Judiciary Committee Report – week 14, 2017

SF 374 – Indigent Defense
SF 444 – Traffic safety bill
HF 134 – Cities regulating occupancy of residential rental property by familial status
HF 253 – Children in the middle, paternity and obligation for support
HF 263 – Domestic abuse
HF 526 – Criminal offense of harassment and nonconsensual pornography


Senate File 374 makes changes to the State Public Defender. The bill:

  • Amends the Code to conform to the Iowa Supreme Court decision in State v. Young to clarify that an indigent person is entitled to counsel when the crime they are charged with carries any possibility of confinement under the applicable statute.
  • Changes the language that allows the State Public Defender to contract with nonprofit organizations to provide legal services but requires that the nonprofits “employ” lawyers. Some nonprofits, such as the Innocence Project, use volunteer attorneys. The language that requires an entity to “employ” attorneys is deleted.
  • Allows the State Public Defender’s field offices to maintain conflict separation in a virtualized cloud environment. Current law requires maintenance of separate servers in 20 field offices, but the concern regarding conflict separation can be handled through virtual separation.
  • Allows State Public Defenders to report case expenses within a reasonable time after a case is closed rather than the 10 days under current law.

The Senate concurred with a House amendment that requires a political subdivision to reimburse the State Public Defender’s Office for attorney’s fees and expenses incurred for the defense of a person charged with violating an ordinance that requires appointment of an attorney. This section of the bill would have an effective date of January 1, 2018.
[4/11: 49-0 (Allen absent)]


Senate File 444 is a traffic safety bill that came back to the Senate after being amended by the House.

The House amendment made changes to Division I, relating to the use of a handheld communication device while driving. The Senate concurred with the House amendment, which specifies that the charge of reckless driving would apply when someone causes an accident that seriously injures or kills someone while writing , sending or viewing an electronic message using a “handheld electronic communication device” while driving. The amendment excludes public safety while performing official duties, healthcare professionals in the course of an emergency, and a person receiving safety-related information, including emergency, traffic or weather alerts. The amendment defines a handheld of handheld electronic communication device as “a mobile telephone or other portable electronic communication device capable of being used to write, send, or view an electronic message.” As such, per Division I of the amended bill, if a person is using a handheld electronic communication device to write, send or view an electronic message while driving and causes an accident that results in a homicide or serious injury, it will be considered prima facie evidence of reckless driving, a Class “C” felony.

Division II – Statewide Sobriety and Drug Monitoring Program: This division requires the Department of Public Safety to create a statewide sobriety and drug monitoring program for jurisdictions (e.g., counties) that want to participate. If a defendant is charged with an offense that involves abuse of alcohol or a controlled substance, a court or officer of a participating governmental entity may (as a condition of bond, pretrial release, sentence,  probation, parole or a temporary restricted license) require the defendant to participate in the sobriety and drug monitoring program.

A defendant may be ordered to:

  • Abstain from alcohol and controlled substances.
  • Submit to twice-per-day testing to determine if alcohol or drugs are being used.
  • Use an alternative method to twice-per-day testing if it creates a hardship or is geographically impractical.

Participants who fail to show up for testing or test positive may be jailed for up to 24 hours, pending a hearing. With a failure to show up, the magistrate can issue a warrant for arrest. The divisions relating to the statewide sobriety and drug monitoring program are repealed July 1, 2022.
[4/12: 49-0 (Bertrand absent)]


House File 134 prohibits a city from adopting or enforcing any regulation or restriction that limits the occupancy of residential rental property based upon familial or non-familial relationships among occupants.
[4/11: 43-6 (Bolkcom, Hogg, Mathis, Dvorsky, Kinney, Quirmbach “no”; Allen absent)]


House File 253 modifies Code Chapter 600B relating to paternity and obligation for support when parents are not married. The modifications are intended to provide consistency between Chapter 600B and Chapter 598, which deals with custody actions between married parents. The bill provides that any party found in contempt for failing to pay child support under Chapter 600B can be ordered to pay attorney’s fees of the complaining party. In addition, the bill requires unmarried parents involved in custody actions to complete a court-approved Children in the Middle course.
[4/10: 48-0 (Allen, Taylor absent)]


House File 263 relates to domestic abuse. The bill:

  • Requires the court to set a mandatory minimum sentence for a third or subsequent domestic abuse assault between 1/5th and the maximum sentence. A third or subsequent domestic abuse assault is a Class “D” felony with a sentence of up to five years, so the court must establish a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year and possibly up to five years.
  • Expands the definition of stalking.
  • Establishes the crime of unauthorized placement of a GPS device.
  • Reduces the earned time for a person sentenced to prison for a third or subsequent domestic abuse assault.
  • Prohibits the accumulation of earned time until an offender participates and completes domestic abuse programming.
  • Requires the Board of Parole in conjunction with the Department of Corrections to develop a domestic abuse specific risk assessment tool.
  • Authorizes electronic monitoring for those convicted of domestic abuse a third time and are placed on parole or work release.
  • Prohibits a deferred judgement, a deferred sentence or a suspended sentence for those convicted of domestic abuse a third time.

[4/10: 48-0 (Allen, Taylor absent)]


House File 526 creates a new form of criminal harassment. The bill primarily addresses concerns about what is referred to as “revenge porn.” However, that term is misleading because dissemination is not always done for revenge. It may be more aptly referred to as “nonconsensual pornography.” The bill makes it illegal to disseminate nude or partially nude images of another person without that person’s consent. It would also be illegal to distribute images of another person engaged in a sex act without that person’s consent.

Per the language, “A person commits harassment when, with the intent to intimidate, annoy or alarm another person,” if they disseminate, publish, distribute, post, or cause to be disseminated, published, distributed or posted, a photograph or film showing another person in a state of full or partial nudity or engaged in a sex act, knowing that the other person has not consented to the dissemination, publication, distribution or posting. This offense will be harassment in the first degree, which is an aggravated misdemeanor. The bill sets out specific situations that would not constitute harassment under the new language.

The bill also amends language in the “invasion of privacy” criminal code section, which currently requires a person to have knowledge that another is viewing, photographing or filming them for sexual gratification. The bill removes the words “does not have knowledge”. An adopted amendment ensures companies—such as Google and Facebook—cannot be charged with harassment under the new law. Another adopted amendment prohibits juveniles adjudicated delinquent for a violation of this law from being placed on the sex offender registry.
[4/11: 48-1 (Taylor “no”; Allen absent)]