HF 377: A Safe, Smart, Cost-Saving Way to Reform Iowa Sentencing Laws

HF 377
Sponsor: Rep. Zach Nunn (R, District 30)

 

Summary of Sections:

Sections 1, 2, and 3: These sections narrow the disparity between the drug weights for crack and powder cocaine drug trafficking offenses in section 124.401. The current quantities create a disparate ratio of 10-to-1. The bill enhances fairness by changing that ratio to 2-to-1, as follows:

Drug type

Current § 124.401 weights (10:1)

New § 124.401 weights (2:1)

Felony sentences

Crack (“cocaine base”)

50+

250+ grams

Class B (up to 50 years)

Powder cocaine

500+ grams

500+ grams

Crack (“cocaine base”)

10-50 grams

50-250 grams

Class B (up to 25 years)

Powder cocaine

100-500 grams

100-500 grams

Crack (“cocaine base”)

Up to 10 grams

Up to 50 grams

Class C (up to 10 years)

Powder cocaine

Up to 100 grams

Up to 100 grams


Sections 4 and 7:
These sections repeal the Class C drug felony mandatory minimum sentences (currently, 20 months) for people who do not have a prior “forcible felony” conviction. The reform is retroactive, which means that offenders would become immediately parole eligible on July 1, 2017, if they (1) are currently serving Class C drug felonies, and (2) do not have prior “forcible felony” or drug trafficking convictions.

Section 5: Based on model legislation created by ALEC,[1] this section creates a sentencing rule that permits (but does not require) courts to give people “standard sentences” that vary from applicable mandatory minimum terms, enhancements, or limitations on parole, work release, or good time credits in certain cases. To receive a “standard sentence,”

  1. There must be “a compelling reason that imposing a sentence other than a standard sentence would result in substantial injustice to the defendant,” AND
  2. A sentence other than a standard sentence is not necessary to protect the public, AND
  3. The current offense must not fall into one of 41 excluded offense categories. Excluded offenses include Class A felonies and four offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences: second degree murder, second degree sex abuse, first degree robbery, and child endangerment.

Sections 6, 8, 9: These sections make first degree robbery offenders parole eligible after they serve between 50 percent (12.5 years) and 70 percent (17.5 years) of the maximum sentence, rather than serving at least 70 percent before becoming parole eligible. At sentencing, the court would determine when the person may first become eligible for parole, based on a risk assessment, victim impact, and other relevant facts of the case. The bill would also apply this provision retroactively, making first degree robbery offenders sentenced before July 1, 2017, parole eligible once they have served 50 percent of the maximum sentence, unless the person has a prior forcible felony conviction.

[1] American Legislative Exchange Council, Justice Safety Valve Act, https://www.alec.org/model-policy/justice-safety-valve-act/.