A change approved by the Indiana Senate Tuesday to legislation overhauling Indiana’s criminal code will give less latitude to judges when deciding sentences, even for some low-level offenses.
When the criminal code bill came to the Senate floor, only the worst of the worst offenses, murder and level one felonies, were ineligible for suspended sentences.
An amendment offered by Sen. Randy Head (R-Logansport) also restricts the ability of judges to suspend sentences of those convicted of all but the lowest level of felonies if the person has a previous conviction.
Indianapolis Democrat Greg Taylor says the change hurts the very goal of the criminal code revision, focusing more on rehabilitation than incarceration.
“All this amendment does is takes discretion out of the hands of the judge to make a good decision about whether or not a person goes to jail or goes to some other program,” Taylor says.
But Senator Head says too much focus is being placed on low-level offenses, and not enough on how his amendment affects those who commit crimes such as arson, child molestation and burglary.
“The way this bill is written right now, every one of those offenders could get probation after they were convicted of that crime and that’s not what I think the aim of House Bill 1006 is,” Head says.
Bedford Republican Brent Steele, the bill’s sponsor, says he thinks as negotiations on the bill progress, some of Head’s amendment will be removed.