Iowa Legislature creates new crimes, stiffer punishments during session

Iowa Legislature creates new crimes, stiffer punishments during session

Beyond taxes and education spending, the Iowa Legislature passed numerous laws creating new crimes, increasing penalties for others — which were not listed as priorities before the session’s start.

While they were not as high-profile as some education and state government bills during the session, these changes to Iowa’s criminal code and regulatory structure together made up the majority of the 151 bills the Legislature passed this year. Judiciary bills that did make waves during session included criminalizing being an undocumented migrant in the state and authorizing state law enforcement to deport undocumented people they find in Iowa, and creating immunity for people acting based on their religious belief.

Iowa Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, celebrated the controversial illegal immigration law and other increased criminal punishments after the session.

“Taking matters into our own hands after the failures of the federal government, we passed Senate File 2340, making being an illegal alien in Iowa a state crime. We also raised the penalties for those who make fake reports to law enforcement officers, increased retirement benefits for sheriffs and deputies, and made looting a crime in Iowa.”

Iowa House Minority Whip Lindsay James, D-Dubuque, serves on the House Judiciary Committee and said the illegal immigration bill reflected flawed priorities of Iowa Republicans more broadly.

“The unfortunate reality is that Washington D.C. politics are seeping into our state,” she said. “The fact that (Iowa Gov.) Kim Reynolds continues to send our troopers to the border and say ‘Every state is a border state’ and demonize people who have come here looking for a better life, found its way into our lawmaking this year. The Judiciary Committee, you see a lot of partisan, culture war bills go through. And that does no one any good.”

Cournoyer also used her position as chair of the Senate Technology Committee to run bills creating new crimes for online harassments. One new law expanded the state’s sexual harassment code to include creating or distributing digital material that shows someone nude and/or engaged in sexual acts, including material that has been altered to falsely depict those acts — a top priority of Cournoyer’s since she heard of such altered material being made of a high school student, she told the TH at the State Capitol this session.

Along those lines, the Legislature also passed bills to criminalize generating and distributing digitally altered — often AI-generated — images of people, which Iowa Rep. Shannon Lundgren, R-Peosta, said was particularly important in an election year.

“The digital likeness issue was a big one,” she said. “People can take a picture of you now, and make you walk and talk and say whatever they want. Here in Iowa, it’s not like the Democratic Party are going to do that to Iowa Republicans or vice versa. But you could get big, national PACs who would do that here.”

The Legislature also increased punishments for several controlled substances, for assault by a person violating a protective order, robbery, trespassing, tampering with witnesses or jurors, bestiality, human trafficking, nuisances at “adult cabarets” or strip clubs. The Legislature also created the crimes of organized retail theft and looting, a Republican talking point this election cycle highlighting cases in big, Democrat-led cities.

You can read the full article at the Telegraph Herald.