immediate release --April 23, 1999.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699
Attorney General Tom Miller Criminal Law
1999 Legislative Proposals
According to the law enforcement community, metham-phetamine has become
the number one drug problem in Iowa. Even the national news media, in
programs such as Nightline and 48 Hours, have highlighted Iowa's extensive
a synthetic drug, providing the user with a "high" that is difficult
to compare to any other drug. Methamphetamine produces alertness, speediness,
and is often referred to as the "poor man's drug." People who
use methamphetamine only once may become addicted. Unfortunately, methamphetamine
tears families apart, ruins lives, and kills.
Importance of a comprehensive
Attorney General Miller
strongly supports the comprehensive approach advocated by Gov. Tom Vilsack
to tackle the meth emergency. A full-spectrum approach goes beyond law
enforcement to include reducing demand and working to provide an effective
meth addiction treatment approach. Miller also said it is essential for
all the State's policy leaders to work cooperatively and constructively
on the meth problem.
Miller supports Gov.
Tom Vilsack's making meth one of his highest overall priorities, his strong
emphasis on education to dissuade people from trying meth, and his use
of the "bully pulpit" as an indispensable means of addressing
the problem. Miller also notes that national "drug czar" Gen.
Barry McCaffrey also subscribes to the pivotal role of education, demand
reduction, and treatment, since meth is extraordinarily addictive. Miller
notes that meth prosecution and punishment already have been strengthened
substantially in the last couple years.
On reducing demand,
Miller supported the Governor's use of his office to call attention to
education and other means to reach especially young people, and Miller
said community groups, schools and others must mobilize to cooperate and
find effective approaches. Reducing demand may be the greatest challenge,
Miller says, and it will require strong focus by the Governor, Legislature
and all parties to determine and provide the best approaches.
On treatment, Miller
noted concerns that we still need to find effective treatment measures
for a drug that appears to be extraordinarily addictive and to cause brain
damage. Local, state and federal officials must cooperate to find and
implement effective treatment measures.
As the State's top
law enforcement official, Miller offers several proposals on the law enforcement
and prosecution end of the spectrum of policies that should be adopted.
The Attorney General's
recommendations on enforcement:
Making meth has become
about as easy as baking bread, and "recipes" are easily obtained
over the Internet. In 1998, over 300 meth labs were discovered and seized
by authorities in Iowa. Manufacturers have resorted to newer techniques
using readily available unregulated chemicals, such as lithium from batteries,
ether, and anhydrous ammonia. Law enforcement officials report more incidents
of clandestine laboratories using such alternative ingredients and methods
to manufacture illegal methamphetamine.
Hazardous wastes produced
by clandestine labs have become a nuisance to law enforcement and a significant
danger to the public. Materials may be explosive, toxic, or corrosive.
After labs are discovered and processed for evidence, law enforcement
officers must keep the site secure in order to protect the public from
the hazardous waste. Currently, hazardous waste clean-up crews are responding
from Missouri. These crews sometimes take as long as 16 hours to arrive
to start the clean up.
Miller said State
support is needed to help local law enforcement and public officials for
whom meth is becoming a very costly and time-consuming problem.
The Attorney General's methamphetamine legislative proposal addresses
three separate but integral issues:
- Expand the list
of chemicals used in alternative methods of manufacture and make it
illegal to possess these chemicals with the intent to manufacture an
illegal substance such as methamphetamine. The list should be expanded
to include anhydrous ammonia, ether, lithium, liquid nitrogen, red phosphorous,
and other chemicals.
- Make it illegal
to dispose hazardous waste that is a product of unlawful manufacture
of a controlled substance, punishable by a fine or not more than fifty
thousand dollars and imprisonment of not more than five years. Criminal
charges related to hazardous wastes are rarely prosecuted now because
alternative charges, such as manufacturing a controlled substance, are
felonies, while hazardous waste charges are only misdemeanors. The change
would give prosecutors one more useful tool.
- Establish a civil
penalty for failure to clean up a hazardous waste site. This would serve
two purposes. First, it would help pay for cleaning up clandestine lab
sites. Second, the civil penalty would help recover costs for enforcement
and prosecution of methamphetamine manufacturing cases.
Iowa's interception of communication law is out of date. Current law fails
to address interception that could involve pagers, cellular telephones,
and other new wireless and electronic technologies, and the law only provides
authority for courts to order wiretapping when there is evidence of a
felony drug offense.
surveillance is one of the most important and most powerful tools law
enforcement has to prevent or solve criminal activity. Evidence and information
obtained through court-authorized surveillance cannot be obtained through
other methods or investigative techniques.
Interception of communication
can be a very important tool in combating drug cartels and high-level
drug trafficking in the State. Miller said that since enactment of Iowa's
wire tap law, the Attorney General's Office has applied twice for wire
tap authority -- both for large-scale meth operations that involved traffickers
with out-of-state connections.
THE PROPOSAL: The
Attorney General's legislative proposal would provide authorized law enforcement
agencies with the technical assistance necessary to conduct lawful interceptions
of communications. The proposal would expand the law so the court could
authorize interception of electronic communications, and expand the law
to provide for interception of communication when there is evidence of
felony offenses of money laundering or ongoing criminal conduct.
The proposal also
would allow authorized law enforcement agencies to use court-authorized
"pen registers" and "trap and trace" devices. Pen
registers are used to identify numbers dialed from the line to which the
device is attached. Trap and trace devices identify the origin of call
made to line to which the device is attached. Trap and trace and pen register
devices also would be made available to law enforcement when an emergency
exists that involves immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury
to any person.
Use of trap and trace
and pen registry devices is less intrusive and less expensive than other
THE PROBLEM: One
of every twelve women and one of every forty-five men in the United States
has been stalked, according to the U.S. Census.
Stalkers can be extremely
threatening, dangerous and often violent to their victims and to family
members and co-workers of their victims. Stalking victims frequently live
in fear and terror and often are forced to alter their lives dramatically
in their search for safety and freedom.
According to the Iowa
Court Improvement System, twenty-nine offenders have been convicted of
felonious stalking since 1996. Two cases are on appeal.
Iowa law now ensures
that victims of stalking are protected by no-contact orders. However,
according to a survey completed by the National Institute of Justice,
70 percent of all such restraining orders obtained against stalkers are
violated. It is imperative that Iowa law should recognize the seriousness
of this crime and treat felonious stalking like other felonious crimes.
Experts say that limiting
a stalker's access to the victim is the only way to ensure safety for
the victim, and they advise to do this through incarceration.
THE PROPOSAL: The
Attorney General's legislative proposal validates the seriousness of stalking
crimes. It would restrict bail bonds for those awaiting sentencing following
either a plea or verdict of guilty of felonious stalking, and those who
are appealing a conviction.
Here is an example:
An offender/stalker brutally abused his girlfriend in Illinois. When she
moved out, he continually harassed and stalked her for three years. He
followed her from shelter to shelter and friend's house to friend's house.
He then was convicted of battery and of violating a protective order in
Illinois. When the victim moved to Iowa, he tracked her down at her new
residence. The offender was then convicted of felonious stalking in Johnson
County. Currently, the offender is free on an appeal bond. Meanwhile,
the victim continues to live in fear. Under the proposal the offender
would not be eligible for release on an appeal bond.
THE PROBLEM: Iowans
who are victims of violent crime generally are eligible for crime victim
compensation -- payment for some of the out-of-pocket costs they may incur
if they are victims of crimes such as assault and drunken driving. Every
penny of crime victim compensation is paid from fines and penalties paid
by criminals. Victim compensation only covers expenses not covered by
other sources such as insurance. Even though it can't erase the trauma
and all the costs of violent crime, compensation is a very important means
to help victims heal.
There are two problems
addressed by the proposed legislation: (1) The current maximum compensation
for medical benefits ($10,500) has fallen far behind the increase in medical
costs. The limit was set at $10,000 in 1983 and was only bumped up slightly
to $10,500 in 1990. It should be increased. (2) Some otherwise eligible
persons fail to apply within two years as presently required by law.
- Increase the maximum
crime victim compensation benefit from $10,500 to $15,000. The compensation
fund has the funds to cover such an increase, and the increase recognizes
the increased costs incurred by innocent victims of violent crime
- Provide a good-cause
exemption for certain victims who file an application later than the
two-year limit prescribed in the law, in cases where there was a system,
health or safety barrier to timely application. Otherwise-eligible victims
sometimes have good cause for not filing an application within the required
two years. For example, trials sometimes are delayed for a couple years
and prosecutors fail to inform victims in time about victim compensation.
Sometimes local authorities may not inform victims because they don't
know victims may be entitled to compensation. (Example: persons whose
child was killed five or six years ago may learn much later that they
are eligible for compensation for all-important grief counseling or
even funeral expenses.) In such cases, administrators should be able
to exercise a good-cause exemption for the victims. Note: the compensation
statute also has a requirement that victims must report a crime within
three days; but that requirement also has a good-cause exemption. The
same flexibility should be available in the interest of justice when
it comes to the application deadline.
The Legislature passed Iowa's Sexually Violent Predator Act last year
and it took effect July 1, 1998. Because the law is based closely on a
Kansas statute, it needs changes to make a better "fit" with
other Iowa law.
The Sexually Violent
Predator Act provides for civil commitment of certain sex offenders. Under
the Act, to be civilly committed, an offender who has completed serving
a sentence for a sexual offense must be shown to have a mental disorder
which would create a probability that the offender will engage in acts
that are sexually violent.
is divided into two sections. The first section relates to the Sexually
Violent Predator Act and the second relates to child abuse records.
The first section
would make Iowa Code chapter 229A consistent with other established procedural
deadlines established by the Iowa Code and the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure.
The time for making a demand for a jury trial would be changed from four
days to ten days. The proposal also would remove the requirement that
the Attorney General file a petition of notice within seventy-five days
of the date the Attorney General received a recommendation that an offender
be civilly committed. (The State still would be required to make a filing
decision prior to the release of the offender from confinement.) In addition,
the proposal would provide prosecuting attorneys with the power to subpoena
witnesses and documents in order to do a thorough investigation and make
an informed decision prior to filing a commitment petition.
The second section
of the proposal would provided the Department of Justice with access to
child sexual abuse records for use in sexually violent predator proceedings.
Current law requires that child abuse records be sealed after ten years
from the initial report; and the records remain sealed for eight years,
at which time they are expunged. The proposal would authorize access to
the sealed child sexual abuse records by the Department of Justice for
use in sexually violent predator investigations. The proposal also would
provide that sealed records of report and disposition data concerning
child sexual abuse would be maintained indefinitely.
Possession and use of contraband poses a serious security and safety threat
in state correctional facilities, county jails and juvenile detention
facilities. Contraband includes drugs and weapons, but also includes a
key, hypodermic needle, knife, razor, rope and other items that could
be used to facilitate escape. While the present law makes it illegal to
provide contraband to inmates, it does not expressly prohibit possession
of contraband by inmates or others (except for specific items, such as
illegal controlled substances.)
Cases are prosecuted
now as aiding and abetting under the sections on providing contraband.
The complexity of such a prosecution often results in "hung"
juries, but the difficulty could be avoided by clearly making possession
of contraband in correction facilities a crime.
THE PROPOSAL: This
proposal addresses four situations: 1) introducing contraband onto correctional
facility grounds; 2) conveying contraband to any person confined in a
correctional facility; 3) possessing contraband while being confined or
being transported or moved incidental to a correctional facility; and
4) failing to report the possession of contraband.
The proposal also
would allow inmates to be x-rayed when there is reason to believe an inmate
may possess contraband. This measure addresses situations that occur in
the visiting rooms of institutions, when an inmate may swallow a balloon
of controlled substances provided by a visitor. Without the ability to
x-ray an inmate, an inmate suspected of ingesting drugs in a balloon,
for example, would have to be watched non-stop for up to two days.
Identity theft occurs when someone knowingly obtains personal identification
information of another and use that information for personal gain, such
as obtaining credit or property.
Identity theft is
one of the fastest growing crimes in America. The crime can drain a person's
bank account, and it can destroy a person's credit. There is no law in
Iowa that addresses the problem of a person stealing, using, or attempting
to use another's personal identification information. Offenders often
steal identities in order to obtain credit, telephone service, or other
types of services for themselves (not necessarily to steal money from
the victims.) Stolen identity can cause complicated and troublesome problems
for victims, but, without actual monies being stolen, prosecution in these
areas often is extremely difficult.
In 1995, victims in
the U.S. suffered about $440 million in losses to identity theft, individually
and institutionally. In 1997, the loss skyrocketed to $745 million. Part
of the increase in identity theft may be related to the rapid pace of
technology, people shopping over the Internet, and easy credit, including
pre-approval of credit card applications in the mail. Access to a person's
personal identification information is easier today than ever before.
Iowans are not exempt
from identity theft. In 1998, the Consumer Protection Division of the
Iowa Attorney General's Office received 328 inquiries or complaints of
The Attorney General's proposal would make it an aggravated misdemeanor
if a person knowingly obtains personal identification information of another
without the person's consent; the proposal would make it a Class D felony
if the value of the property, credit or services is greater than $1000.
The proposal also would make the offender civilly liable; a civil suit
could be brought by the victim and/or by the Attorney General under the
Consumer Fraud Act.
The proposal also
contains measures to prevent identity theft. It would require a consumer
credit reporting agency to match three categories of personal identification
information when a consumer applies for credit in person. The proposal
also would require that, if a victim of identity theft submits a copy
of a police report to the credit reporting agency, the agency must promptly
and permanently block reporting any information the consumer alleges appears
on his or her credit report as a result of a criminal violation.
[Note: This proposal
was announced separately in December.]
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