Lawmakers to tackle molesting, shoplifting at corrections day

Indiana legislators say they will tweak a new sentencing law so that it doesn’t reduce prison terms for some child molesters when they meet for a technical corrections day on Tuesday.

The error is one of several lawmakers intend to fix during the one-day session.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, told reporters Thursday the session “probably won’t take that long.”

“This day is just about getting rid of ambiguities,” said Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington.

Those lawmakers – along with Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, who joined the group by phone – explained the details of House Bill 1448, which will be considered during the technical corrections day next week.

Among the fixes that are included in the bill: Returning the penalties for those who commit child seduction to their original levels, maintaining police authority for shoplifting arrests, and clarifying the amount of drugs that led to controlled substance charges.

Steuerwald said legislators knew about a couple corrections that needed to be made even before they adjourned in March, but he said they “couldn’t get it done during session.”

He said the mistake that affects the most serious crime is the one dealing with molestation charges. The problem occurred in the passage of House Bill 1006, which was meant to increase penalties for some of the most serious felons but reduce penalties for lower-level crimes.

In the process, lawmakers inadvertently reduced the sentence someone convicted of intercourse with a child. The change to be considered Tuesday would fix that problem.

Lawmakers will also fix a section of that law dealing with shoplifting and theft. The change will clarify that a store owner or security personnel can detain an individual for shoplifting for two hours until the police can arrive to arrest an individual.

That’s the case under the current law. But the new law stripped that authority as part of a change to makes theft of an item with a value of $759 or less a misdemeanor. Lawmakers want to reinstate the original authority.

“If this change wasn’t being made, the police wouldn’t be able to come and make the arrest and it’s very important for our membership that the police still have the ability to do that,” said Grant Monahan, president of the Indiana Retail Council.

Another section corrects an ambiguity in the dealing in cocaine statute by providing that a certain enhancement applies if the amount of drug involved is “at least one gram but less than five grams.”

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