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Lawyer Panel Examining Indiana Felony Laws

Legislators are in the early stages of a possible revamp of Indiana‘s criminal code.

Jail inmates

Photo: Bill Shaw/WFIU-WTIU News

Two inmates at the Monroe County Jail.

Indiana law creates five categories of felonies: class A, B, C and D, with murder in a class by itself. Former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels says that sometimes makes it hard for judges to hand down sentences that fit the crime — for drug crimes in particular. Daniels notes under current drug laws, dealing less than three grams of cocaine carries 6-20 years, but more than three grams carries 20-50 years. A new scheme would change that.

“Instead of jumping all the way up to what‘s today‘s a felony, a 1 or a 2, if you went to over three but under 10 grams, you‘d go to level 4,” Daniels says. “Level 3, between 10 and 28 grams, and level 2, over 28 grams.”

Daniels is part of a working group of seven attorneys discussing how to expand five categories into seven but says a complete proposal probably won‘t be ready in time for next year‘s legislature.

“I don‘t want to suggest that it couldn‘t be done — I think it could be, because I think we‘ve addressed the hardest ones already. But it would take us some time to all figure that out, I think, between now and the session,” she says.

Murder and low-level felonies would probably remain the same, but the panel envisions turning class A and B into levels 1 through 4.   Daniels says the group hasn‘t discussed what the sentencing ranges would be for each level, focusing instead on where to slot each of the dozens of crimes now on the books.

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