By Amanda R. Wishin, Research Attorney | Indiana Office of Court Services
This year’s short legislative session addressed a couple larger policy issues: the legal smoking age increased to 21 years old (S.E.A. 1, P.L. 49) and texting and driving became illegal (H.E.A. 1070, P.L. 100). All bills are effective on July 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted.
The following are the top changes of interest for judicial officers:
Lingering questions remained after last year’s amendments to the magistrate powers statutes. This year’s amendments make it clear: other than mandate, magistrates have the same powers as judges. H.E.A. 1313, P.L. 162.
Process for obtaining new judicial officers
The Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary will only consider and make recommendations on requests for new courts, new judicial officers, and changes in jurisdiction of existing courts in even-numbered (budget) years. The Office of Judicial Administration has posted details of this process on the Court’s website. S.E.A. 256, P.L. 138.
Small claims limits
The filing limit for the small claims docket was increased to not more than $8,000. H.E.A. 1313, P.L. 162.
A bill created a statewide procedure for a criminal court to use in determining if a defendant is indigent. A court may also prorate fines, fees, and court costs based on the person’s reasonable ability to pay. S.E.A. 302, P.L. 140.
Expungement was tweaked again. The bill allows protection order records to be expunged in connection with the denial of an ex parte petition for a protection order; creates a procedure to expunge records of a collateral action entered in a different county than the county which issued the expungement order; and clarifies that if a court reduces a Class D or Level 6 felony to a misdemeanor, the five-year waiting period for expungement begins on the date of the felony conviction, not the date the felony was converted to a misdemeanor. S.E.A. 47, P.L. 55. Juvenile expungements were also addressed in S.E.A. 335, P.L. 142.
Increased statute of limitations for child sex crimes
Child sex crimes can be charged after the alleged victim turns 31 years, but not later than five years from the earlier of the date which the state first discovers DNA evidence sufficient to charge the offender, the state first becomes aware of a recording that provides evidence sufficient to charge the offender, or a person confesses to the offense. S.E.A. 109, P.L. 31.
Deposing a child victim
The procedure for deposing a sex offense victim under the age of 16 has become more regulated. The bill allows a defendant to depose a child victim only if the prosecuting attorney agrees to the deposition or if a court authorizes the deposition. S.E.A. 206, P.L. 62. Effective: March 18, 2020
This bill raises the minimum age to marry from 15 years of age to 16. It also provides that an individual 16 or 17 years of age may marry only if the intended spouse is not more than four years older than the individual and a juvenile court has issued an order allowing the individual to marry and emancipating the individual. H.E.A. 1006, P.L. 94.
For summaries of all new relevant laws, please see the Legislative Update. You can also subscribe by entering your email address in the top right corner. All bills that have been signed into law are available at 2020 Bill Watch.