Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release -- December 22, 2000.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699

Miller Proposes New Criminal Laws

The measures focus on reducing the incidence of crimes that harm children, and on reducing domestic violence.

DES MOINES-- Attorney General Tom Miller announced a battery of proposed changes in Iowa criminal laws in order to reduce abuse aimed at children and reduce domestic violence.

Miller made several proposals concerning children:

A program to spark creation of local Investigation/Prosecution Teams that can respond immediately when a child has been seriously injured or sexually abused. "The Court can't do its part in protecting children unless evidence is effectively gathered and preserved," Miller said. Key members would include the county prosecutor, law enforcement, the Dept. of Human Services, and a medical consultant.

"We also propose a couple measures to address a relatively new problem, sexual exploitation of children in connection with the Internet," Miller said. He will ask the Legislature to change the current "Enticing a Child" statute to "Solicitation of a Minor" - and expand the crime to cover pedophiles who engage in conversations in computer chat rooms and convince a child to meet with the intent of entering into a sexual relationship.

"Millions of children are on-line every month," Miller said. "Unfortunately, about one of every five children who regularly use the Internet have received unwanted sexual solicitations or approaches in the last year. We have to update our laws to protect kids better."

Miller also will ask the Legislature to close a loophole by amending the child pornography statute to include prohibiting creation of materials depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, even if the material actually may be pictures that were technologically "morphed" or altered from otherwise innocent pictures of children or adults.

Expand the scope of "child endangerment" for committing certain acts in front of children, such as intentionally injuring another person, displaying a weapon, or committing a forcible felony. "Children who witness violence often are invisible victims," Miller said. "This can cause long-term harm such as emotional or psychological damage or increased risk of delinquency and the child becoming violent later in life."

Amend the "child in need of assistance" and child abuse statutes to include parents or care-givers who manufacture drugs in the presence of children. Such behavior sharply increases a child's risk of neglect, abuse and sometimes even fires and explosions.

Miller proposed several measures aimed at curbing domestic abuse, including:

Expand the scope of domestic abuse to include persons in dating or intimate relationships, especially so victims can obtain protection such as no-contact orders from a court, and so courts can order perpetrators to obtain abuse counseling and education. Current Iowa law extends such protection only to persons who are married, have a child in common, or were cohabiting within one year of the incident.
"The U.S. Justice Department reports that 40% of domestic violence incidents involve non-married persons," Miller said. "The highest rate of all is for young persons age 16-24. We need to extend our law's protection to these people, and that will also help us avoid future violence as they enter marriages and long-term relationships."

Prohibit possession of firearms by persons convicted of domestic violence or who are subject to no-contact orders. "This would make Iowa law parallel to Federal law," Miller said. "This is very important because almost two-thirds of Iowans killed in domestic abuse murders over the last decade were killed by guns. We need to get firearms out of the situation."

Increase the penalty for repeated violations of no-contact orders. Miller's proposal would make second-offense violation of a no-contact order an aggravated misdemeanor, and would make it a class "D" felony for a third or subsequent offense. "This makes sense because we know that repeat violation of no-contact orders is a strong indicator that a domestic abuser or stalker poses a greater threat."

Miller also said he supports expanding the state's drug courts. He also proposed several other measures to update and improve the Iowa Criminal Code.

"The theme here is that we can do better to reduce the danger of abuse in Iowa for both children and adults," Miller said. "This is an effective list of things the Legislature can do to improve the lives and safety of many Iowans."

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