Penalties increase for crimes that harm the most vulnerable Iowans

Penalties increase for crimes that harm the most vulnerable Iowans

Some of the new criminal laws that took effect July 1 greatly increase penalties for offenders who harm some of the most vulnerable Iowans — pregnant women and children.

The laws either change the offense from an aggravated misdemeanor to a felony, or bump up the charge to a more severe felony level — meaning more prison time.

Lawmakers passed HF 570, which adds a new subsection in 708. 2 that specifically focuses on domestic abuse assault against a pregnant woman when the assault includes the use or display of a dangerous weapon. That crime is now a Class D felony, which carries a five-year sentence. Previously, it was an aggravated misdemeanor for domestic abuse assault.

If an individual is convicted on this charge in a first offense, then the second domestic abuse assault charge would also be a Class D felony, according to the law.

Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said this law is a “first of its kind” in Iowa that specifically addresses crimes against pregnant women.

“It’s exceedingly disturbing that a pregnant woman wasn’t recognized as a vulnerable person before this,” Maybanks added.

Increased penalties for crimes against children

Lawmakers also passed SF 84, which includes enhanced penalties under the charges of sexual exploitation of a minor — child pornography.

The penalty for use, persuade, induce, entice, coerce, solicit and knowingly permit a minor to engage in a prohibited sex act that is photographed is now a Class B felony, which carries a penalty of 25 years. The crime was previously a C felony with a penalty of five years.

The change could reduce referrals of sexual exploitation of a minor — child pornography to federal court because it puts more teeth in the state law. Typically, federal court has had harsher penalties for these crimes, but many time, crimes do not meet the requirements of a federal charge.

The penalties for promoting the visual depiction of child pornography or sharing it are now increased from a five- to a 10-year sentence, and a possession conviction has intensified from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D felony, with a penalty of five years. A second offense carries a penalty of 10 years in prison.

Maybanks said the law also stipulates higher penalties for offenders, even if their victims were actually law enforcement officers or agents posing as minors on the internet.

“The state law on these have been woefully inadequate for years,” Maybanks said. “These will help us catch up with the federal court penalties.”

You can read the full article at The Gazette.