Prosecutors Push To Reinstate Harsher Drug Penalties

Aug 25, 2015

Lawmakers eased penalties for low-level drug crimes during a rewrite of the criminal code. Prosecutors want the old sentences back.
Credit Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Just one year after Indiana’s comprehensive criminal code overhaul took effect, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council wants to increase drug dealing penalties. 

Indiana’s criminal code reform, which took five years to craft, was aimed largely at reducing penalties for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses in an effort to focus more on treatment and reduce recidivism. 

But a year into that reform, Prosecuting Attorneys Council head David Powell says he wants to add more teeth to the state’s drug dealing sentences.

“The question is, did we go a little too far," Powell says.  "We think maybe we have; we’re worried about that.  We’ll certainly know because if we did, your burglaries are going to go up, your property crimes are going to go up.”

Among Powell’s proposals: raising penalties for dealers and manufacturers if a drug kills someone, and reinstating mandatory minimums for those caught with at least ten grams of a serious drug.  Indiana Public Defenders Council leader Larry Landis says Powell wants a return to the failed war on drugs.

“And quite frankly I’m about ready to explode," Landis says.  "I cannot believe that we are at this point where the prosecutors are advocating to go back and revisit the five year process to enhance the drug penalties so that they can solve the drug problem if we only gave them more leverage.”

Landis says Indiana’s focus needs to remain on treatment.