Bartels: Considering hate crime legislation

Posted by: Victoria Klimczak  | Monday, January 7, 2019 11:21 am

Lawmakers recently returned to the Statehouse for the start of the 2019 legislative session. An ongoing discussion taking place in the General Assembly is whether or not a statewide hate crime statute should be enacted, and if so, in what form.

Multiple proposals filed this session aim to address crimes committed because of a bias against an individual or group’s perceived or actual characteristics, traits, beliefs, practices or other similar attributes. While I believe that crimes are inherently hateful, legislation like this would allow courts to increase criminal sentencing if the perpetrator commits a crime based on bias.

During the summer, Gov. Eric Holcomb called for a new law addressing hate crimes and noted that Indiana is currently 1 of only 5 states in the U.S. without a hate crime statute. Recently, this request for new legislation was formally announced as part of the governor’s 2019 Next Level Agenda.

There are a lot of elements to consider when looking at implementing some form of hate crime legislation. Some believe a law like this would result in too much subjectivity among courts and judges, while others feel there is no need for additional legislation because judges already have the power to enhance penalties when crimes are bias-motivated.

On the other hand, a hate crimes law could also provide more clarity in sentencing and ensure the severity of hate crimes is adequately addressed.

As a member of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, I look forward to hearing testimony about the various proposals addressing this issue and considering the input of experts and Hoosiers throughout the state. As I vote on proposals for potential new laws, it is also incredibly important that we communicate and I understand your thoughts on topics like this.

Feedback can be provided to my office by calling 317-232-9802 or emailing h74@iga.in.gov. Please also share your opinions by completing my 2019 legislative survey, which was mailed to households throughout the district and available online at www.in.gov/h74.

Legislation the General Assembly addresses this session, including a potential hate crimes statute, will have an impact on Hoosiers statewide. I encourage you to take part in the legislative process, voice your opinions on these topics and help me represent our area to the best of my ability. Follow the proposals as they move through the process and watch a livestream of the debates at iga.in.gov.

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State Rep. Stephen Bartels (R-Eckerty) represents House District 74, which

includes portions of Spencer, Dubois, Perry, Crawford and Orange counties.

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