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Several new laws impacting criminal justice taking effect

(Photo supplied/Elkhart Truth)

The majority of the bills signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb officially become law on July 1.

Many will directly impact criminal justice and the local community.

Elkhart County Prosecutor Vicki Elaine Becker is highlighting some of the measures as they go into they go into effect:

  • SEA 551 – SEA 551 allows parents to seek a protective order against a person they believe is grooming their child for sexual activity. It also creates a provision so crime victims’ initials are not listed in court documents. Instead, victims will be identified by number only. The bill also creates enhancements for domestic battery charges that involve strangulation. Strangulation is one of the fastest rising charges that prosecutors are seeing statewide and is often a precursor to more violent acts in the future.
  • HEA 1186 – HEA 1186 allows prosecutors to charge the abuse and trafficking of a synthetic drug as the drug it is designed to mimic. For instance, synthetic drugs designed to act like heroin will be charged at the same level as possessing and dealing heroin itself.
  • SEA 186 – This bill makes all Operating While Intoxicated Causing Death cases Level 4 felonies. In addition, it makes OWI Causing Serious Bodily Injury a Level 5 felony and creates a sentencing enhancement for “catastrophic injury.”
  • SEA 240 – This new bill deals with intimidation, particularly threats to schools and school buildings. SEA 240 expands the intimidation statute to include threats made to any person that puts said person in fear that the threat will be carried out. The hope is that this bill will make it easier for prosecutors to charge those who make bomb or shooting threats to schools.
  • SEA 198 – This was the much-discussed bias crimes bill. The new law makes it an aggravating circumstance if a crime was committed due to the perceived or actual characteristics, traits, beliefs, practices, or associations of the victim, including but not limited to color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. A judge would decide at sentencing if it is appropriate to apply this aggravator.
  • HEA 1615 – This legislation broadens language in the animal abuse statutes to make it easier to charge offenses related to animals.
  • SEA 243 – Senate Enrolled Act 243 creates a new crime for distributing an intimate image of another person without that person’s consent. If proven, the non-consensual distribution would result in a Class A misdemeanor charge.

These are just a few of hundreds of new laws that will go into effect on July 1.

Elkhart County residents are encouraged to visit for a complete list.

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