Iowa lawmakers pass bill cracking down on skimming devices

Senate OKs 'second chance' bill to clear some charges from record

Sen. Brad Zaun

Sen. Brad Zaun R-Urbandale

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate voted 49-0 Thursday to make it easier to prosecute criminals who place skimming devices on ATMs and fuel pumps to steal credit card information — a practice that apparently is proliferating in Iowa.

House File 2199, which is en route to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk for her consideration, seeks to clarify intent to defraud language in the Iowa code and expand the definition of third-degree criminal mischief to keep up with changing technology.

Skimmers are scanning devices attached to payment terminals to harvest data from every card that’s swiped. The information, whether it is manually removed from the ATM or fuel pump or retrieved though a Bluetooth connection, can be used to clone the card or break into bank accounts.

“There’s only one reason why they have that technology is to steal from Iowans,” said Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, the bill’s floor manager.

“We want to put a stop to that,” he said. “This bill updates the current law on these scanning devices to account for the changes in technology.”

Under the bill, a person commits a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of at least $750 but not more than $7,500 if the person directly or indirectly uses a scanning device or encoding machine to access, read, obtain, memorize or store information encoded on a payment card without the permission of the authorized user, the issuer of the authorized user’s payment card or a merchant.

The bill also removes the requirement that anyone using a scanner have the intent to defraud the card user, issuer or merchant.

The bill also creates a new criminal offense — that a person shall not possess a scanning device with the intent to obtain information encoded on a payment card, or the knowledge that a person other than the user, the issuer or a merchant intends to use the scanning device to obtain information encoded on a payment card without permission from the user, issuer or merchant. Violation of that provision also would be a Class D felony.

The bill expands third-degree criminal mischief to include when a person intentionally damages, defaces, alters or destroys real or personal property that has the ability to process a payment card as defined by current Iowa law. The offense is an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by no more than two years in prison and a fine from $650 to $6,250.

‘Second chance’

Another bill that senators sent to the House, on a 47-2 vote, is a significant rewrite of provisions of Iowa’s criminal code that incorporated several stand-alone measures under an omnibus umbrella.

Senate File 2382 includes a provision allowing a person with a misdemeanor conviction — who has not had any charges or convictions in the eight years following the offense — to have the misdemeanor conviction expunged from their record.

The bill “recognizes people can earn a second chance,” Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, said.

He predicted the measure would have “a positive effect for literally of tens of thousands of Iowans in our criminal justice system” if it passes the Iowa House and is signed by the governor.

“This bill is a second-chance bill,” Dawson said. “The ability to expunge a misdemeanor record for the first time, finally providing an opportunity for persons who have proved good conduct for eight years, helping them in their professions to move up in their job or to seek another job where barriers previously existed.”

other crimes

Other provisions of Senate File 2382 include:

l Marijuana: Lowers the penalty for marijuana possession so that possession of five grams or less of marijuana would be a simple misdemeanor punishable by no more than 30 days in jail and/or a fine between $65 and $620. Currently, first-offense possession of marijuana is a serious misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a fine of not more than $1,000.

l Simulated firearms: Treats a simulated firearm or explosive the same as a dangerous weapon when used in a dangerous manner.

The Iowa Association of County Attorneys requested the change to deal with situations where a perpetrator commits a robbery or other crime using a toy gun, a BB gun or fake gun or even a pointed finger concealed in a coat or otherwise cloaked that creates the same fear in the person being threatened.

The change treats the simulation the same as a real firearm or explosive and boosts the penalty to a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

l Speeding: Creates a Class C felony with a 10-year prison term for driving a vehicle 25 mph over the speed limit when the speeding results in a death.

l Values: Raises the values of damaged or stolen property or services necessary to commit certain levels of numerous criminal offenses.

l Driver’s licenses: Repeals a 180-day suspension of a driver’s license for committing certain drug offenses.

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