It is an honor to serve as the Chairman of the House Committee on Courts and the Criminal Code. As Chairman, I am involved in numerous issues that have been raised by various Representatives and Senators. Indeed, in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Sessions, the Committee was one of the most active, with scores of bills assigned each year. The following are a few of the issues addressed in Committee and some of my own views:
CRIMINAL CODE RESTRUCTURING
The entire Indiana Criminal Code was re-codified over the last few sessions. The new Criminal Code has six levels of felonies rather than the previous four. This allows for greater flexibility in both charging and sentencing criminals. I supported the re-codification.
The Criminal Code Committee has heard several bills which have become law which are designed to enlarge the options available in the sentencing and treatment of criminals. These changes reflect the simple reality that due to significant enhancements in technology we have many more options available than at any time in history. Many of these options are alternatives to incarceration that are both cheaper and more effective at reducing the repeat offenses which so often come after a person spends time in jail. I supported this legislation.
STABILITY OF THE CRIMINAL CODE
I am hesitant to expand the Indiana Criminal Code, especially in light of the recent re-codification. Simply put, the system needs to to adjust to the recent changes before adding more crimes. In addition, I favor criminal laws of general applicability rather than those target at very specific crimes. This too leads me to be hesitant to add new crimes. That being said, the Criminal Code is one that must constantly adapt itself to matters of current concern and adjustments may be warranted.
It is my view that execution may be used as a penalty for those who carry out the most wicked of murders. However, I do believe that use of the death penalty should always be subject to the discretion of a local prosecutor (rather than automatic) and treated with great caution. In other words, it is a penalty that should be rarely utilized.
I note that the death penalty in the Indiana Criminal Code is not automatic. It only comes about in the crime of murder where certain “aggravating” circumstances exist. While no law can be considered to be set in stone, I do think that the present list of aggravators adequately covers the situations where the death penalty might be sought by a prosecutor. Accordingly, I am reticent to expand the current list.