Biased Crimes Legislation – Senate Bill 12

Progress for Indiana

A biased crimes bill (IN Senate Bill 12) authored by Senators Ron Alting and Mike Bohacek and sponsored in the House by Representatives Gregory Steuerwald and Anthony Cook, has now moved through the Senate and is currently awaiting hearing in the House of Representatives. In its current form the the bill’s language allows a court to consider bias as an aggravating factor when imposing a criminal sentence. Prior to final passage in the Senate, the bill was amended regarding victim characteristics and replaced with the words “including bias.” Supporters of the bill in its amended form site that it would allow judges to more freely determine whether bias was an aggravating circumstance when a crime is committed without being constrained by specific language. While some legislators are pleased with the bill in its current form, a number of individuals in the House and Senate are pushing for the bill’s original language. Many legislators are displeased with the lack of specificity. Foremost among them are the bill’s original authors, Senators Alting and Bohacek. Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb also supports reinserting victim characteristics in the bill. The Governor has indicated that any so called hate crime bill that did not include victim characteristics would signal that Indiana is reticent on hate crimes in general and would not have the intended effect of portraying the State in a favorable light. The business community in Indiana is pushing for the passing of this bill along with a list of specific victim characteristics, as many believe that having legislation regarding bias crimes would improve Indiana and its reputation, especially for business owners. It is noteworthy that Indiana is one of five states that do not currently have their own law regarding bias crimes.

by Haley Compston, Purdue Communication student

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