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Crime bills that are a priority of Iowa prosecutors are advancing in the Iowa Legislature, with one signed into law by Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Most of the bills close a gap in a law, provide clarification or add enhancements to existing laws, First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said.
The four priority bills of the Iowa County Attorneys Association, he said, focus on sex abuse charges and protections for children.
Reynolds has signed House File 231 into law, a bill that closes a gap in a first-degree burglary charge when it involves a sexual offense, Maybanks said.
The new law allow a judge to add a special sentence of lifetime parole for the defendant if sexual abuse is part of the burglary. Before, a prosecutor would have to file two charges - one for burglary and one for the sex abuse, he said.
Second- or third-degree sexual abuse sentencing already requires special parole sentences following any prison term. The special sentence for first-degree burglary now adds another layer of protection for victims, Maybanks added.
Senate File 253, waiting for Reynolds' signature, will allow prosecutors to charge a defendant with second-degree sexual abuse if a victim is 12 or 13. The current law allows that charge only for victims under the age of 12.
Currently, if a sex abuse victim is 12 or 13, a defendant is charged with third-degree sex abuse.
'Prosecutors didn't find it logical that the law didn't provide the same protections for a 12- and 13-year-old as it did for a younger child,” Maybanks said.
The penalty between the two charges differs by 15 years in prison, Maybanks pointed out.
Conviction on a second-degree sexual abuse charge carries 25 years in prison with a mandatory minimum of 17-1/2 years before the defendant is eligible for parole. The third-degree charge carries up to 10 years in prison without a mandatory minimum.
Senate File 172, also awaiting Reynolds' review, clarifies the definition of a sex act and broadens it to include other body parts that an abuser touches.
Maybanks said this law is needed because of incidents where contact wasn't determined to be sexual contact because the contact was on a victim's arm or leg. If that occurred, the only option was a lesser charge, such as lascivious acts with a minor.
Another bill still under consideration, House File 201, would add an enhancement to the charge of extortion if the crime was sexually motivated, such as if a man threatens to send out nude photos of a woman if she doesn't continue to have sex with him, Maybanks said.
If the bill becomes law, the convicted individual would be required to be listed on the sex offender registry for 10 years.
The last bill, House File 361, has been passed by the Iowa House and would allow a child witness under the age of 18 to have a guardian ad litem represent them during all stages of a child abuse case.
Maybanks said having a guardian further protects a child because the current law only provides an appointment of a guardian ad litem for children under age 14.
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