Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | May 24, 2017

Branstad signs sentencing reforms

May 11, 2017

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad signed six bills Wednesday, including one modernizing the Iowa criminal justice system and one creating a civil protective order for victims of sexual abuse, incest and exploitation of a minor.

Provisions of Senate File 445 modify the criminal penalties for cocaine possession, attempted murder and minimum mandatory sentences for drug offenses as well as reconsideration of a felony sentence.

Current Iowa law contains disparities in the penalties for crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. Lawmakers agreed to change the penalties for crack cocaine to lessen that disparity.

The bill also removes the mandatory minimum sentence for a Class C felony of cocaine possession and the limitations to releasing offenders on parole, work release and earned time. The reform will impact about 300 Iowans sentenced each year going forward.

The bill also makes about 200 current prisoners serving Class C drug sentences eligible for parole starting July 1.

In addition, convicted offenders currently serving a Class C felony sentence no longer will be required to serve a minimum sentence — a provision that would apply retroactively to certain current offenders serving a felony drug offense and make them eligible for parole.

Additionally, the bill allows judges to reconsider and adjust sentences for any Class C or D felony within a person’s first year in prison.

The measure signed by Branstad also requires that an offender attempting to commit murder against a peace officer, a Class B felony, serve 100 percent of the prison sentence of no more than 25 years. The bill also establishes law enforcement officer privilege and the confidentiality of certain law enforcement officer personnel records.

That means a law enforcement officer is not required to disclose certain information in criminal proceedings, including personal identifying information about themselves or immediate family members.

sex abuse protection

Under Senate File 401, a sexual abuse civil protective order will be available through the court on an emergency, temporary or permanent basis.

The order could be obtained before a defendant has been arrested and also could cover members of a victim’s family with the same protections as now afforded by a domestic abuse court order.

Under current law, a victim may apply for a criminal no-contact order only after the defendant has been arrested for sexual abuse or upon the convicted offender’s release from jail or prison.

Also Wednesday, Branstad signed House File 223, a bill relating to the use of step-therapy protocols for prescription drugs by health insurance carriers, health benefit plans and utilization review organizations.

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