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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

New laws bring change to Putnam County

Friday, July 7, 2006

The month of July means changes for several Indiana laws affecting Putnam County residents.

From drivers who can't control their tempers on the roadway to people who have been convicted of sex-related crimes, nearly everyone will see changes as these laws begin to be enforced across the area.

The first one deals with convicted sex offenders who live within 1,000 feet of a public park, school or youth program center. The new law makes doing so a felony for anyone convicted of a sex crime regardless of how much time has passed since the conviction.

Putnam County Jail Officer Brad Williams, who manages the county's list of sex offenders, explained that the old law allowed sex offenders to live next to schools and parks as long as they successfully passed probation or parole. The law that took effect July 1 does away with that loophole.

"The new law means that if a sex offender lived within 1,000 feet of these facilities before July 1, he or she will now have to move," Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said.

Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie said the sheriff's department may need to issue notices to any offenders currently living within the designated buffer and require them to find a new place to live.

"We'll just have to play it by ear," he said.

Williams also said the sheriff's department will no longer be able to rely on the sex offender to come to the jail and register themselves on the list. Law enforcement will have to actively seek out every offender and make sure they are on the list.

Williams said there are approximately 55 known sex offenders currently living in Putnam County.

According to the state's online sex offender registry, there are more than 30 living in and around the Greencastle area.

Other changes to laws involving crimes of a sexual nature include sexually violent predators. Those people are generally the repeat sex offenders, Bookwalter explained.

Under the new law, when they are released from prison, they must be placed on lifetime parole.

In matters of the sex offender registry itself, it will now be supervised by the Indiana Department of Correction and it requires the sex offender to register before being released from prison.

In addition, the sex offender registry must be updated on a daily basis, Bookwalter said.

Another law that took effect July 1 involves drivers who engage in threatening or intimidating behavior toward others on the roadway.

The law makes aggressive driving a crime if done knowingly or intentionally with the intent to harass or intimidate someone in another vehicle.

"This is a growing problem in society and now we have a law to address it," Bookwalter said, adding that he recently sat in as special prosecutor in a Hendricks County case where a man pleaded guilty to pulling a knife on someone in another vehicle.

In matters of knives, Indiana law now makes it a crime for someone to possess a knife while on school property, including school buses.

Old law provided penalties for a student who threatened or displayed the weapon while at school. But the new one makes simply having a knife inside one's school bag or on their person a crime.

In cases of someone being under the legal age, Bookwalter said they would be tried for the same crime in the juvenile system. He said he intends to meet with the various county schools later this year to discuss the new requirements.

"I plan to sit down with the superintendents and explain it to them," he said.

One final law of note involves self defense. The legislature has changed the law to state that if a person is acting in self defense or the defense of someone else, they have no duty to retreat as previously required by law.

Bookwalter said he believes the new law lends more support for someone acting in self defense rather than fleeing the situation.

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