A state public defender warned Iowa lawmakers Wednesday that the state’s 2000-foot rule for sex offenders may be unconstitutional. The law was upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court back in July, but Attorney Mark Smith says that was before so many cities passed their own ordinances imposing even stricter distance requirements around areas where kids congregate.
Smith says the law was “saved,” from the Supreme Court’s perspective, by the fact that in Washington County where it was challenged, there were many other places to live. Now, he says, the city ordinances have taken that opportunity away” Smith says the court could now rule the state law amounts to banishment, which would make it unconstitutional. He says lawmakers could leave the law alone, but the courts will act on it. He predicts that the “right case will come along,” in Polk County, and courts will rule that it amounts to banishment and is unconstitutional.
Smith testified before a legislative task force studying Iowa’s sex offender laws. He told legislators they should consider preempting the city ordinances, in order to save the state law. But members of both political parties say that’s unlikely.