Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

July 5, 2013

Indiana's Criminal Code revamped


The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — With the legislative session completed, many bills have passed out of the General Assembly and been signed into law by the governor. State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) has worked on a number that positively impact the state.

“This session was different than the first two as there was more cooperation and bipartisanship – a benefit for all Hoosiers,” said McMillin. “Out of the many accomplishments from this year, overhauling Indiana’s Criminal Code, advocating for expungement and establishing the Blue Alert Program were three policies that I was grateful to be a part of.”

A 2012 National Institute of Justice study shows that nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23. Currently, state law allows an individual convicted of a crime to petition the sentencing court to restrict disclosure of such charges. Additionally, the law includes a provision that a sentencing court may convert a Class D felony conviction to a Class A misdemeanor after three years has transpired since completion of a sentence agreement. But Indiana does not allows for convictions to be expunged. In fact, in many cases, even arrests that do not result in a person being convicted remain on a person’s record forever.

“Article 1, Section 18 of our state Constitution states that the goal of our penal system shall be founded on reformation and not vindictive justice,” he noted. “Ex-offenders leave prison and immediately become labeled everywhere they go; all the while, doors close because of a permanent criminal record hanging over their heads. With 33 other states having an expungement policy in place, it’s time that Indiana joins the rest of the nation in holding people accountable while allowing forgiveness and second chances to occur.”

McMillin said, “House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1482, a bill I authored, allows a sentencing court to seal the records of a person who was arrested, but not prosecuted or whose conviction was overturned on appeal one year after the arrest was made. Additionally, the bill permits an individual to expunge a misdemeanor conviction after five years and certain nonviolent, Class D felony convictions eight years after the arrest was made.

Based on the sentencing court’s discretion, certain more serious felony convictions could also be expunged eight years after a person completes his or her sentence, and for the most serious, nonviolent felony charges, they could be marked as expunged, but remain public record 10 years after a person completes their sentence.

An individual may only petition for expungement once in his or her lifetime, and HEA 1482 permits a law enforcement officer to access certain expunged records without a court order. Moreover, the bill makes the Indiana State Police maintain the criminal history information at the central repository.

Another law dealing with Indiana’s legal system is HEA 1006, a bill co-authored by the legislator. The law completely revamps Indiana’s Criminal Code for the first time in over 30 years. The bill seeks to increase certainty in sentencing and will go into effect July 1, 2014.

HEA 1006 was a product of the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission (CCEC), a summer study committee, and years of work. The law intends to return proportionality to the criminal code and provide certainty in sentencing. The focus was on reducing recidivism through intensive probation and to address the cause of the crime, not just the symptoms. The changes that the CCEC recommended expand the four classes to six by dividing Class A and Class B into two parts each.

It was a bipartisan effort to study Indiana’s justice system, recommend improvements to the criminal laws and identify methods that have proven to reduce crime. That effort resulted in HEA 1006 finally passing through the Legislature, but the issue of local costs will continue to be studied. A qualified committee will thoroughly study the proposed rewrite of Indiana’s entire criminal code. The committee’s goal is to examine the proposed updated code and create a way for Indiana to cut state prison costs, while providing a sentence grid that applies a more specific sentence to criminal offenses, creating a safer and more responsible state.

Co-authored by McMillin, HEA 1151 establishes the Blue Alert Program and went into effect July 1. It operates similar to Amber Alerts for missing children and Silver Alerts for missing or endangered adults. Operated by the Indiana State Police, the program will notify the public when a law enforcement officer is killed, seriously injured or missing in the line of duty.

“Knowledge is one of the best devices that law enforcement personnel can use to keep them from walking into a potentially harmful situation, and the Blue Alert program provides them with an additional tool to ensure their safety,” said the representative. “The public will be alerted to any suspect posing an imminent threat to a community, and the program will provide an extra layer of protection for law enforcement officers as well as the general public.”

For more information about these laws, persons may visit www.in.gov/legislative.