Public Safety

Child sex abusers will get more prison time under new Iowa law

Another new law will increase time for people fleeing police

(File photo) A guard tower at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison on Friday, Apr. 10, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The G
(File photo) A guard tower at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison on Friday, Apr. 10, 2015. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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Two state laws enacted this week, which were proposed by the Iowa County Attorneys Association, will increase prison time for child sex abusers and for repeat offenders who endanger lives by fleeing police in high-speed chases.

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks, a member of the association’s legislative committee, said these were the most significant bills among a handful of others the group proposed this year. The two bills provide penalty enhancements and close a loophole in one of the offenses.

One of the new charges, proposed to the committee by Assistant Pottawattamie County Attorney Mimi Dobson, is “continuous” sexual abuse of a child, which is a Class B felony — 50 years in prison.

This law addresses defendants 18 years or older who sexually abuse a child who is 14-years old or younger, on three or more occasions and there are 30 days separating the first and last sex act, according to the law.

Maybanks said he’s had many, if not “almost all,” child sexual abuse cases that involve this situation. Sexual abuse against children is committed mostly by a family member or someone the family knows or someone who has access to the child. A onetime incident is rare, he said.

An example is of a child reporting one day that a man has abused her but she was around him every few weeks, so the sex acts continued over a period of time.

This law requires the jury to unanimously agree that three or more acts of sexual abuse were committed with the same child and there was at least 30 days in between the first and last acts, Maybanks said. But the jury doesn’t have to agree which specific acts were committed or the exact date of those acts.

That part is important because the abuse usually happens over time and makes it difficult for children to recall and cite what specific acts took place on certain dates, he noted.

“This law recognizes the dynamics and nature of child sexual abuse and holds offenders accountable for repeated acts,” Maybanks said.

The law also states that a person can’t be charged for another sexual abuse offense involving the same child unless the other offense happened outside the time period charged in this offense. A defendant also can be charged with only one count under this offense, unless there is more than one victim.

The other law, eluding or attempting to elude a law enforcement vehicle, has enhanced penalties for repeat offenders and closes the loophole in the law for those who are drinking and fleeing.

A driver who has a previous conviction for eluding or attempting to elude and driving over 25 mph or more will now be charged with the next level offense.

For example, if a defendant has a conviction for eluding or attempting to elude while intoxicated, it’s a Class D felony — five years in prison. If the defendant gets a second offense, it would be a Class C felony — 10 years.

Maybanks, who drafted the committee bill, said the loophole allowed a deferred judgment for a defendant who was convicted of eluding or attempting to elude, going 25 mph or more while intoxicated and testing over a .15 percent blood-alcohol level or who had refused a breath test.

But a defendant convicted of a first offense of operating while intoxicated with over a .15 percent blood-alcohol level or refusing a breath test is not eligible for a deferred judgment.

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“It didn’t make sense,” Maybanks said. “These are high-speed, dangerous situations that put the public at risk. We saw these cases increasing over the last five years and are seeing more repeat offenders.”

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

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