It's the Law: Habitual offenders get extra punishment

2009-03-23T00:00:00Z 2010-06-23T16:11:22Z It's the Law: Habitual offenders get extra punishmentKen Kosky, (219) 548-4354
March 23, 2009 12:00 am  • 

The Times is doing a series of articles highlighting common laws and rules. Today, we examine habitual offenders. To suggest a law for The Times to highlight, contact the writer.

A Portage man's criminal past -- which includes 84 arrests, 70 misdemeanor convictions and two felony convictions -- caught up with him last week.

The man received a 15-year sentence on his third felony conviction -- a burglary charge. He then received an extra 20 years on a habitual offender enhancement. because his two prior, unrelated felony convictions qualified him as a habitual offender.

Indiana law allows habitual offenders -- those who commit a third felony after having two separate, unrelated felony convictions -- to receive extra punishment.

Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said about 5 to 10 percent of defendants qualify for the added punishment that comes from being a habitual offender.

"If we are aware of convictions locally in jurisdictions where the records are kept similar to the way the records are kept in Porter County, we will file the appropriate habitual offender enhancement," Gensel said.

The purpose to the habitual offender statute is to remove from society those who have proven to be dangerous due to their repeat behavior.

Gensel said habitual offenders can receive an extra one to three times the standard sentence for their crime, with a cap of 30 years. For example, someone convicted of the lowest level of felony faces a standard sentence of 1 1/2 years, to which 1 1/2 to 4 1/2 more can be added under the habitual enhancement.

Indiana law also has a habitual substance offender, so some drug offenders can face an extra three to eight years in prison beyond what they would already face.

Indiana law also states a person can receive life in prison without parole if they have two prior, unrelated convictions for crimes like murder, rape and armed robbery, or if they have one prior Class A felony sex offense against a child.

Indiana law also calls for additional penalties -- ranging from loss of license to prison time -- for habitual traffic offenders.

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