Merritt Pushes Dramatic Increases To Gun, Drug Crime Penalties

Oct 10, 2017


A key Indiana state lawmaker wants to dramatically increase penalties for certain drug and gun crimes.

The General Assembly rewrote its criminal code in recent years. Its aim was to drive more nonviolent, mostly drug offenders out of the prison system and into local treatment programs. And part of that was by giving judges more discretion in sentencing – to be able to decide what’s best for an individual offender.

Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) wants to undo some of that.

“I think we’ve broken down at the court level in regards to serious, violent felons and we need to prop that and increase the penalties,” Merritt says. “And we need to re-adjust.”

Merritt will propose a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for anyone who deals drugs that contain fentanyl, an opioid linked to a spike in overdose deaths. Merritt says he also wants to bar judges from reducing sentences for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime.

“I’m empowering prosecutors and I think that’s what we need to do. Because it’s not working right now,” Merritt says.

Similar efforts have had mixed success since the legislature’s criminal code overhaul took effect three years ago.