116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Three bills proposed by the Iowa County Attorneys Association will close “loopholes” in existing laws and provide more protection for adult and child sex abuse victims, Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said Monday.
Maybanks, who is a member of the association’s legislative committee, was in Des Moines last Thursday to meet with lawmakers about the prosecutors’ proposed bills, which are moving through committees and on track to pass.
During every legislative session, the prosecutors usually bring attention to deficiencies in existing laws that need to be refined because they’ve had unintentional consequences for crime victims.
One such loophole concerns no-contact orders not being filed immediately against a defendant charged with sexual abuse of an adult or a child, Maybanks said. Proposed House Bill 2079 would prevent a defendant charged with first-degree, second-degree or third-degree sexual abuse from posting bail until they have an initial court appearance and a judge can file a no-contact order.
Maybanks said Anastasia Basquin, chief victim liaison for the Linn County Attorney’s Office and former chair of the association’s Victim Witness Coordinators Section Council, brought this to his attention and he proposed it as one of the association’s legislative priorities.
Basquin said alleged sex abusers often post bail immediately after their arrest. Even when a protection order request is made later, it may take some time before law enforcement can serve it because the defendant may not be home or officers can’t find them.
“There is court every morning, and a judge could see the defendant soon after arrest and order the no-contact,” she said. “A no-contact order filed before a defendant posts bail is already required in domestic abuse cases but not these.”
Basquin said she recalls situations where defendants, not long after being arrested and released, have shown up near a victim’s home. The no-contact order could prevent this from happening.
Another of the prosecutors’ proposed bills, Senate File 2253, would close a loophole in the “rape shield law,” which doesn’t protect a sexual abuse victim from being asked about a previous consensual sex partner during pretrial proceedings, such as depositions, Maybanks said. During a trial, the shield law gives this protection but it hasn’t applied to pretrial or post-conviction proceedings. Defense attorneys often delve into this information during depositions, even if they can’t use it during the trial, Maybanks said.
He noted that defense attorneys sometimes ask about those situations because they may try to argue another person is the source of DNA found in the case or previous sexual activity with the accused was consensual, which would be the only legitimate reasons to ask. Otherwise, asking a victim would only be for the purpose to intimidate or embarrass, he said.
The other proposed bill, SF 3016, concerns an extension of the “hearsay exception,” which would allow a witness, found to be reliable, to testify about what a child sex abuse victim disclosed to them. There are some exceptions now, but currently the law doesn’t allow a witness such as a teacher or family member to testify because it would be considered hearsay.
Maybanks said this is something other states already allow in these types of cases. He is hoping this bill will make it through the Senate funnel at the end of the week.
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