Gang Law Amendment Goes Through House - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Gang Law Amendment Goes Through House

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by Phil Prazan

pprazan@myabc5.com

@PhilPrazan

Iowa isn't known for having vicious turf wars but gangs are still here.

In order to make it easier to prosecute criminals, a group representing county attorneys urged House Study File 522 into action.
 
It just arrived in the judicial committee and is all about who and what is classified as "criminal gang activity."

State Representative Megan Hess says the bill makes the law more generic adding on more felonies for criminal gang activity.

The ACLU of Iowa opposes the bill because it is too generic and could give non-gang members a felony by just being present.
 
"The ability to charge a person who committed the crime as well as the person who aided and abetted the crime, both of them with criminal gang activity," says Rep. Megan Hess (R).
 
"Just by them being there and participating knowingly or unknowingly, then they are liable under this legislation," says Latrice Lacey from the ACLU of Iowa.

The debate centers around the word "willfully" - meaning the suspect knows it's gang activity.  That word was originally taken out, but Representative Hess says there's a planned amendment to put it back in.

Both sides will have an eye on the bill as it moves through the Iowa House.

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