New laws could allow criminals not to go to prison - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

New laws could allow criminals not to go to prison

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ELKHART - In one week, criminals could be serving shorter prison sentences, or possibly no jail time at all. That's because the state has re-defined the level of felonies along with their penalties.

The State of Indiana has slammed down the hammer after reviewing the prison sentences for six types of felonies. The state has made adjustments to the number of years a criminal could spend behind bars.

"For violent crimes like rape, murder, those penalties actually increased the amount of time folks will spend in jail," says Attorney Stan Wruble. Starting July 1st, criminals charged in a murder case, rape case, or a class one felony could face up to 55 years in jail, and serve 75-percent of their sentence. Compared to 2012, when a criminal could serve  just 50-percent of the sentence.

"What the law in general does, it decreases the penalties for drug offenses. Giving [drug offenders] treatment so they can be productive members of society is in my mind a better use of our resources, " says Wruble, who deals with criminal cases on a daily basis.

The idea for lengthening prison time for criminals dates back to the 1980's, but Wruble says it was a failure, because many of the men locked up for drugs, came back out and started using again. "Individuals who are given counseling, group sessions, etc, they tend to do better than the ones who are just sent over to the department of corrections," says Wruble.

The penalties for possession of narcotics were reduced SIGNIFICANTLY. For example, under current law, if you were found to have three or more grams of cocaine in your possession, you would likely find yourself charged with a Class B Felony, punishable by 6-20 years in prison. Under the new law, the offense would likely be capped as a Level 5 Felony, punishable by 1-6 years in prison, as long as you had less than 10 grams of cocaine.

The penalties for marijuana possession were also reduced. Currently, possession of marijuana less than 30 grams, just over an ounce, is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. Now, that same crime will be a Class B misdemeanor, and possession with a prior conviction will drop from a Level 6 felony to a Class A misdemeanor. To reach a Level 6 felony charge for possession, a person will have to have a prior conviction and a possession charge of over 30 grams.

Wruble says not only could the prison time be shorter for drug offenders, but the new law also gives judges more power to decide what happens to the offender, whether it be rehab, probation, or jail.


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