Government

Iowa county attorneys seek laws to protect children, add penalties

Proposals also increase penalty for using simulated weapon

Nick Maybanks

First assistant Linn County Attorney
Nick Maybanks First assistant Linn County Attorney

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa County Attorneys Association is proposing three new laws that would expand protections for children and that would strengthen penalties for using a simulated weapon during a crime.

Under one proposal, Iowa’s lascivious acts law would be expanded to protect 14- and 15-year-olds, according to Nick Maybanks, the first assistant Linn County attorney, who drafted the bill.

Currently, Iowa law states that someone can be charged with lascivious acts with a minor if the perpetrator is over the age of 18 and in a “position of authority” over a minor under age 14.

Maybanks said he has had cases where a 14- or 15-year-old girl has been groped or fondled by a relative or an employer, but there is no sex-related crime that can be charged. The crime has to be charged as an assault, which doesn’t require the offender to register as a sex offender.

Under the proposed legislation, the offender could be charged with lascivious acts, a serious misdemeanor carrying a one-year jail term, or an aggravated misdemeanor, which carries a two-year term.

Both charges, he said, would require offenders to register as sex offenders for 10 years and be on special parole for 10 years because they were found guilty of a sexual offense.

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the proposal this week, moving it forward for debate on the House floor.

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The county attorneys association also is proposing making second-degree kidnapping a Class B felony if the victim is under age 18. The crime would carry a 25-year prison term.

“The association believes strongly that the kidnapping of a child should be treated more harshly under the law than the kidnapping of an adult and a more serious punishment should be in order,” Maybanks said.

“I know that I was a bit stunned several years ago when I prosecuted a kidnapping case where a father confined his minor son during a police standoff, and the maximum penalty for subjecting that child to that sort of trauma was 10 years,” he said. “It was the same as if he had confined a 40-year-old adult.”

Another proposed bill — Senate File 3006 — would add a simulated firearm, such as a toy gun or an air pistol, to the definition of what is a dangerous weapon.

The county attorneys want the addition to deal with situations where a perpetrator commits a robbery or other crime using simulated gun that creates the same fear in the victim as a real gun but now can be prosecuted only as a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

“Essentially, the offense should be based upon the suspect’s intent when using the firearm or simulated firearm and the effect on the victim, not whether the firearm was real or simply a replica or air pistol,” Maybanks noted.

That bill also is moving forward in the Legislature.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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