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

For immediate release - Monday, February 23, 2004.

Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Comment of the Attorney General's Office

in Support of Legislation by the Iowa County Attorneys Association to Repeal Iowa Code Provisions Regarding Charitable Contributions in Lieu of Community Service

Comment of the Attorney General's Office:

The Attorney General's Office supports the initiative of the Iowa County Attorneys Association asking the Legislature to repeal portions of Iowa Code Sec. 907.13(2) regarding charitable contributions in lieu of community service. This would prohibit charitable contributions as part of any criminal action or sentence.

We also will cooperate with the ICAA and encourage ICAA to issue guidelines regarding avoidance of the use of formulaic systems designed to allow some moving violations, such as speeding, to be converted to non-moving violations, such as equipment violations. So far, it appears that the great majority of county prosecutors never, or very rarely, reduce or dismiss speeding charges by converting to non-moving violations. However, we think it will be helpful if the County Attorneys Association readdresses this issue in order to provide clear and strong guidance to all county attorneys.

[END] of comment Monday, February 23, 2004.


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 2.8(2)(b)

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.

[END]

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