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

For immediate release -- Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Contact Bob Brammer -- 515-281-6699.

Miller Proposes Criminal Laws for 2005

DES MOINES.   Attorney General Tom Miller today announced a series of proposed changes in Iowa criminal laws he has submitted to the Iowa Legislature. In three primary proposals, Miller proposes increased spending for drug treatment to fight crime, a pilot grant program to enhance the efficiency of county attorney offices, and the classification of pseudoephedrine as a "schedule V" drug to fight the problem of meth labs. [Click here for link to full description of the Attorney Generalís criminal law proposals.]

In his three main proposals, Miller called on the legislature to:

  • Increase spending for drug treatment and prevention by $14 million. "There is an overwhelming linkage between drugs and crime," he said. "To fight drugs we need to do prosecution, prevention and treatment, and right now the area where we are falling behind is treatment. It's the most important thing we can do now to stem the state's methamphetamine problem and fight all drug-related crime. This is a crucial and cost-effective public safety measure."

    The proposal would provide increases in community-based treatment ($5 million); corrections treatment ($2.5 million); drug courts ($3 million); jail programs ($2 million); the state training schools ($390,000); and prevention grants ($1 million).
  • Establish a $300,000 pilot grant program to provide for the shared use of Assistant County Attorneys among the smaller-population counties in Iowa, with the goal of enhancing efficiency through the use of increased specialization and innovation.
  • Classify any product containing pseudoephedrine as a "schedule V" drug as an important step to discourage meth production in Iowa. The classification change would require that only pharmacists could dispense pseudoephedrine, and that persons obtaining pseudoephedrine would have to show identification and sign a logbook. It would not require a prescription. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient in making methamphetamine. "When this proposal was adopted in Oklahoma it resulted in a dramatic drop in methamphetamine labs," Miller said. "It is important for us to act now since meth labs are being found at a record pace across Iowa. Meth labs represent a unique threat to law enforcement and the public, including children living in meth homes, because of the potential for explosion, fire, and toxicity.

Miller also asked the Legislature to:

  • Change the DNA statutes. DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. This bill would make corrective technical changes to the Iowa Code to keep Iowa up to date. The changes, based on model DNA legislation proposed by the U.S. Justice Department, would codify the establishment of the DNA database; strengthen uniform procedures to collect DNA samples; provide for confidentiality procedures, and extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse when DNA identifies a suspect.
  • Strengthen the definition of sexually violent predators. Miller proposed to change Iowa law to clarify what qualifies as a predatory act in the definition of a sexually violent predator. This change would make it clear that the statute applies to stranger rapists as well as people that establish a relationship with their victims. This bill also would increase the penalty for escape or attempted escape from the Civil Commitment Unit from a simple misdemeanor to a class "D" felony.

  • Change post-conviction relief provisions. This bill would bring the statute governing the availability of post-conviction relief procedures into harmony with other provisions of the Iowa Code. The bill would make post-conviction relief procedures available to a person who has been convicted of an indictable offense, but close the loophole which has allowed persons convicted of simple misdemeanors to use post-conviction relief procedures to make repeated attacks on their convictions. The proposal would conserve judicial resources and make the post-conviction relief statute consistent with related statutes.

  • Prohibit possession of firearms in domestic violence cases. This bill would prohibit persons who have been convicted of a domestic abuse assault, or who are currently the subject of a pending domestic abuse no-contact order, from possessing a firearm. Under current Iowa law, only felons are prohibited from possessing firearms. The change would make state law consistent with federal law and would address a significant problem. Since 1995, records indicate 124 Iowans have been killed in domestic abuse murders, including 16 children. Of these 124 murders, 74 men, women, and children were killed by the use of a gun.

  • Expand the criminal offense of possessing contraband in correctional institutions to include possessing contraband in juvenile facilities. Current law provides that it is a crime to bring contraband such as knives or razors into jails or juvenile detention facilities, but not to possess the contraband.
  • Close a loophole that allows criminals to shield their pensions when they are ordered to pay restitution as the result of a death from a felony. Under current law, if someone is convicted of a felony resulting in the death of a victim, the court is required to order at least $150,000 in restitution to the victim's estate. However, under Iowa law, pensions are exempted. This proposal would close that loophole.
  • Strengthen Iowa law regarding strangling. This bill addresses the need to treat the act of strangulation more consistently and as a serious offense. Under current law, if a perpetrator strangles a victim and no bodily injury results, prosecutors could charge a wide range of crimes ranging from a simple misdemeanor assault to attempted murder. This bill would clarify that such an act is a serious offense and provide that a person is guilty of a Class "C" felony even if no bodily injury resulted.

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