For some individuals, July 1 each year is just another day. But July 1, 2015, was the day when new laws passed by the Indiana legislature during their previous legislative session went into effect. This year, there were six significant new driver laws that took effect. Some of these new laws affect a person’s criminal liability (in other words, new crimes are created by these laws) and can affect a person’s legal rights in civil cases. Keeping up with these new driver laws is an important task of Indiana personal injury lawyers who seek to provide their clients with the best, most accurate legal advice possible.
Driving Too Slow Can Now Cost You Hundreds of Dollars
It is now a traffic offense for a person to drive in the left lane of a roadway in such a manner so as to impede faster traffic behind him or her. Lawmakers indicated this new law is designed to encourage people to use the leftmost lane on a roadway or highway for its intended purpose only—to pass slower-moving vehicles. An officer who observes a driver traveling slowly in a left lane and impeding traffic can issue a ticket to the motorist if the officer chooses. Violation of this new law is punishable by up to $500 in fines.
As Indianapolis car accident lawyers, we at Sevenish Law Firm also see this law as being potentially beneficial for car accident victims. If your accident was caused by a driver who was traveling too slow in the leftmost lane, this behavior can now be considered to be negligent and thus potentially make the slow driver liable for the injuries you and the other occupants in your car suffer.
Time Limits on Filing Rape Charges Are Now Extended
Prosecutors throughout Indiana had a problem when it came to prosecuting rape charges: the state’s five-year statute of limitations. This five-year time limit within which prosecutors had to file charges or be forever barred from doing so put prosecutors in a quandary. If they filed charges but at the time lacked the evidence they needed to convict a person beyond a reasonable doubt, they would need to hope that the evidence necessary to convict surfaced sometime before trial. On the other hand, if prosecutors decided to wait until such evidence surfaced before filing charges, they may find the evidence surfaced too late.
Thanks to Senate Bill 94, nicknamed “Jenny’s Law,” prosecutors can file rape charges even if the five-year statute of limitations has run out if certain evidence is later discovered. The law was named after a rape victim, “Jenny,” whose attacker confessed to raping her, but only after the five-year statute of limitations had run and prosecutors could no longer file charges against him.
The situations in which the five-year time limit can be extended include:
- DNA evidence arises that was previously undiscovered or DNA evidence that identifies a suspect.
- Recordings, videos, photographs, or other similar documents or tangible evidence is discovered.
- Confessions are made by the perpetrators.
If any one of these three situations occurs, the prosecution will have five years from the date the evidence is discovered within which to file charges against a defendant.
Beheadings Can Lead to the Death Penalty
Another new law clarifies situations in which state prosecutors are permitted to seek the death penalty. Prior to July 1, 2015, the death penalty could be imposed where a person “burned, tortured, or mutilated” his or her victim before killing the victim. The death penalty could also be triggered if the victim was “dismembered” after the killing. Strangely, however, decapitation was not considered to be mutilation or dismemberment. Senate Bill 8 changes this, however, and makes an individual who decapitates his or her victim eligible for the death penalty.
Sawed-Off Shotguns Are Now Legal to Possess
Effective July 1, 2015, Indiana residents are now able to legally own a manufactured sawed-off shotgun. The law’s terms apply only to shotguns that are manufactured in such a way that makes them “sawed-off” shotguns (in other words, the law does not appear to permit a person to possess a shotgun that has been modified by the individual to be a sawed-off shotgun).
This new law repeals Indiana’s previous ban on shotguns with barrels less than 18 inches in length or that are less than 26 inches in overall length. A person desiring to own one of these weapons must still comply with background checks before they will be permitted to own or possess the weapon. The law also creates a sentencing enhancement (i.e., imposes stricter criminal penalties) on a person who commits a crime while in possession of a sawed-off shotgun.
Indiana’s New Religious Freedom Bill
The Indiana Legislature also passed the Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Under the terms of this act, the state government is prohibited from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion if the government cannot show that (1) it has a compelling interest to burden the person’s exercise of religion, and (2) it has chosen the least restrictive means of doing so. Like similar bills in other states, Indiana’s RFRA was passed in reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and was originally intended to protect individuals whose religious beliefs did not permit them to support same-sex marriage.
At the time of its passing there was quite a bit of controversy and concern that the bill would allow Christians and others who opposed same-sex marriage to discriminate against homosexual couples. A companion bill to the RFRA, Senate Bill 50, was meant to address these concerns. This law states that the RFRA cannot be used to circumvent local laws and ordinances that prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Tax Sale System Reformed
Finally, a new law allows that vacant homes sold by cities at tax sales (as a way to combat blight) to be immediately possessed by the purchaser. Prior to the law, the purchaser had to wait until the expiration of a one year “redemption period” in which the owner could redeem the property before the purchaser could possess the property.
Contact an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney
If you are confused about your legal rights under the law, contact The Sevenish Law Firm for experienced and knowledgeable assistance. We will ensure you understand Indiana’s sometimes-complex laws and how they impact you. Contact us at 317-636-7777 today.