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Are Indiana lawmakers conflicted over sex offender punishments?

Based on two different bills headed to the Indiana Senate, state lawmakers may have conflicting views on sex crime enforcement.

Specifically, the bills take opposing stances on the appropriate punishments for certain sex crime offenders. One bill, SB 166, seeks to help defendants charged with prostitution who may actually be trafficking victims. Such victims may have been forced into prostitution, as part of the transgressions against them.

The bill would offer trafficking victims with non-violent sex convictions the option of petitioning the court to have their convictions vacated. This relief would be broader than merely expunging the records, where law enforcement officials may still have access to the non-public criminal record. In addition, victims under the age of 18 would be shielded from a prostitution conviction, and instead offered services. The rationale is that juvenile trafficking victims may have been subjected to significant mental manipulation.

The second bill, SB 169, would deny the option of expungement to sex offenders who pleaded their felony charges down to misdemeanors. One lawmaker proposed an amendment that would grant law enforcement access to expunged records only for investigative purposes, rather than for job applicant screening. However, the amendment was voted down.

Our criminal defense law firm understands that the repercussions from being charged with a sex crime may begin before the trial is even underway. Shifting state policies in sex offender punishments may also make it harder to prepare a strong criminal defense strategy.

For these reasons, our lawyers get to work right away to protect our clients from damaging criminal allegations. We will review the police record for procedural illegalities, hold prosecutors to their burden of proof, negotiate a plea if favorable to our client, and ultimately prepare a strong defense strategy.

Source: Indiana Lawyer, “Bills dealing with sex crime punishments move to full Senate,” Olivia Covington, Feb. 8, 2017

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