The news broke over the last week that David Bisard was released from prison to start serving probation. Many in the Central Indiana biker community and the community overall have expressed outrage that Bisard could be released after serving only 3 ½ years of an announced 16 year sentence.  I want to take the chance to try to show how this happened and let you know how you can make sure your voice is heard.

First, in 2014 the Indiana Legislature re-wrote the criminal code for the state. Notably, the old system of felonies graded by letter (4 levels from D to A) was replaced by a number system (6-1).  Bisard was sentenced under the old system for his convictions for:

1: Operating a Vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.15 Causing Death – Class B Felony

2: Operating a Vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.08 Causing Serious Bodily Injury – Class D Felony

3: Operating a Vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.08 Causing Serious Bodily Injury – Class D Felony

For a Class B Felony, the penalty range was 6-20.  A Class D Felony ranged between 1-3 years.  So the maximum possible penalty Bisard, or anyone else facing the same charges, could have received on paper was 26 total years.  He also could have gotten as low as 6 years.  Bisard’s actual sentence was:

Class B Felony: 13 total years.  10 years in prison.  3 years suspended to probation.

Class D Felony: 1 ½ total years.  1 ½ totals years in prison

Class D Felony: 1 ½ total years.  1 ½ totals years in prison

TOTAL Sentence: 16 total years.  13 years in prison.  3 years suspended to probation

So how does someone sentenced to 13 years in prison get out in 3 ½? First is good time credit.  When he was sentenced, an inmate received one day of good time credit for each day served.  So when he was sentenced to 13 total years in prison, it effectively was a 6 ½ year prison term.  Second, Bisard also received jail credit days for the time he was in custody awaiting trial.  Additionally, he received his associates degree while in prison and was given the benefit of another time cut.  Good Time Credit and time cuts happen every day because of the system that was and is in place.  Most of us are just generally unaware of it unless it happens with a defendant that has harmed us or one of our loved ones.

What’s Broken?

There are a number of issues with the sentencing laws for this crime. For example, with the rewrite of the criminal code the maximum actual number of years for what Bisard did is now 8 years instead of 10.  Also, with the rewrite, there is never a mandatory executed sentence for a drunk driving causing death unless there is also a hit & run component.

The definition of “Serious Bodily Injury” also deserves to be looked at by the legislature. As it is written, serious bodily injury covers everything from a broken arm to putting someone in a coma.  In either case, there are no enhancements beyond the 1-3 year penalty range for the degree of injury or level of intoxication.  This is more pronounced now because the equivalent charge has a 1 – 2 ½ year penalty range with the same 50% credit time system.

The civil law system also has disadvantages in a case like this. Because Bisard was working as an IMPD officer at the time of the crash, any claim for compensation by those injured by him is subject to the Indiana Tort Claims Act (click HERE for a video with more information on the ITCA).  So whether someone has passed away or suffered lifelong and debilitating injuries, the most the government can be required to pay to compensate is $700,000 per person.  At first blush this sounds like a great deal of money, unless you’ve seen the medical bills that come along with catastrophic injury.

How to be Heard

The problems with the David Bisard sentencing are not unique to him. Victims, and their families, all over the state have this happen to them every day.  The only people who can make changes to the criminal and civil laws that allowed this situation to happen are the legislators at the Indiana General Assembly.  Click HERE to find your legislator and let your voice be heard.

Matthew S. Bigler, Esq.