Previous comment by the Attorney General's Office on the situation:
Attorney General Miller said, when the DM Register first reported on
these situations: "I have concerns about county attorneys reducing speeding
or other moving violations by having people plead to equipment offenses;
county attorneys representing clients before the DOT on driver's license
matters; and people making contributions to funds as part of resolving
a criminal case. We will cooperate with the Iowa County Attorneys Assn.
to determine what kinds of practices are being used by county attorneys
around the state and develop policies and practices concerning these matters."
Attorney General Miller met with County Attorney Association leaders
Friday, Feb. 20, on this and other issues and discussed with them his
concern about several of the practices that raise ethical and legal concerns.
The ICAA and its Prosecutorial Standards and Conduct Committee will investigate
matters for misconduct and take appropriate action. We also understand
the ICAA has spoken directly with county attorneys involved in several
of these matters.
The Attorney General's Office will work with the ICAA to determine what
kinds of practices prevail and exist around the state in these areas,
and what policy changes need to be made while still respecting the important
principle of prosecutorial discretion.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office has underscored
these basic principles:
All criminal charges and guilty pleas, including traffic violations,
must have a factual basis. Iowa Supreme Court Board of Professional
Ethics and Conduct opinion 87-13, and also Rule of Criminal Procedure
Contributions to charitable organizations must comply with the
probation and community service provisions of the Iowa Code.
Iowa Code section 907.13(2), and articles from Annotations newsletter
of the Prosecuting Attorneys Training Coordinator. (Note: the ICAA is
recommending repeal of part of that statute, and the Attorney General's
Office supports the proposal. See above.)
County attorneys are prohibited from acting as attorney for a
private party in any matter that might conflict with their official duties
as prosecutor. Iowa Code section 331.755(2) and Ethical Consideration
8-8 and also Disciplinary Rule 8-101.
We also will continue to review what training we provide to county attorneys
on these matters through the office of the Prosecuting Attorneys Training
Coordinator. Several of these issues already have been the subject of
ethics and other workshops in county attorney meetings in recent years,
and we expect there will be more focus on these issues in the future.
The Attorney General's Office will continue to emphasize in training
and other settings that all criminal charges and guilty pleas, including
traffic violations, must have a factual basis, and that county attorneys
are prohibited from acting as attorney for a private party in any matter
that might conflict with their official duties as a prosecutor.
We said we would review the prevalence of questionable practices. So
far, we have learned that, statewide, the great majority of counties never
or very rarely reduce or dismiss speeding charges and convert them to
non-moving violations. For fiscal year '03, for example, we think that
was done in about .28% [point-28 %] of the cases, or less than 1 in every
350 speeding cases.
The Attorney General's Office also has talked with lawmakers and will
continue to do so.
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