the department for the department's operating expenses) to the judicial conference of Indiana to be used by the judicial conference of Indiana to provide additional financial aid for the support of court probation services. Provides that the maximum aggregate amount of these additional grants and transfers may not exceed the lesser of the amount of operational cost savings or $11,000,000. Reduces the sentence for: (1) arson with intent to defraud; (2) institutional criminal mischief; (3) an offense against intellectual property; and (4) auto theft; from a Level 5 to a Level 6 felony. Reduces the maximum penalties for certain felonies as follows: (1) Level 1 felonies, from 50 to 40 years; (2) Level 3 felonies, from 20 to 15 years; (3) Level 4 felonies, from 12 to 10 years; and Level 5 felonies, from six to five years. Reduces the advisory sentence for Level 3 felonies from ten years to eight years. Provides that a person less than eighteen years of age who possesses an indecent image of another person less than eighteen years of age commits a Class A misdemeanor if: (1) the persons are in a dating relationship; (2) the age difference between the persons is not more than four years; and (3) the person acquiesced in the taking or transmission of the indecent image. Specifies that a person who is eligible to be prosecuted for possession of an indecent image as a misdemeanor may not be prosecuted for possession of child pornography or child exploitation.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 27, 2014 02:03 PM
Posted to Indiana Law