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The Des Moines Register, Tuesday, April 7, 1998, Page 4M

Senate OKs bill that targets drivers
using illegal drugs


    With no debate, the Iowa Senate on Monday endorsed a plan to impose the same punishments in Iowa's drunken-driving laws on motorists proven to be under the influence of illegal drugs.
    The provision is part of a broader plan to toughen penalties on drug dealers and users, particularly those involved with methamphetamines.
    The Senate voted 44-2 to approve the bill, and return it to the House, where lawmakers must consider some minor changes.  Just a week ago the House voted 96-3 to approve essentially the same bill.
    "This is probably the most significant criminal law bill of the session," said Judiciary Committee Chairman Andy McKean, R-Anamosa.
    Under terms of the bill, drivers shown to have detectable levels of a long list of hard drugs would be subject to prosecution under the laws that cover drunken driving.
    They say prosecutions of so-called drugged drivers are possible under the law now, but rare.  By explicitly addressing hard drugs as an intoxicant in Iowa law, prosecutors say they expect prosecutions of drugged drivers to become easier and more common.
    Other provisions include:

  • Making third-offense drug possession a felony.
  • Eliminating a judge's discretion to suspend a mandatory minimum sentence for methamphetamine dealers.
  • Denying appeal bonds for convicted dealers.
  • Allowing judges to deny state and federal benefits, such as college student aid, to convicted users and dealers until they complete a rehabilitation program.

Reporter Thomas A. Fogarty can be
reached at fogartyt@news.dmreg.com
or (515) 286-2533.

The Des Moines Register
Tuesday, April 7, 1998, Page 4M

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