Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Indiana Bill to make NonSupport Higher Offense than Sexually Molesting an Infant

SB0277 would raise Non-Support of a Dependent to a Class B felony

Newly elected Senator Randy Head has decided to jump right out of the gate with one of Indiana's most offensive bills introduced this year. Senator head actually wants to make child molestation less of a crime than not buying designer clothing for the child. Senator Head has introduced a bill that would raise nonsupport of a dependent to a Class B felony as a second offense. Here is the Digest of Introduced Bill; Nonsupport of a dependent. Makes nonsupport of a child a Class B felony if the person owes at least $15,000 in unpaid support and has a prior unrelated conviction for nonsupport of a child as a Class C felony.

Citations affected: IC 35-46-1-5

There is still a common misconception in Indiana that the failure to pay money is not providing support to a child. Now Senator Head wants to make nonsupport of a dependent a Class B felony if certain conditions are met. Those are if the person owes at least $15,000 in unpaid support and has a prior unrelated conviction for nonsupport of a child as a Class C felony.

I was once charged with nonsupport of a dependent under IC 35-46-1-5(a). I fought for nearly two years to get a trial and even filed a motion to reinstate the charge after it was dismissed. My argument was that I was falsely charged for failing to make payments to the mother of my child which is NOT failing to provide support. Four different prosecutors from three counties all refused to take this to trial based upon me telling them the statute does not apply and why. Here is a complete explanation of how not paying support is not a crime in Indiana.

Beyond the statutory scheme is the pure logical ideas behind what is not providing support. There is a logical disconnect between non payment to a parent and not providing support. Imagine a child locked in a cold basement closet without food, clothing or medical care being provided but, instead, the money that could be used to purchase those being slid under the door each day. Do you think that if CPS found out about this after a few days and came there and found a naked, dehydrated, malnourished, scared child that they would not take that child into immediate custody and not seek to have the parent charged with neglect under IC 35-46-1-4? That is the companion statute to nonsupport. The difference is that neglect can also include failure to educate and the denial of support in neglect must be "necessary support".

So, onto this bill. The trouble with IC35-46-1-5 and this bill, first off, is in determining how this dollar level of of support, in this case $15,000 worth, is met. A law like this is just going to make trials go on longer and it will get rather difficult in deciding on how the $15,000 will be accounted for. Is someone going to provide receipts? How will the share of housing be determined? Is it only going to be based upon the cost of the government providing AFDC? If the child has extraordinary medical bills which exceed $15,000 and the parents are unable to pay will this then be charged as a crime? Would it have to be $30,000 if there were two parents? What if a prosecutor decides that the child should have been living in a $200,000 house instead of a $100,000 house and the child's portion of that home is 15%; would that $15,000 difference qualify under this bill? What about the US Constitution's prohibition against debtors prison?

These are not extreme or outrageous questions. Prosecutors are given great discretion in what to charge. In my case one of the prosecutors, Louis Evans, specifically told me that I could pay more to my son's mother than I am ordered to by the court and still be charged with criminal nonsupport if she didn't spend it on him.

On top of all of that, the one thing that most disturbs me about this is that the current statute, which makes failure to reimburse someone for providing food, clothing, shelter or medical care to a child a more significant crime than actually locking a child in a basement as described above or angrily driving over someone resulting in a death, will now have more crimes subordinate to it. Do we really want to live in a world where the government no longer provides support to children without jailing the parents? Do we really want to live in a world where repaying the government is of a higher priority than people losing their lives? Our current statute makes not buying designer clothing, an extravagant house or having cosmetic dentistry done on a child more of a crime than intentionally trying to run someone down with your car which results in a death? see IC 35-42-1-4(d)(3). Do we really want to live in a world where nonsupport will now be a greater crime than shooting someone with a gun and killing that person?

This bill should be opposed by anyone who feels that society as a whole has an obligation to care for all children and that our lives are of greater value than the government getting repaid $15,000.

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