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Judiciary Committee – Week 4, 2021

SF 172 – Definition of Sex Act in the Iowa Criminal Code

SF 172 expands the definition of sex act or sexual activity in the criminal code. The bill adds body parts that can be used in a sex act. Under the bill, the definition of a sex act will include contact between any body part of one person and the genitalia or anus of another person. 

The bill also adds a new paragraph to the definition of sex act to include: “The touching of a person’s own genitals or anus with a finger, hand, artificial sexual organ or other similar device at the direction of another person.”

For a “sex act” or “sexual activity” to be defined as sexual abuse that is criminal in nature, for example, the act must be performed under these circumstances:

  • The act is done by force or against the will of the other person. If the consent of the other person is obtained by threat of violence or the act is done under the influence of a sleep-inducing drug or otherwise occurs in a state of unconsciousness, the act is done against the will of another individual.
  • The other individual involved is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity that precludes giving consent, or lacks the mental capacity to know the right and wrong of conduct in sexual matters.
  • The other individual involved is a child. [2/3: 46-0 (Hogg, Lykam, Nunn; 1 vacancy)]

SF 173 – Certifications of Trust

SF 173 comes from the Iowa State Bar Association Probate and Trust Law Section. In 2019, legislation allowing one trustee to provide a certification of trust was enacted. Previous law required all trustees to provide certification if there was more than one trustee. A certification of trust is a document provided to a third party whereby a trustee or trustees verify a trust’s existence and the authority to do a particular act on behalf of the trust. This is in lieu of a third party requiring to see the entire trust document.

Since passage of that legislation, it has been discovered that the process for certification needs fixes. This bill achieves those fixes by:

  • Requiring that a certification of trust give the names of all currently acting trustees, and if there is more than one currently acting trustee, it must state whether a trustee may act individually, by a majority decision or a unanimous decision.
  • Adding the option that a certification of trust be dated and certified under penalty of perjury. The current requirement for certification is that it be subscribed and sworn to under penalty of perjury before a notary public. Either method would be allowed under this bill.
  • Stating that if abatement of trust assets is necessary to pay debts, taxes, etc., the share of a surviving spouse who does not take the elective must be abated last. [2/3: 46-0 (Excused: Hogg, Lykam, Nunn; 1 vacancy)

SF 45 – Exhibiting Obscene Material to Minors

SF 45 will make it a crime for any parent or guardian who has been convicted of or adjudicated delinquent for any registrable sex offense against a minor to disseminate or exhibit obscene material to their minor child or children. Under current law, it’s a crime for any person other than a parent or guardian of a minor to knowingly disseminate or exhibit obscene material to a minor. The offense is punishable as a serious misdemeanor.

“Obscene material” is defined under Iowa law as “…any material depicting or describing the genitals, sex acts, masturbation, excretory functions or sadomasochistic abuse which the average person, taking the material as a whole and applying contemporary community standards with respect to what is suitable material for minors, would find appeals to the prurient interest and is patently offensive; and the material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, scientific, political or artistic value.” [2/2: short form]

SSB 1009 – Proper Parties in Causes of Action

SSB 1009 provides that when a cause of action survives a deceased person and such action is allowed to be continued, the court will appoint a personal representative for the deceased as defined in the probate code, or a successor as provided for in 633.356 relating to small estates and distribution by affidavit. [2/2: short form]

SSB 1010 – Sex Abuse Committed During a Burglary

SSB 1010 comes from the Iowa County Attorney Association and is intended to ensure that the sentence for a person who is convicted of sex abuse committed during a burglary, a class “B” felony, includes a sex offender special sentence. A special sentence for sex offenders requires that after an individual serves the sentence for the underlying crime, the individual will then be placed on parole for supervision by Community Based Corrections, in this case, for life.

The Iowa County Attorneys Association believes this crime was intended to be included in the crimes that would require a sex offender special sentence. An example of why this should require a special sentence is that current law requires a special sentence if a person is sexually assaulted outside of their home. Shouldn’t it be the same when a person is sexually assaulted inside their home? [2/2: short form]

SSB 1011 – Court Costs in Probate

SSB 1011 relates to the court costs that the clerk of probate court charges and collects in connection with probate matters. The bill provides that the clerk of court will charge and collect court costs based on the probate assets listed in the report and inventory for services performed in a decedent’s estate administered by Iowa Code chapters 633 or 635. The court costs charged on the value of those assets will be 0.2% of the value of the probate assets. In addition, the bill excludes all non-probate assets from the calculation of court costs.

SSB 1011 also provides that court costs will not be charged or collected on assets transferred to an estate from a conservatorship that had been administered in the State and for which court costs have previously been charged and collected in the conservatorship. For other services performed in a conservatorship, the clerk will charge and collect court costs based on the gross value of the assets listed in the inventory minus the value of life insurance. The bill provides that the court costs charged on the value of those assets will be 0.2% of the value of the assets. [2/2: short form]

SSB 1014 – Second Degree Sex Abuse

SSB 1014 provides that when the victim of sex abuse is under 14, the perpetrator can be charged with sex abuse in the second degree. Current law provides that when a victim is under 12, it is second degree sex abuse, a class “B” felony. Under current law, if the victim is 12 or 13, it is sex abuse in the third degree, a class “C” felony. [2/2: short form]

SSB 1016 – Uniform Custodial Trust Act

SSB 1016 is an Iowa State Bar Association bill that creates the Iowa Uniform Custodial Trust Act, which will establish a statutory framework for a simple trust that allowing any kind of property (real or personal, tangible or intangible) to be made the subject of a transfer to a custodial trustee for the benefit of the beneficiary. This legislation will be a trust option for Iowans who do not have a lot of assets but may need a trustee to oversee their assets. [2/2: short form]

SSB 1037 – Claims in Probate

SSB 1037 relates to claims made against an estate in probate. When an individual dies and the estate goes through probate, for example, those who believe the deceased owed them money can make a claim again the estate.

SSB 1037:

  • Does away with the requirement that a claimant mail a copy of a request for a hearing on a claim against the estate to the personal representative and the attorney of record by certified mail. Since court files are all electronic now, it will be sufficient for the claimant to file the request for a hearing with the clerk on the electronic data management system.
  • Removes the requirement that the Notice of Disallowance of a Claim include language regarding a requirement to mail a copy of a request for a hearing to the personal representative and the attorney for the estate, if any.
  • Allows the probate court to hear claims up to $6,500. Under the current Code, if a claim in probate exceeds $300, either party can demand a jury trial. This will only allow a party to demand a jury trial for a claim in probate if the amount in contention exceeds $6,500. However, the court may in its discretion submit the matter to a jury if the amount is less than $6,500.
  • Provides that a judgment against any interested party may be deducted from any amounts the estate owes to the interested party. [2/2: short form]

SSB 1038 — Forfeiture of Bail

SSB 1038 comes from Lederman Bail Bonds. The bill allows a court to set aside a judgment forfeiting a defendant’s bail if, within 150 days from the date of the judgment, the defendant voluntarily surrenders to the sheriff, or the bondsperson (surety) at their own expense delivers the defendant or facilitates delivery of the defendant to the sheriff. The court can also set aside the judgment if, after considering all of the circumstances, it would be warranted. Under current law, the judgment can be set aside within 90 days, so this bill provides additional time and provides the court with the authority to set aside the judgment regardless of whether the defendant surrenders or is “delivered.” [2/2: short form]

SSB 1054 – Abuse of Corpse, Failure to Assist, Interference with Official Acts

SSB 1054 is in response to the tragic drowning death of Noah Herring at the Coralville Reservoir last year. The bill:

  • Adds to the crime of “abuse of a corpse” by adding language that failure to disclose the known location of a corpse with the intent to conceal a crime is considered abuse of a corpse.
  • Makes it a crime of “interference with official acts” when a person knowingly resists or obstructs a medical examiner in the performance of their duties.
  • Creates the crime of “failure to assist.” A person who witnesses another person suffering from imminent danger of death or risk of serious bodily injury who, unreasonably and without lawful cause, fails to immediately contact local emergency response authorities or local law enforcement, or both, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.
  • Discharges the requirement to assist with a prompt call to 911.

It is a defense if a person actually believed that the other person was not in imminent danger or risk of serious bodily injury. It’s a defense to a charge of “failure to assist” if the person attempted to contact emergency response authorities or law enforcement. [2/2:  short form]

SSB 1056 – Model Business Corporations Act Update

SSB 1056, from the Business Law Section of the Iowa Bar Association, updates Iowa’s business corporations law based on the Model Business Corporation Act. It updates Iowa’s business law chapters to provide more clarity and includes sections that reflect the need for the possibility of remote meetings by business entities. [2/2: short form]