City may do away with ‘jail time’
The New Hampton City Council received a quick lesson in constitutional law, as it applies to local ordinances, at its meeting on Monday.
New Hampton City Attorney Kevin Kennedy informed the board that the Iowa State Legislature has amended a law that directly impacts the violation of local ordinances in New Hampton. According to Kennedy, anyone accused of breaking any ordinance that includes a possible penalty of jail time is allowed to request a court-appointed lawyer if he or she cannot afford one. This is a basic right of every citizen, as outlined in the United States Constitution.
As of this-coming Jan. 1, due to the changes in Iowa, the state may recover any funds paid to court-appointed lawyers from the city, if the charge is local. This could potentially cost the city of New Hampton a good amount of money.
“All of our violations are simple misdemeanors, and the city code currently provides for a maximum penalty of a $100 fine plus 30 days in jail,” Kennedy said. “If we eliminate any possible jail sentences, then all who are charged with violations of our ordinances will not be eligible for court-appointed lawyers.”
Essentially, if none of the municipal penalties include a possibility of jail time, then those charged would not need the representation of a court-appointed attorney, and so the state would not need to try to recover funds from the city.
Kennedy added that, if the council were to decide to take the “30 days in jail” out of the ordinances, he recommends the city increase the maximum financial penalties.
“We should update the fines in both our standard penalties and in our municipal infractions to reflect increases in the allowable amount of fines that have been added over the years by the legislature,” Kennedy said. “Basically, we should match up with state code.”
Kennedy submitted a draft ordinance and requested that the issue be on the next agenda. The council unanimously approved that the ordinance receive second consideration at the next meeting.
For more of this article, see Friday's Tribune.