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Domestic violence bill signed into law enhances penalties for repeat offenders
Three Linn County assistant prosecutors suggested the change
DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday signed into law a domestic violence bill proposed by the Linn County Attorney’s Office that strengthens prosecution of repeat domestic abuse offenders.
The bill, House File 112, eliminates the period of time requirement before reoffenders can be charged with felony or enhanced misdemeanor charges.
The bill was submitted as a priority bill of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, but the idea came from three assistant Linn County prosecutors. Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks approved the suggestion and submitted it to the association, which submitted it to lawmakers.
The bill eliminates the current “look-back period” of 12 years in prosecuting domestic violence.
Prosecutors currently can “enhance” a charge — meaning they can seek a more severe penalty — if an abuser has had a previous domestic conviction in the past 12 years. If the previous conviction was older than 12 years, it could not be considered and used to enhance a charge.
The new law removes that time barrier so any previous conviction can be considered when charging a domestic violence case and considering an enhancement.
Assistant Linn County Attorney Molly Edwards said she and Alex Anderson and Ryan Decker, also assistant prosecutors, suggested the law be changed because they kept seeing “serial” domestic abusers getting breaks that non-violent offenders did not.
“The way the law was written had the effect of allowing violent offenders to avoid felony or enhanced misdemeanor charges due to nothing more than the passage of time, whether or not the offenders had changed their behaviors,” Edwards told The Gazette.
“The law does not offer the same protection for non-violent offenders who commit a victimless crime like possession of a controlled substance, which has no look-back period.”
With the new law, if an individual has a second domestic abuse offense, it can be bumped up from a misdemeanor to a serious misdemeanor or an aggravated misdemeanor — meaning jail time, Maybanks said.
A third offense would carry a felony charge of five years or more in prison, he said.
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