NewsPublic Affairs / August 9, 2016

Indiana Lawmaker Proposes Bias Crimes Bill

Indiana is one of only five states in the country without any bias or hate crime language in its laws.  - file photo

Indiana is one of only five states in the country without any bias or hate crime language in its laws.

file photo

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana is one of only five states in the country without any bias or hate crime language in its laws. A Democratic state senator wants to change that, proposing a bill that goes further than a failed proposal from the 2016 session.

Legislation this past session that cleared the Senate but stalled in the House would have allowed judges to increase penalties if a person committed a crime based in part because of the victim’s characteristics -- such as their race, religion, or sexual orientation. Democratic Sen. Greg Taylor’s (Indianapolis) proposed legislation would create an automatic enhancement – making misdemeanors felonies and raising each felony one level.

Taylor says the state should acknowledge that some crimes are more heinous.

“If someone were to spray paint a swastika on a Jewish church, nobody would say ‘Hey that’s just vandalism,’" he says. "That’s hatred and we need to recognize it.”

Taylor’s proposal also includes training for police on how to recognize and investigate bias crimes. He has proposed similar legislation in the past without success. Many Republicans – including, notably, the chairman of the House Courts and Criminal Code committee – oppose bias crime legislation.

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