Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on September 28, 2016.

criminal lawPlease note, we are not taking any “landlord-tenant” cases at this time.

On July 1st of each year, new Indiana laws go into effect.  This year there are a number of important changes to Indiana criminal laws that Hoosiers need to be aware of, ranging from enhanced penalties for repeat DUI offenders, to punishment for falsely claiming to be a military veteran.  Below is a summary of some of these laws:

Enhanced Penalty for Repeat DUI Offenders

Indiana has increased the penalties for repeat drunk driving offenders.  A person who causes the death of another person while operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher or is under the influence of a controlled substance, and has a previous drunk driving conviction within the past 10 years, faces a Level 4 felony instead of a Level 5 felony.  Previous versions of the law provided for enhanced penalties if the individual had a previous drunk driving conviction within the past 5 years.  Enhanced penalties also apply to a person caught operating a motorboat while intoxicated who also has a previous motorboat OWI conviction.  (SEA 142)

Driving Privileges Suspensions for Worksite Violations

This law applies to repeated commissions of worksite speed limit violations.  If a person has committed two worksite speed limit violations within one year, the person’s driving privileges may be suspended for 60 days after the second violation.  Specialized driving privileges may be granted to the person to allow them to drive between work and home. (SEA 248)

Drug Offenses

Indiana has increased the punishment for certain drug related offenses.  A person convicted of dealing methamphetamine or heroin who has a prior conviction for dealing controlled substances must serve at least 10 years in prison. A person may be convicted of possession with intent to distribute solely on the basis of the quantity of drugs present, even if there is no evidence of actual selling.

Medical practitioners may now be charged with dealing in a controlled substance, and the offense is enhanced if the offense causes the death of another person.

The attempted manufacture of methamphetamines now falls under the definition of “methamphetamine abuse.”  A person commits the crime of controlled substances criminal mischief, a Level 6 felony, if he or she damages property during the dealing or manufacture of cocaine, a narcotic drug, or methamphetamine, and causes a fire or an explosion. Law enforcement officials are now required to report meth lab related fires to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

Indiana law now explicitly provides that the fact that a person has participated in a syringe exchange program may not serve as the basis of a probable cause or reasonable suspicion determination.

(HEA 1235; SEA 290; SEA 174; HB 1211)

Child Abuse and Exploitation

New laws enhance the penalties for child exploitation.  The crime of child exploitation has been increased from a Level 5 felony to a Level 4 felony if the offense involves, depicts, or describes a minor engaging in bestiality, is mentally disabled or deficient, participates in the sexual activity by use of force or threat of force, physically or verbally resists participating in the sexual activity, receives bodily injury while participating in the sexual conduct, or is less than 12 years of age.  With respect to the possession of child pornography, the offense has been increased from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5 felony if any of the above circumstances are involved.

Indiana adds the crime of child exploitation to the definition of “crime of violence” for purposes of a court’s determination of whether terms of imprisonment should be served concurrently or consecutively.  Under Indiana sentencing laws, a person who commits a “crime of violence” may receive a longer sentence.

With respect to individuals convicted of the crime of child abuse, the names and records of such individuals are now required to be posted in an online registry maintained by the state court system.

(SEA 357; SEA 14)

Human Trafficking and Common Nuisances

Indiana created a new statute defining the crimes of visiting and maintaining a common nuisance in connection with the unlawful use of alcohol, the unlawful use of prescription drugs, the unlawful use of controlled substances, and certain human trafficking crimes.  A person who visits a common nuisance where certain human trafficking crimes are occurring commits a Class A misdemeanor.  A person who maintains a common nuisance where human trafficking is occurring may be found guilty of a Level 6 felony.

The definitions of “sex offender” and “sex or violent offender” are revised to include the promotion of human trafficking of a minor.

(HEA 1028; HEA 1199)

Criminal Gang Organizations

Indiana has revised references to “criminal gangs” throughout the criminal code.  The term “criminal gang” has been changed to “criminal organization.”  A criminal organization is defined as a group organized to commit a felony or the crime of battery.  Criminal organization activity is now a Level 6 felony, and the penalty is increased to a Level 5 felony if the person commits an offense involving the unlawful use of a firearm.  The penalty for assisting a criminal has been increased to a Level 6 felony if the person who commits the offense or the person assisted is a member of a criminal organization.  Additional types of evidence may now be considered in making the factual determination as to whether an individual has committed specified offenses involving criminal organizations.  (SEA 141)

Trespassing and Criminal Mischief

Indiana considers damaging vacant or abandoned property as institutional criminal mischief and makes this crime a Class A misdemeanor.  The offense becomes a Level 6 felony if the loss caused by the damage has a value of at least $750 but less than $50,000, and a Level 5 felony if the value of the damage is $50,000 or more.  If the offense involves the use of graffiti, a court may order that the person’s operator’s license be suspended or invalidated for up to one year.  If a fire or explosion occurs during the dealing or manufacture of certain drugs, a person commits the crime of controlled substance criminal mischief, which is a Level 6 felony.

Indiana has amended its statute concerning criminal trespass to specify that a person commits criminal trespass if he or she enters or refuses to leave another person’s vacant or abandoned property after having been prohibited from entering or has been asked to leave the property by a law enforcement officer.

A person commits foreclosure mischief, which is a Class B misdemeanor, if he or she damages, defaces or removes an object from property that is the subject of a mortgage foreclosure.  The penalty is increased to a Class A misdemeanor if the damage caused is between $750 and $50,000, and to a Level 6 felony if the damage caused is $50,000 or more.  However, the law establishes a defense if the damage, removal, or defacement was a result of repair, renovation, replacement, or maintenance performed in good faith.

(HB 1211; SEA 183)

“Stolen Valor” and Impersonation of Public Servants

An individual commits the crime of “stolen valor” when he or she, with the intent to obtain money, property, or another benefit, fraudulently represents himself or herself to be a veteran or active member of the military, uses falsified military identification, or fraudulently claims to be the recipient of certain military honors.  Stolen valor is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a $5,000 fine or one year imprisonment.

A person also commits a Class A misdemeanor of impersonation of a public servant if the person falsely represents that he or she is a public servant with the intent to deceive or induce compliance with the person’s instructions, orders or requests.

(HEA 1187; SEA 174)

Additional Provisions of Note

Good Time Credit — Permits a person placed on home detention as a condition of pretrial release to earn one day of good time credit for every four days served on pretrial home detention. (SEA 290)

Cell Phone Communications — Requires cell phone service providers to share GPS info to law enforcement immediately in emergency situations; a search warrant must be obtained no later than 72 hours after the request for the information is made. (HB 1013)

Motor Vehicle Accidents — Requires individuals involved in a motor vehicle accident to move the vehicle off the traveled portion of the highway in a manner that does not obstruct traffic more than is necessary. (HBE 1048)

Traffic Enforcement at Apartments — Landlords can contract with local police to enforce traffic laws on the privately owned streets of an apartment complex. (SEA 216) (Please note, we are not taking any “landlord-tenant” cases at this time.)

Police Video — Dashboard and body camera video recorded by police is available for review by individuals who have been taped and the general public, under conditions intended to preserve a fair trial, protect ongoing investigations and ensure public safety. (HEA 1019)

If you need help with understanding how these new criminal laws may affect you, contact the experienced criminal attorneys at Eskew Law.

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Chris Eskew

Chris Eskew is the founding partner of Eskew Law. With over 15 years of experience, he focuses his practice on criminal defense, DUI defense, and family law. Chris is known for his dedication to his clients, his strong advocacy skills, and his commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes in legal matters. He is well-respected within the legal community and has earned a reputation for providing personalized and effective representation.