OPPOSE SB 439: Politicizing Criminal Sentencing ("Bias Crimes")
SB 439 would change criminal law so that in determining what sentence to impose for a crime, the court may consider a new set of aggravating circumstances. Under SB 439 if the person committing the offense had the intent to harm or intimidate an individual because of the individual’s perceived or actual: race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation or ethnicity, whether or not the person’s belief about the victim was correct, the judge can use that intent to increase the sentence.
Giving victims greater justice is a noble goal. However, SB 439 would pick and choose who gets greater justice and who doesn’t based on political priorities. This undercuts the foundational principle of equal justice under law and politicizes the criminal justice system. When Hoosiers are the victims of a crime in Indiana they shouldn’t get less justice because they don’t fit into a particular class based on the whims of special interest groups.
For example, if SB 439 were passed into law a 90 year old grandmother who is assaulted because she is wearing a “Make America Great Again” shirt would get less justice than a 25 year old man who is assaulted because he is perceived to be gay. Under SB 439 a citizen’s sexual preferences would earn them more justice, yet a citizen who is the victim of the same exact crime would get less justice even if their victimizer targeted them based on their age, political party affiliation, support for a specific candidate, body type, hair color, etc. (all characteristics that do not get special protection under SB 439).
If the Indiana General Assembly is interested in providing greater justice for crime victims there are ways in which that could be accomplished uniformly (such as raising the minimum sentence for all violent crime), without picking winners and losers and politicizing our criminal justice system. SB 439 do not accomplish that worthy goal. Instead these bills politicize the criminal justice system and legislate discrimination where a select few favored groups receive greater protection from crime while other classes of citizens are left on the outside looking in.