New Change In Law To Make Drug Dealing Sentences Harsher

Apr 4, 2016

Credit Thomas Hawk /

Indiana judges will no longer be able to reduce sentences for serious heroin or meth dealers.  The General Assembly made this change in the law this past session -- but some lawmakers say the change begins to unravel the recent overhaul of Indiana’s criminal code.

A major aim of the state’s criminal code reform was to give judges more flexibility to suspend sentences, particularly of drug offenders.  The idea was to allow a judge to look at the individual and decide whether they could be helped more by rehabilitation than prison time. A new law this year changes that when it comes to sentencing serious heroin or meth dealers. 

Sen. Mike Young (R-Indianapolis) says if one of those dealers has a previous drug dealing conviction, the person must be sentenced to at least a decade in prison.

“At some point, when you’re destroying enough lives, we think it’s appropriate that you serve at least the minimum on the second one,” Young says.

But Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) says that change only makes it look like lawmakers are doing something to solve Indiana’s drug problem:

“The easiest thing to do is to increase the sentence, have a mandatory minimum – and we’ve done that for 40 years and it has not worked,” Pierce says. “The war on drugs failed.”

Pierce says he’s at least pleased the law didn’t go as far as originally proposed – it would have required minimum sentences for any drug dealers with previous convictions, not just those dealing heroin and meth.