EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - There is a new bill waiting to be heard by the Indiana Senate, and it is getting big support from local law enforcement.
Vanderburgh County Sheriff Dave Wedding testified at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday in support of House Bill 1097.
Included in this six-page bill is the main goal of enhancing the punishment for “fleeing law enforcement” from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5.
Sheriff Wedding says there have already been 25 vehicle pursuits in the county just this year. Some of those ending in serious crashes.
“If you flee from law enforcement in a car,” says Sheriff Wedding, “we know immediately you are putting people at risk.”
The sheriff says many pursuits start when an offender takes off and tries to dump weapons or drugs before deputies can catch them, opting for the Level 6 felony for “fleeing,” rather than more serious charges.
“So they are dumping this,” says Sheriff Wedding. “So when they dump this, if we don’t find it, a young child could find a loaded gun on the side of the roadway.”
Sheriff Wedding says some people argue the pursuits are not worth it, suggesting deputies can simply track down the suspect later.
“But if these are dangerous or violent felons, and they are going to continue to commit crimes,” says Sheriff Wedding, “then it’s not prudent to let them go.”
To help protect his community, Sheriff Wedding vocalized his support for Indiana House Bill 1097, which makes fleeing from an officer a Level 5 felony.
“I think I owe that to the community,” says the sheriff, “to take a felon off the street that is creating havoc in my community.”
A Level 5 felony means the offender would have to serve at least 75% of the sentence before being considered for parole, compared to serving just 50% for a Level 6 felony.
Simply put, it would keep offenders off the streets for longer periods of time.
“It’s a win for law enforcement,” says Sgt. Nick Winsett with the Evansville Police Department. “It is something that we wish could have happened a long time ago to help us out.”
The bill is now waiting to be heard by the Indiana Senate. From that point, state leaders could vote to amend the way the current law is written to incorporate these new recommendations.
“This bill is going to help us out tremendously,” says Sgt. Winsett.