General Information

March 19, 2015 | Category: General

This is the eleventh weekly installment of the Legislative Update for the 2015 legislative session. If you are interested in reading the text of any bill introduced this session, you may find all of the bill information here.

This week the Senate and House committees heard the following bills of interest to the judiciary:

Civil Law

March 19, 2015 | Category: Civil

The House Judiciary Committee heard SB 101 on religious freedom restoration. Co-sponsor Rep. McMillin offered an amendment clarifying that the bill applies only to governmental action and does not authorize a private cause of action. The amendment passed 9-3. Sponsor Rep. Wesco explained that the bill restores the strict scrutiny standard of review for governmental intrusions on an individual’s exercise of religion. A governmental entity may burden a person’s exercise of religion if the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. The bill provides a procedure for remedying a violation of this law. Extensive testimony was heard in support of and in opposition to the bill. The amended bill passed 9-4.

The Senate Civil Law Committee heard HB 1413, sponsored by Sen. Ford, on aircraft financial responsibility and liability. This bill increases the amount of financial responsibility required for the ownership, maintenance, or use of an aircraft to $100,000 for the bodily injury or death of one person, $200,000 for the bodily injury or death of two or more persons in any one accident, and $100,000 for damage to property in any one accident. It also provides that the owner of an aircraft who is not the pilot is not vicariously liable for damages unless:

(1)  the owner engages in negligent, reckless, knowing, intentional, or unlawful conduct that is the proximate cause of the damages;

(2)  an agency relationship exists between the owner and the person who proximately caused the damages; or

(3)  the owner’s liability is based on the doctrine of respondeat superior.

This bill additionally specifies that certain provisions relating to the ownership of an aircraft are not intended to modify Indiana law on bailments or bailor liability. The bill was held for amendment.

Criminal Law

March 19, 2015 | Category: Criminal

The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 6, sponsored by Rep. Dermody, powdered or crystalline alcohol prohibited. This bill makes it a Class B infraction to possess, purchase, sell, offer to sell, or use powdered or crystalline alcohol. The bill was amended to assign the subject of crystalline alcohol to a study committee. The amended bill passed 13-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SR 34 authored by Sen. Messmer urging the legislative council to assign to an appropriate committee the topic of the sentencing level of a caregiver who causes the death of a mentally handicapped person 18 years of age or older. The resolution passed 6-0.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 94, Sen. Crider’s bill to extend the statute of limitations for rape to allow prosecutions for Level 3 felony rapes within five years of the time prosecution becomes possible with DNA evidence or the time a confession is obtained.  Rep. Hale testified in support of the bill, as did David Powell of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.  The bill passed 11-0.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 313, sponsored by Rep. Kirchhofer and Rep. Hale, Sen. Head’s bill to change the definition of “sexual conduct” to include exhibition of the female breast as used in child exploitation and pornography offenses.  After Sen. Head presented the bill, Suzanne O’Malley of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council said that the law had been amended to include breast exhibitions two years ago, but that such exhibitions were excluded inadvertently in last year’s legislation. A representative of the Motion Picture Association of America testified in support of the intent of the bill, but noted that it posed several problems, including display of films with actresses over age eighteen portraying characters under age eighteen and having its “descriptions” prohibition applied to verbal descriptions or drawings in violation of the First Amendment. The bill passed 10-0.

The House Public Policy Committee heard SB 433, sponsored by Rep. Lucas, repealing the prohibition against manufacturing, importing, selling, or possessing a sawed-off shotgun. This bill also provides for a 10-year sentence enhancement if a person possesses a sawed-off shotgun in violation of federal law while committing certain offenses. A representative of the National Rifle Association testified in favor of this bill. The bill passed 12-1.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 522, deterring serious sex offenders from entering school grounds.  Sen. Mrvan explained that the bill defines “serious sex offenders” and makes it a Level 6 felony for a serious sex offender to enter school property. The bill allows these offenders to vote by mail. The Committee expressed concern about the bill’s creation of a new category of sex offenders and asked whether the sex offender registry or sexually violent predator statutory categories could be used instead.  In discussion, it was noted that the sex offender registry responsibility ends for many after ten years and that sexually violent predators could seek to have their status removed by judicial hearing.  Sponsor Rep. Smaltz said that he and Sen. Mrvan are willing to utilize the sex offender registry definition instead. The bill was held to allow the definition change to be explored.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee heard SB 532, sponsored by Reps. McNamara, Cox, Hale and Lawson, on forfeiture of property used in human trafficking and indecent nuisances.  Sen. Head explained that sexual trafficking would be added to the indecent nuisance statutes, and provide that 80% of the money obtained from property taken in prosecutors’ human trafficking indecent nuisance actions would go into a human trafficking prevention and victim assistance fund established by the bill, with the remaining 20% going to the prosecutor.  Sen. Head agreed to a Committee amendment incorporating SB 375 into this bill, which provides for asset seizure and forfeiture of vehicles and other property used in human trafficking or promoting prostitution. The Committee also adopted Rep. Pierce’s amendment, making the bill consistent with Sen. Hershman’s SB 388, on asset forfeiture reporting. SB 388 requires the State Police to report the amounts received from human trafficking forfeitures through cooperation with federal authorities and for prosecutors to report to the Prosecuting Attorneys Council on funds received through state human trafficking forfeiture actions. The bill passed as amended 10-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard HB 1006 on criminal justice funding sponsored by Sen. Steele and Sen. Young. Author Rep. Steuerwald explained that the bill reduces the deadline for submitting a collaboration plan between the probation department and the community corrections program in each county for the provision of community supervision for adult offenders from July 1, 2017 to January 1, 2016. The date upon which persons convicted of a Level 6 felony may not be committed to the DOC, unless the commitment is due to a probation, parole or community corrections violation, was also extended until after January 1, 2016. The bill authorizes community corrections grant funds to be used to support court supervised recidivism reduction programs. The bill establishes the justice reinvestment community grants program under the administration of the Indiana Judicial Center, and vests the authority to adopt rules for the program in the Judicial Conference of Indiana Board of Directors (including the requirement that at least 75% of awarded funds must be used to provide evidence-based mental health and addiction treatment). A justice reinvestment community grants program advisory council (membership specified) is established and charged with making recommendations to the Judicial Center on the award of grant applications. An amendment was adopted by consent adding representatives from the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana and the Indiana Association of Community Corrections Act Counties to the advisory council.

Extensive testimony was heard in support of the bill from representatives of:  the Indiana Judicial Center, the Probation Officers Professional Association of Indiana, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, the Indiana Public Defender Council, Lawrence County Superior Court, the Indiana Judges Association, the Monroe County Probation Department, the Marion County Probation Department, Vanderburgh County, Allen County, Mental Health America of Indiana, the Indiana Association of Community Corrections Act Counties, the Indiana Council of Community Mental Health Centers, the Indiana Sheriffs’ Association and two vendors currently partnering with community supervision agencies. The amended bill passed 9-0.