Bill backer hopes to crush the cars of men who pay for sex

DES MOINES — A retired state trooper who’s a legislator is calling for crushing the vehicles of men convicted of paying for sex and requiring law enforcement agencies to issue press releases to publicize prostitution arrests.

However, his bill failed to clear an initial hurdle in the House because, as written, the vehicles of all of those charged with prostitution would be seized — and that includes both people involved. Amy Campbell, a lobbyist for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the group is against the bill because some women might be further victimized if this becomes law.

“There are cases where there are young women who have been human trafficked that are involved in prostitution and we have some big concerns about that in this bill,” Campbell said during a House subcommittee hearing on the bill this morning.

Stephanie Fawkes-Lee of the Iowa Justice Reform Coalition said the family of someone merely accused of prostitution will become victims, too.

“If it was a mistake, you’re talking about a spouse and children that will be affected by this,” she said. “…We’re also concerned about the forfeiture fine, that it’s excessive, when you’re talking about vehicles, semi-trucks.”

Lisa Davis Cook, a lobbyist for the Iowa Association for Justice which represents the state’s legal community, also spoke against the legislation.

“We do have a system of you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty and this is, right off the bat before there’s even a trial, you’re publishing the names of people and we have a real concern about people’s rights and what’s going to happen with this,” she said.

Representative Clel Baudler, a Republican from Greenfield, is the retired trooper who’s sponsoring the bill. He’s hoping to convince his colleagues to advance the bill this week. Baudler argues it’s most likely the man arrested for prostitution is the one who has a vehicle that can be seized.

“I’m not putting down the woman. I’m putting down the John,” Baudler told reporters this morning. “You take the money away, and we won’t have as much human trafficking. That’s my opinion.”

Baudler said it’s common for law enforcement to seize a vehicle when they’re making a prostitution arrest. His bill calls for keeping that vehicle impounded and then having it crushed if the person pleads guilty or is convicted in a trial.



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