INDIANAPOLIS - Legislation motivated by the death of a Mishawaka police dog is moving ahead in the General Assembly. A House of Representatives committee passed a measure Wednesday that would make it possible to charge a person with a Class D felony if he or she causes the death of a police animal while driving under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances. Class D is the least serious type of felony. It is now eligible for a vote in the full House. St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak requested the legislation after Shawn Devine, the man accused of driving drunk and causing the crash that killed Mishawaka police Cpl. James Szuba and his K-9 partner, Ricky, on Jan. 9, could not be charged with a crime for the dog’s death. It is a Class D felony in Indiana to “knowingly or intentionally” injure a law-enforcement animal and cause its death. However, state law does not provide for a criminal charge when the animal’s death is caused by an impaired driver. Rep. Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, introduced Dvorak’s suggested amendment and Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, agreed to allow Senate Bill 170, which he wrote about highway matters, to be stripped to include the new language. Dvorak’s amendment also responds to a hit-and-run collision that injured a South Bend police officer Jan. 21. The other driver allegedly was drunk and fled the scene. It would make a Class B felony charge possible for a person who leaves the scene of an accident that involves the death of a person, a Class C felony charge possible for a person who leaves an accident scene involving serious bodily injury and a Class D felony charge possible for a person who leaves the scene of an accident where a person in the other vehicle is injured but not seriously injured. Fleeing the scene of an accident would still be a Class A misdemeanor if no one in the other vehicle is injured. Dvorak said stiffer penalties will help deter people from leaving the scene of an accident where a person is injured.
Staff writer Kevin Allen: firstname.lastname@example.org (574) 235-6244