The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SR 6 on creating a summer study committee on Indiana’s grand jury system authored by Sen. Delph and Sen. Holdman. Larry Landis testified in support of the bill. The bill passed with a vote of 6-2.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee heard SB 97 on public intoxication. Author Sen. Michael Young presented the bill amending the public intoxication offenses to provide they apply only if the intoxicated person (1) endangers the person’s life, (2) endangers the life of another person, or (3) breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace. The bill is intended, he said, to avoid the result in Moore v. State, 949 N.E.2d 343 (Ind. 2011), in which the Supreme Court affirmed the public intoxication conviction of a person who had been riding in her automobile which was being driven by a sober individual. Sen. Young said that Indiana is one of five states requiring no more than intoxication in a public place to constitute the public intoxication offense. Committee members responded favorably to the bill, which they agreed would prevent convicting persons from engaging in the desirable conduct of using a “designated driver.” A representative of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council urged the Committee to adopt an amendment to encompass other conduct (e.g., providing that the intoxicated person commits the offense if his conduct “may endanger” life), advocating the Tennessee offense as a desirable model. Committee members unanimously rejected these suggestions and passed the bill as introduced 10-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 196 on downloading of cell phone information by police authored by Sen. Waltz. This bill prohibits a police officer from extracting or otherwise downloading information from a telecommunications device and retaining it as evidence pending trial for a violation of the law concerning typing, transmitting, or reading a text message while operating a motor vehicle unless the police officer has probable cause to believe that the telecommunications device has been used in the commission of a crime, or the information is extracted or otherwise downloaded under a valid search warrant. This bill also provides that if a law enforcement officer detains a person because the law enforcement officer believes the person has committed an infraction or ordinance violation, the law enforcement officer may not extract or otherwise download information from a cellular telephone or another wireless or cellular communications device possessed by the person at the time the person is detained unless the law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that the cellular telephone or other wireless or cellular communications device has been used in the commission of a crime, or the information is extracted or otherwise downloaded under a valid search warrant. The committee accepted an amendment by consent. The Executive Director of the Libertarian Party testified in support, and the Indiana State Police testified against this bill. No vote was taken.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee heard SB 234, on synthetic drugs (including “bath salts”), authored by Sen. Alting and Sen. Merritt. This bill changes synthetic cannabinoid offenses to synthetic drug crimes and to make possession and sale of “bath salts” a “synthetic drug” offense. Sen. Merritt presented the bill with a major proposed amendment. Due to the rapid pace of the development of synthetic drugs, the amended bill authorizes the State Board of Pharmacy to add new substances to the synthetic drug crimes by regulation when either the DEA or another state schedules the new substance; the regulation would become effective thirty days after promulgation. The amended bill also tightens the definition of “analog” substances prohibited based on their molecular similarity to legislatively-defined prohibited synthetic drug compounds. The bill would is upon passage. After adopting the proposed amendment by consent the Committee passed the bill 10-0.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 243 on silencers when hunting authored by Sen. Grooms, Sen. Holdman, and Sen. Waterman. This bill repeals the law prohibiting the possession or use of a silencer while in the act of hunting, and providing that a person who takes or possesses a deer or wild turkey unlawfully, by illegal methods, or with illegal devices while using or possessing a silencer commits a Class C misdemeanor. Testimony was heard from numerous people in support of the bill. This bill was passed with a vote of 7-1.
The Senate Judiciary Committee heard SB 246 on lab technician testimony in criminal cases authored by Sen. Bray. This bill is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011). This bill requires a prosecuting attorney who intends to introduce a laboratory report into evidence to file a notice of intent at least 20 days before the trial, and requires a defendant who wishes to cross-examine the technician who prepared the laboratory report to file a pretrial demand for cross-examination not later than ten days after receiving the notice from the prosecutor. This bill provides that if a defendant properly files a pretrial demand for cross-examination, a laboratory report is not admissible into evidence unless the technician who prepared the report testifies at trial, except that the laboratory report is admissible without the testimony of the technician if the technician is unavailable for trial and the defendant was provided a pretrial opportunity to cross-examine the technician. Additionally, this bill provides that a defendant’s failure to properly file a pretrial demand for cross-examination constitutes a waiver of the right to cross-examine the laboratory technician. The amendment drafted by Larry Landis provides a simple notice and demand procedure for laboratory reports and technician testimony. The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council and Attorney General’s Office testified in support. The bill passed, with amendment, 8-0.
The Senate Corrections, Criminal, and Civil Matters Committee heard SB 347, on marijuana offenses, authored by Sen. Tallian. This bill makes possession of small amounts of marijuana an infraction. Testimony was presented on proposals to make possession of less than 3 ounces of marijuana an infraction, to reduce punishment for other marijuana offenses, to eliminate any penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a physician’s approval, and to eliminate the marijuana tax stamp laws. Testimony was also presented (and favorably received) on industrial hemp, which was said to have very little psychoactive content in comparison with the “marijuana” used as a drug, many commercial uses, and formerly grown in Indiana as a legal commercial crop. Committee Chair Sen. Steele said he would like to see a proposal for marijuana infractions and other measures on marijuana and hemp presented again to summer study committees for potential adoption next year.
The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee continued its discussion from two weeks ago on HB 1011 various correction matters authored by Rep. Foley. The Committee adopted two amendments related to the county incentive and disincentive for class D felony offenders and probation matters. A representative from the Department of Correction, Larry Landis from the Public Defenders Council, and Andrew Berger with the Association of Indiana Counties testified before the Committee. The bill passed as amended 11-0.
The House Veterans Affairs and Public Safety Committee heard HB 1120 on arrests or citations at traffic stops authored by Rep. Morris. An amendment was drafted by the Indiana State Police that stripped the original bill. The Committee adopted the amendment by consent. The amendment creates exceptions under which a police officer can stop someone without lights on their car. The exceptions are aggressive driving, reckless driving, driving under the influence, and leaving the scene of an accident. Testimony was heard in opposition to the bill by the Public Defenders Council and the Indiana Coalition of Sexual Assault. The bill was tabled for further discussion.