Pharos-Tribune

State News

September 23, 2013

Laws that carry automatic loss of driver’s license under review

Change advocates: Combine 'tough on crime' with smarts.

INDIANAPOLIS — The legislative study committee that proposed the massive rewrite of Indiana’s felony code will soon take on another tough issue: The automatic penalty that causes thousands of Hoosiers to lose their driving privileges for committing transgressions ranging from unpaid parking tickets to drunk driving.

Some members of the committee are advocating that fewer crimes carry the automatic penalty of a suspended driver’s license, to allow judges to have more discretion over how the punishment is doled out.

Among the remedies for which they’re advocating: Allow judges to suspend a driver’s license with conditions that include the use of technology — such GPS tracking and interlock ignition devices — to monitor in real-time when a driver get behind a wheel.

Republican State Rep. Jud McMillin, a former prosecutor from Brookville who supports the change, said the legislature has imposed the automatic driver’s license penalty on scores of offenses to be “tough on crime.”

“We didn’t have the technology advances available to us to do it in a really smart way, so we did it the only way we could, in a really tough way,” McMillin said. “I have no problem with doing it the tough way but now that we’re able to use these technological advances, we can combine being tough and being smart. I think that would be beneficial to everybody.”

McMillin is a member of the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee, whose members represent prosecutors, public defenders, probation officers, judges and lawmakers. The committee is scheduled to take up the issue of the automatic driver’s license suspension penalty at its Sept. 26 meeting at the Indiana Statehouse.

A slew of traffic offenses, including driving under the influence, carry the automatic penalty of a suspended license. But there are a multitude of other non-traffic crimes that carry the penalty too, such as failure to pay child support. According to Indiana law, a minor charged with the class C misdemeanor of being “recklesslessly” in a tavern or other place where alcohol is served “shall” have his driver’s license suspended for a year. And a teenager expelled from school may have his license suspended.

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