Expanding Victim's Rights to Investigations

Expanding Victim's Rights to Investigations

Friday, February 19, 2021

When a young Southern Indiana woman went missing and was found deceased weeks later in her car, which was submerged in a pond, local law enforcement ruled her death an accident. Her family, however, had many questions about her death, including why her car was in Park and what had caused the extensive damage to her vehicle before it entered the water.

Although her family had reasonable suspicion that her death was caused by a criminal act, they did not have a way to appeal law enforcement's determination.

In response to her family's situation, the Indiana Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 177 this session, which would permit the immediate family of a deceased individual to request a new investigation by the Indiana State Police (ISP) into the cause of death of their relative.

This legislation specifies in order to make this request, a local law enforcement agency must have determined that the death was not the result of a criminal act, and the individual was not under the care of a physician or the victim of medical malpractice.

Additionally, the families would have to meet reasonable suspicion standards by providing relevant facts and instances drawn from those facts. The ISP would not be required to open a new investigation, but would be obligated to review the request.

To follow SB 177 through the legislative process and view other bills being considered this legislative session, click here