Pharos-Tribune

State News

September 25, 2012

State’s tough drug-free zone law may be on its way out

INDIANAPOLIS — Some key legislators want to do away Indiana’s tough, penalty-enhancing “drug-free zone” law, saying it no longer serves its original intent of protecting children from drug dealers.

The 1987 law can double or more the prison time for people caught with illegal drugs within 1,000 feet (equal to about three football fields) of a school, park, apartment complex or housing project.  

It was supposed to create a safe harbor around places where children gather. But critics question whether drug-free zones actually deter drug activity and instead result in unfairly harsh penalties that drive up prison costs.

State Sen. Brent Steele, an influential Republican lawmaker who’s already said he’ll push in the next session to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, believes it’s time for the drug-free zone law to go.

The Bedford attorney and legislator said it is a “stupid, illogical” law that was born out of good intent but put into practice poorly.

He cited studies, including one by DePauw University, that show drug-free zones now encompass huge areas in cities and towns and that the law has been used to nail people who didn’t know they were in a drug-free zone and who showed no intent of selling drugs to children.

Steele offered an example of a defendant caught with drugs in his home that was located within 1,000 feet of a school. “It was late at night and there were no children around,” Steele said. “Is that what we really trying to prevent?”

It’s a question the Indiana Supreme Court has looked at as well. In an important precedent-setting decision in February, the court reduced the 20-year prison sentence of a Kokomo, Ind., man convicted of possessing a relatively small amount of marijuana and cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school.

The court said that had he been caught outside the 1,000-foot zone, he would have only faced a maximum prison term of 18 months. The court ruled that his 20-year sentence was “inappropriate” because it didn’t fit the nature of the offense.

The court issued a similar opinion in another drug-free zone law case in June.

Steele, long seen as a “tough on crime” conservative, plans to carry legislation in the next session that rewrites Indiana’s criminal code. He said his bill will include language that does away with the drug-free zone law that allows prosecutors to raise the felony offense level of someone charged with a drug-related crime that occurs within one the zones.

On the House side, state Rep. Jud McMillin, a fellow conservative Republican from Brookville, will likely carry the House version of the bill. McMillin said it’s time for Indiana to rethink the drug-free zone law.

“If our goal is to keep drugs out of the hands of children, this is not the way to do it,” McMillin said.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council is expected to oppose the elimination of the drug-free zone law. The Indiana Public Defender Council, meanwhile, supports such a move.

The legislative Criminal Code Evaluation Commission is expected to take up the issue on Oct. 4, as they continue to review recommended changes to Indiana’s criminal laws.

Scheduled to testify at the hearing is Kelsey Kaufmann, a DePauw University political science professor whose students conducted a research project on the drug-free zone law and found that it had disproportionate impact on urban areas and on African-Americans who live in cities with a high number of drug-free zones.

Kaufmann has presented the research before to lawmakers, but this time around it may resonate more loudly, as fiscal conservatives like Steele and McMillin line up with more liberal legislators to take up the effort to reform Indiana’s drug laws.

“I don’t see it as a conservative versus liberal issue anymore,” Kaufmann said. “Drug-free zone laws, as constituted now, in fact undermine the legitimate function they were designed to serve.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • 65,000 chickens die in rural Indiana fire WARSAW (AP) — Thousands of chickens have been killed in a fire on a northern Indiana farm. Approximately 65,000 chickens died in a fire that broke out at Egg Innovations early Monday morning. The Atwood Fire Department responded to the Warsaw busines

    July 28, 2014

  • Ebola American Doctor [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Mother: Doctor with Ebola sought to be missionary INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indianapolis woman whose son contracted Ebola while working in Liberia says family members are praying for his recovery. Dr. Kent Brantly is the medical director for the Ebola care center of the aid group Samaritan's Purse in t

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Accident at NE Indiana factory kills contractor GARRETT (AP) — A northeastern Indiana coroner says a Fort Wayne man died from a head injury he suffered when a scissor-lift toppled inside a factory as he was installing a safety feature on a crane. DeKalb County Coroner Jeff Warner says 54-year-old

    July 28, 2014

  • Former Indiana synagogue to get historical marker LIGONIER, Ind. (AP) — A northern Indiana museum that originally served as a synagogue for a thriving Jewish population will receive a state historical marker next month. The marker honoring the 125-year-old former temple will be unveiled Aug. 31 in t

    July 28, 2014

  • Evansville officials want more local fireworks say EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Evansville will ask lawmakers for more local authority to restrict private fireworks displays.The Evansville Courier & Press reports council members consulted the city attorney after receiving numerous complaints during the Ju

    July 28, 2014

  • Deputy: No vehicle involved in fatal Cicero bike crash CICERO (AP) — Investigators say a 20-year-old bicyclist who was killed in a crash in a central Indiana town wasn't struck by a vehicle. Nicholas Camp of Cicero was pronounced dead at an Indianapolis hospital after he was injured in the crash in Cicer

    July 25, 2014

  • Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster SANTA CLAUS (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana says it's building a new roller coaster that will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop among four inversions. Plans for the Thunderbird were ann

    July 25, 2014

  • Man dies after being hit by sheriff's prisoner van INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Police say a man has died after he was hit by a sheriff's department prisoner transport van on an Indianapolis street. City police spokesman Officer Christopher Wilburn says witnesses told investigators that the man was lying on t

    July 25, 2014

  • Murder, rape charges filed in SW Indiana attack BLOOMFIELD (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a 35-year-old man with fatally shooting a man outside his rural southwestern Indiana home and then raping a woman inside the home. Greene County prosecutors filed murder, rape and other charges Thursday agai

    July 25, 2014

  • Teen Pilot-Crash [Duplicate] [Duplicate] Family: Indiana teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks PLAINFIELD (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren't achieved without taking chances. "Why does any explorer undertake the nec

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should grocery and convenience stores be allowed to sell cold beer?

Yes
No
Unsure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.